Cloud

Remote Desktop Manager from Devolutions: The ultimate server and device management utility?

Managing multiple systems can be a challenge for even the most experienced administrator, which is why tools designed to ease the task burden can be such a welcome relief. Scott Lowe talks about one such tool from Devolutions called Remote Desktop Manager.

As a server administrator in a busy job, you probably manage multiple server and device types on a regular basis. For example, on any particular day, you might need to establish an RDP session to your Windows domain controller to add a new user account; then you might need to open a Web browser admin session to your firewall to open a port for a new service. Once that's done and the new service is up and running on a Linux server in your organization, you may need to use SSH to connect to that Linux server to make a minor configuration change.

In that single, realistic scenario, you've used three tools to get the job done. You've used an RDP-based remote desktop program, a Web browser, and an SSH client, such as PuTTY. Of course, being an experienced administrator makes it a lot easier to remember what tool needs to be used to perform a particular task. However, when it comes to managing dozens or hundreds of servers and other network devices, remembering all of the various credentials for managing those devices can become quite the challenge!

What if there was a tool out there that took the difficulty out of remembering how to connect to every device in your organization and that instead let you focus on the task at hand? I've recently run across a tool from Devolutions called Remote Desktop Manager that does just that. With an impressive feature set, Remote Desktop Manager makes it possible for you to define administrative connections for just about anything. Moreover, Remote Desktop Manager can remember passwords for many kinds of sessions, with the notable exception of devices that require a Web browser for administration.

Here is a list of some of the connection types supported by Remote Desktop Manager:

Remote Desktop Manager features an easy-to-use interface that makes adding new connections a breeze. On the main application window, simply right-click Sessions and select Add | Add Sessions Type | Session Type. As you can see in Figure A, there are a lot of choices. Figure C shows you a sample configuration screen for a browser-based administration session. Figure A

Figure A - Choose a new connection type

Choose a new connection type. Click the image to enlarge.
You can choose to create a session as either standalone or embedded. A standalone session launches the administration session in the native application. An embedded session runs within the confines of the Remote Desktop Manager window and shows tabs at the top of the window. Figure B gives you a look at this functionality. Figure C gives you a look at how you can create an embedded administrative session. Take note of the Open Embedded checkbox. Figure B

Figure B - Embedded browser administrative session

Embedded browser administrative session. Click the image to enlarge.

Remote Desktop Manager leverages whatever third-party applications when it comes to managing various systems. For example, if you want to manage a host that requires SSH, you'll need to install PuTTY on your management system, if you don't already have it. When you create your first SSH connection, you'll need to tell Remote Desktop Manager where it can find putty.exe. For Web sessions, the tool allows you to choose whatever browser you like from a list of browsers that you have installed on your machine.

Figure C

Figure C - A sample web connection profile

A sample Web connection profile. Click the image to enlarge.
Remote Desktop Manager also includes a few handy troubleshooting tools, such as PING and Trace Route. For RDP-based sessions, you can even launch the Computer Management console -- which is already targeted at the client computer -- from within Remote Desktop Connection. Figure D gives you a look at how PING results display in the console. Figure D

Figure D - PING inside Remote Desktop Manager

PING inside Remote Desktop Manager. Click the image to enlarge.
I mentioned earlier that Remote Desktop Manager can also cache credentials for many kinds of connections. Figure E below shows you this caching in action, as the displayed SSH connection information -- including a user name and password -- is stored with the connection profile. Figure E

Figure E - Credentials stored with a connection profile

Credentials stored with a connection profile. Click the image to enlarge.

Editions

Remote Desktop Manager comes in two editions:

  • Standard. The Standard edition is free for both personal and commercial use and includes 100% of the functionality I talked about above. The Standard edition requires only the .NET Framework 2.0 and Windows XP or better in order to run. All connection information is stored locally.
  • Enterprise. The Enterprise edition has the same features and requirements of the Standard edition with two exceptions: It's not free, and connection information is stored in a centrally accessible SQL database. Further, in order to use a SQL server, you need to install the SQL Server Native Client, and you need to be using SQL 2005 or higher.

Support

I have not had a need to make use of Devolutions support for Remote Desktop Manager, but I have read through the support forums, and I am extremely impressed. The developer appears to be extremely responsive and is working hard to make sure that the product meets the needs of his clients. He personally answers a number of the queries and handles them very quickly.

Additional details

For more information about Remote Desktop Manager, visit the product Web site.

While I was at the TechRepublic Community Event, Jason Hiner and Rick Vanover talked me into using Twitter. Want to follow me and know when new posts are added to IT Leadership and Servers & Storage? Look for me on Twitter http://twitter.com/scottdlowe.

TechRepublic's Servers and Storage newsletter, delivered on Monday and Wednesday, offers tips that will help you manage and optimize your data center. Automatically sign up today!

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...

17 comments
derek
derek

does this also work with Teamviewer?

BlueCollarCritic
BlueCollarCritic

A free open source RDM that does this and has the tabbed interface is the Terminals product available for free at CodePlex.com (http://www.codeplex.com/Terminals). I'm suprised it hasn't been mentioned here considering its flexability and price; $0. It has some quirks (I have to delete a configu file every few days if the app doesn't close properly) but when its free and so flexable its hard to be critical of the little things like this. And because it's open source you can contribute to it's design.

Thanateros
Thanateros

From the description and screenshots, this program looks like the old "mRemote" tool which was purchased by VisionApp who incorporated it into their tool, "VisionApp Remote Desktop".

jakesty
jakesty

One key feature I missed in this article is that it supports HyperV, VMWare and Virtual PC. This is a big omission since these systems are so popular today. Although I like the look and feel of MRemote or Terminals with a tabbed interface the breadth of support from this software is more compelling so I'll have to give it a try.

redevilnz
redevilnz

Personally I find visionapp Remote Desktop to be more what I need - does everything I need while being a very clean interface. But this one does definitely have more connection options under it's belt.

joseph_delai
joseph_delai

sounds good... just going to trial it now...

medfordmel
medfordmel

As long as you're administering from a Windows PC, it looks great. From Mac or Linux, though, you're left out in the cold. Guess I'll have to run it from my Windows VM.

dennis.cb
dennis.cb

Might check into something called Terminals.. Has a very similar feature set with tabbed windows for each connection. Stores all of your logon for each connection. Allows you to catagorize connections to be all started at once with 1-2clicks. It also has built in security to even start the client on the box it is installed on, to prevent other users/admins from launching application.

Mazhar
Mazhar

This is really THE utility I've been looking for a long long time. Thanks a lot for letting us know of this. A great one and has some really great features. Mazhar

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

It would be cool to flip back and forth between devices like web pages. Can this program do this?

dhervieux
dhervieux

Yes, it works very well with Team Viewer.

jakesty
jakesty

The freeware edition is limited to 3 connections, so you might as well just open them up yourself.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Perhaps you get it to run under Winecfg? Give it a whirl. I think I might.

greghejl
greghejl

Why does everyone buy MACs and dick with linux just to run windows?

Darien Allen
Darien Allen

I use Mremote as well and love it... however if I could add logmein connections to it like this app supports that would be great! Does mremote support logmein connections?

Darien Allen
Darien Allen

I never bothered to even try this but it does... create your logmein desktop shortcut, create a new session in mremote, set the protocol to https, in the hostname/IP section drop in the logmein url and that's it. Nice, makes mremote even more convenient than it already is....