First of all, I would make sure that you aren't circumventing any policies by using hardware rather than software, but I'll assume that the powers that be simply don't want you installing things on those laptops.
It sounds like you are looking for an IP KVM or KVM over IP. The cost of such hardware may be more than you are hoping, but I think these available options are worth mentioning anyway.
Since you have to pay so much for two of the below-mentioned "Lantronix Spiders", I will start with an 8-port option such as TRIPP LITE 8-Port Steel Rackmount IP KVM Switch with On-Screen Display (B022-U08-IP), which is currently just over $600 at Amazon. It comes with cables to connect two devices, and, unlike some other 8-port products, the IP capabilities are built in, so you don't have to buy two pieces of hardware. On similar products, I have found that the software leaves a little to be desired, but it gets the job done. Like the Lantronix, this device is transparent to the machine you connect it to, so there is no need to install software there. I would recommend this device above the Lantronix if you have the space and cash because:
- It remotely supports resolutions up to 1600 x 1200
- You can add more devices if needed (extra cables are usually available for ~$12 each new)
- Included cables are 6ft long, so you may be able to hide the 1U device under a desk.
- Although you may never use this, the device can also be used as a local KVM switch (supporting up to 2048 x 1536).
speculation:This box may still have some resell value in a few years.
One caveat for this device (or any other KVM that functions this way) is that, since you are accessing a laptop, you will need VGA out on the laptop, and you will probably want to close the lid or set the laptop to mirror or exclusively use the external "VGA monitor" (the KVM switch) in order to make this work properly. Otherwise, you won't see everything the laptop is displaying, if you see anything at all. With any of the options I am recommending, you must connect the network port to the network, not the laptop. Additionally, in order to access any of these devices from outside of the local network, you will need either a VPN or port forwarding.
For your purposes, I would also recommend you consider something like the Lantronix Spider SLS200USB0-01, currently available at Newegg for USD278.99.
- This device is transparent to the machine you connect it to, so there is no need to install software there.
- It has a built in two-port switch, so you can daisy-chain two of these together with only one network drop
- Only supports resolutions of up to 1280 x 1024
- Less expensive than some other options
The same display/VGA and networking caveats apply to this device, though, because there is a 2-port switch built in, if you only have one network drop in the room, you can plug it into this device and pass through to another device if needed. Also, since you have two laptops you need to reach, you will need two of these. I should also mention that I have not personally used this product.
Since other options are pricy, I think it is worth mentioning that my first instinct was to recommend the StarTech.com IPUSB2VGA
(StarTech Product Page).
As of this writing, it is available on Amazon for $117.93; the MSRP is USD181.99. While my experiences with StarTech products have been good, and the price for this device is not bad, I can't recommend this to you because:
This device seems to require software to function properly, so it may not fit your purpose for that reason, depending upon the specifics of the policies you are dealing with.
Due to limitations in the client software, you cannot access this device from another subnet, which means it won't work for you if you need to access it from the Internet (though it might be possible through a VPN, depending upon the configuration).
Having said that, this device might be attractive in certain cases because:
- It's inexpensive.
- It acts as a video and audio adapter and doesn't require VGA out.
- Supports up to 1920 x 1080
I have not personally used this particular device, but it will send your USB, video, and audio signals over the network, allowing you to access them from a remote PC. I would recommend using a gigabit connection for best results, though this won't matter as much if you can get it to work over WAN (through the Internet, probably using a VPN).