Data Centers

Managing servers and other systems from the iPhone

Server administration can be a 24/7 job, but who wants to be tethered to a laptop all the time? Scott Lowe tells you about an iPhone app that can help decouple the administrator from the server and make life a little easier.

How do I love my iPhone? Let me count the ways... okay, maybe just one way for this post.

I've done a lot of remote server work, and I've found that RDP is my best friend. Recently, we were working on a particularly grueling upgrade that required a few minutes of typing followed by long stretches of processing interspersed with quick messages that required user acknowledgement. It was those intermittent messages that kept us stuck at the server keyboard.

Then, hunger hit. My work partner and I decided that we needed food pronto; neither of us wanted fast food, and we also didn't want to leave the keyboard for fear that we'd waste a bunch of time eating when we could have been acknowledging inane messages on the server console.

There's an app for that.

I downloaded the WinAdmin app from the iTunes App Store, and we were suddenly decoupled from the keyboard. We had freedom of movement and everything! There are other RDP client applications available for the iPhone, including the iTap RDP Client, but I like WinAdmin.

When WinAdmin is started up, the Favorite Servers list pops up and provides the user with a way to either select a previously added server or add a new one. In the screen below, you can see that there is a server named Ts eagerly awaiting a connection.

The Favorite Servers list provides one-tap access to a remote server.

When you add a new server to the list, you can provide a number of options (some required and some not), including the connection name, host name, user name, password, resolution, color depth, and more. I don't recommend using the username and password fields unless you also use a strong password to lock your iPhone.

Adding a new server to WinAdmin.

Once you select a connection to establish, you'll see screens identical to the ones you'd see if you were to connect to the server with a regular desktop client. The screens are smaller, but you can simply drag the focus to the desired portion of the window.

In the next screen, you see the Windows Server 2003 login screen. Below that is what you see if you need to send a [Ctrl][Alt][Delete] to the remote machine. Bring up this menu by tapping the Gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. To bring up a keyboard to type a username and password, tap the ABC icon at the top of the screen.

The Windows Server 2003 login screen

Use the Gear icon to send a keystroke to the remote machine.

Once logged in to the server, you can navigate around any way you like by dragging your finger over the screen. You probably won't want to do any super-heavy lifting on the small screen, but this software is a perfect solution when you need to keep things going while away, or you want to check up on a reported problem while you're out of town.

A look at a Windows desktop

With WinAdmin, you can open multiple connections, too. Tap the little box icon next to the ABC icon and choose a new favorite server from which to connect.

Change WinAdmin windows

The full screen experience is preferable to the mini-screen on the iPhone, but WinAdmin has saved my bacon a couple of times.

Want to keep up with Scott Lowe's posts on TechRepublic?

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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