Every IT admin I know depends upon a secure shell at some point. It's the single best way to remotely administer a Linux or UNIX-based server. Secure shell allows you shell access to your servers, without the concern for transmitting plain-text passwords. Of course, shell access isn't limited to UNIX-like servers. Even Windows machines can run a secure shell server.
But what about gaining access to those secure shell-enabled servers? What is the best method? Well, that all depends - do you like the command line, or do you like a nice GUI tool? The good news, you can have them both. In fact, I have found five of the best SSH-ready clients. All of these clients are free and very easy to use. You'll find clients for both Windows and Linux.This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.
PuTTY is probably the single most popular secure shell client for the Windows platform. It's incredibly easy to use, allows for the saving of profiles, and can be used as a portable tool. PuTTY is not only free, but open source. PuTTY can also do telnet, rlogin, and raw TCP. PuTTY has built in support for the secure copy (scp) program.
SecPanel is a solid GUI secure shell tool for UNIX. SecPanel supports ssh, scp, and X Windows tunnelling. This ssh tool also has a built-in key generator and retains a history of your connections and key operations. Although the GUI does feel a bit outdated (depending upon the distribution you are using), it is a solid client for connecting to servers.
3. Private Shell
Private Shell is the only client on the list with a price tag. At $49.95 for a commercial license ($29.95 for a non-commercial license), it might seem a bit steep. But when you look at the features (terminal connection, file transfer connection, database connection (MySQL, Oracle, Postgres, DB2), CVS/SVN repository access, SOCKS5 proxy, e-mail server connection, VNC server connection, X11 tunneling, and more), you quickly understand why it has the associated price. To get those features on any other client, you'd wind up having to bundle other apps together. Private Shell also has an outstanding, user-friendly GUI. Private Shell is available only for Windows.
4. Terra Term
Terra Term has been around for quite some time. However, the current version is recognized by the project's original creator. Terra Term offers features such as: Serial port connections, TCP/IP (telnet, SSH-1/2) connections, IPv6 communication, VT100 emulation and selected VT200/300 emulation, TEK4010 emulation, file transfer protocols, its own scripting language, Japanese, English, Russian and Korean character sets, and UTF-8 character encoding. This is another Windows-only client.
5. Linux terminal
Linux terminal. That's right; I cannot create a list of secure shell clients without including the Linux command line equivalent. By default, nearly every Linux distribution has a secure shell client (ssh is the command). To connect to a server, you would typically open up a terminal window and issue a command similar to ssh -v -l jlwallen 192.168.1.1. Of course you will also have the scp (secure copy) command available, which makes the remote copying of files much more secure than standard ftp. Of course, this client is only available on Linux and UNIX-based platforms (Mac included).
Secure shell is a must have/know for many administrators and having a solid client for this task can make the job far easier. Check out one of these clients and see if you don't find the perfect fit for your needs. No matter if you are on Linux, UNIX, Mac, or Windows there is an easy to use secure shell client to handle this task.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.