For those companies where around-the-clock management is needed but around-the-clock staffing is not supported, SolarWinds Mobile Admin may be able to help. This post will walk through what is available through their application and outline how some of the features work, hopefully enabling your IT department to make an informed decision about using Mobile Admin to help you manage your environment without ending up in your car, headed to the data center in the wee hours of the morning.
What is Mobile Admin?
Mobile Admin is a management application that allows connection from a mobile device to a server or application on another network. If you choose not to download/license the server application, RDP and Telnet are available for free, but your environment will need to be configured to support them. When licensed for an environment, Mobile Admin's server component gets configured to be visible through firewalls. Then, the client piece connects over the Internet to the Mobile Admin server. In addition to allowing configured services to be listed and browsable (saving the admin from remembering server names), the server also acts as a proxy server for the client.
How do I use Mobile Admin to manage my environment?
When I connect to the MA server and use it to connect to the RDP service on Microsoft Windows Server 2008, the MA server initiates the connection and passes this through to the client. The proxy functionality prevents a double hop situation which can cause Windows to refuse connections and be quite a bit less than helpful.
I have found RDP to be a primary use in my environment of Mobile Admin, in addition to RDP connections, additional applications and management utilities, including but not limited to the following, are also supported:
- HP ilo
- BMC Performance Manager
- Microsoft System Center Operations Manager
- SolarWinds Orion
- Microsoft Exchange
- Email Uptime
- VMWare Infrastructure Management
- Microsoft Hyper-V
- Symantec Backup Exec and Netbackup
- Microsoft SQL Server
- CA Service Desk
- BMC Remedy Service Desk
- CA Service Desk Change Orders
- Microsoft ActiveSync
- Blackberry Enterprise Server
- Windows PowerShell
- Windows Command Line
- Microsoft Active Directory
- Amazon EC2
Given the number of applications that can be viewed and managed from this remote console, working with devices from anywhere is possible with very little configuration. The fact that the application takes care of most of the management of the connection and requires very little in the way of management is one of its best features. I have taken care of large portions of activities during a downtime in my environment from my iPad with Mobile Admin. No additional computer needed, and most certainly no commutes to the office.
Viewing an Active Directory User from a mobile device
When looking at an item (an Active Directory User Object for example) selecting the Menu button will display options available for the type of item you are working with.
Options for an AD User
Push alerts can also be configured so that an activity will notify the administrator when it occurs. This can also remove the need for SMS-based alerting for some things. Mobile Admin will send configured Alerts to the mobile application. To configure alerting on a mobile device, complete the following steps:
- Open the Mobile Admin application and log in to an MA Server.
- From the main screen, select Notifications (or choose Notifications from the bottom navigation bar).
- Tap Subscribe to add and manage feeds; this will display existing alert feeds and an option to add a new one.
- Select Subscribe To A New Feed.
- Choose the feed type; these should match the available services in Mobile Admin and will provide alerts for the chosen application.
- Select the server the alert should be managed against, for example, with a Ping Monitor alert, select the server to ping.
- Specify options for the selected alert; the Ping Monitor alert asks for an alert threshold and an alert trip count.
- Enter a name for and save the alert.
Once this is complete, the new alert will show up in the list of alerts that can be managed and will trigger when its conditions are met.
Another feature within the Mobile Admin application that I seem to continually overlook (and when it crosses my screen, I am reminded how useful it is) is Bookmarks. Creating a bookmark to a particular screen will add it to a shortcut list just like bookmarks in a browser. Selecting the bookmark takes you back to the screen where the bookmark was created. If you frequently look at Active Directory using a specific Domain Controller, a bookmark to the AD service might be helpful.
Each section of the application is accessible, like Bookmarks, from the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. The sections are:
- Notifications – allows addition or management of notification feeds
- Hosts – displays the hosts in your environment that have been added to Mobile Admin. Selecting a host will display all of the services available to manage there.
- Services – displays all of the services configured for use within Mobile Admin – a shortcut to the service/host without needing to browse the host(s) first.
- Bookmarks – shortcuts to specific services that have been saved
- Manage Feeds – allows addition or management of notification feeds
Note: SolarWinds is working on releasing an update to Mobile Admin that plays better with iOS 7, but overall the application still works as needed. There were a couple of tweaks needed to get RDP to play nice once upgrading to iOS 7, but these simply involved removing the preconfigured Windows credentials from the RDP configuration and allowing the application to prompt at connection. Once I did that, the session popped right up.
Licensing and cost
Mobile Admin is licensed per user ($695/user or $2995 for unlimited users). The app for your devices, supported on iOS, Android, and Blackberry, is a free download in each device's respective App store. SolarWinds does make the application available for a 14-day fully functional trial. More information and the link to a trial can be found at http://www.solarwinds.com/solutions/mobile-IT-administration-app.aspx
As you can see, for the price of admission, the feature set is quite expansive. There are still some features that need work, but as the application grows and the targets being managed evolve, these quirks will be worked out. The alerting capabilities and the sheer volume of manageable applications makes Mobile Admin a serious contender in the remote management arena.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.