One of the main drawbacks to Windows NT/2000 as a network operating system has always been remote administration. In a command-line world such as UNIX, administrators can dial in and make changes, monitor systems, run backups, and so on. Conversely, administrators of Windows systems have traditionally relied on imperfect remote management solutions such as PCAnywhere or Windows’ built-in Remote Access Services.
However, a hot little program from Famatech, aptly named Remote Administrator, integrates seamlessly into Windows systems and offers major improvements in performance and functionality over other remote administration solutions. When using Radmin 2.0 in full-screen view, an administrator can work at a remote machine with the same look and feel as if physically sitting at the machine. The first time I tried this I felt like I was in UNIX bliss, as I administered the remote Windows machine. The only difference from other remote administration software is that in Radmin, the [Ctrl][F12] key gives you a special pop-up menu to control the functionality. In this article, I’ll explain the installation, setup, and security components of Radmin. In a follow-up article, I will discuss some of the special features of the program.
I first learned about Radmin in the discussion section of one of my other articles. A TechRepublic member mentioned a little bit about the program and her experience with it. I looked up the Web site for Radmin and began testing it. To me, this illustrates one of the strengths of TechRepublic as a forum for IT professionals to exchange ideas and experiences. So I highly recommend that you check out the discussion for this article and others. If you have something to contribute, let your voice be heard. Also, I have to give kudos to the TechRepublic member who led me to Radmin. Thanks Fabi!
Installation and setup
Radmin 2.0 can be installed on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 or higher, and Windows 2000. You must also have TCP/IP installed on the machine. The program itself is small and fast, so there are no minimum hardware requirements. The Radmin documentation even claims that it will run on Windows 95 using a 386 with 8MB of RAM.
If you plan to install the Radmin background service, you’ll need to uninstall other remote-access packages that use a video hook driver, such as PCAnywhere, LapLink, and Timbuktu. If you have more than one video hook driver running on the same machine, it will usually result in a system crash. This also applies to NetMeeting 2.1 or above. NetMeeting is now installed by default on almost all Windows machines that run Microsoft Internet Explorer. If you have Remote Desktop Sharing activated from NetMeeting, it runs a background service with a video hook driver, and it will conflict with Radmin. By default, NetMeeting has this service deactivated. So if you’re simply using the standard NetMeeting collaboration program without Remote Desktop Sharing, it won’t conflict with Radmin.
When you run Radmin setup, it automatically installs the client and asks you if you’d like to install the background service for the server. If you do install the service, it will prompt you to either supply a password or use Windows NT security for authentication, as shown in Figure A.
One of my favorite Radmin features is that it can be integrated directly into the Windows NT/2000 security model. Remember that any of these remote-access programs can pose a security risk. If a hacker can hijack one of these programs, your network can be severely compromised. When you choose the Windows NT security option and click Permissions, Radmin allows you to grant access to specific NT/2000 users and/or groups.
Once Radmin is installed, you can also go to Start | Programs | Remote Administrator v2.0 | Settings For Remote Administrator Server, as shown in Figure B. Use these settings to install Radmin as a service (if you haven’t already) or to remove it, change password and security settings, or manage access control and log settings with the Options dialog box, which appears in Figure C.
The Use IP Filter option offers another huge Radmin security bonus. It allows you to configure a machine to receive Radmin sessions only from specified IP addresses. The Options dialog box also allows you to set up your log file and specify the port number you want to use to connect over TCP/IP, with the default being 4899. Remember this port number when making connections through firewalls.
Making the connection
You can use the Radmin viewer to make a connection to another machine. Just go to Start | Programs | Remote Administrator v2.0 | Remote Administrator Viewer. This opens a window with icons of commonly accessed remote machines (which you set up) and a toolbar to access the Radmin tools. Figure D shows the Radmin viewer window.
To set up your commonly accessed machines, you can go to Connection | New or click the second toolbar button (the one with the computer and gold star). This will allow you to enter the IP address or DNS name of the machine and provide a name for the connection. For a one-time connection, you can also go to Connection | Connect To or click the first toolbar button (the yellow lightning bolt) to open the dialog box shown in Figure E. There, you can enter the IP address or DNS name of the machine you want to connect to.
I’ve set up Radmin on many of the computers on my network, and when there are problems, I simply connect to the computer with Radmin and check things out. It has saved me a lot of time running from machine to machine. It also provides an excellent telecommuting solution in some situations. Best of all, you can download a trial version of Radmin from Famatech's Web site and test it on your network before purchasing a standard, site, or corporate license.
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