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:
- Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP)
- VNC (UltraVNC, TightVNC, and RealVNC)
- Team Viewer
- FTP (Explorer, Filezilla, and WinSCP)
- X Window
- PuTTY (SSH, Telnet, RAW, and rLogin)
- DameWare Mini Remote Control
- Radmin Viewer
- Citrix XenApp (ICA)
- Symantec PC Anywhere
- Web browser
- Command line
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
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
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
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
Credentials stored with a connection profile. Click the image to enlarge.
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.
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.
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.
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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 with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at email@example.com.