Should an Administrator get an iPad?

By jbrunsting ·
I've heard and read all the arguments for and against getting an iPad (or iPad2) as a consumer device. But I still don't have one. But a question at my work has come up recently: does it work as an administration device? I am my own IT department, so I handle both network admin and sysadmin jobs where I work. I have managed switches, firewalls, web filters (we're a school), multiple servers and a couple hundred desktops.

So are there apps out there that would justify having an iPad? I could see, if I got a 3G iPad, possibly being able to remotely administer a server or something. My question is: do the tools and apps exist out there to make an iPad a viable choice for a network/systems administrator? I'm not really interested in alternatives like the PlayBook or Galaxy Tab, unless their apps are SO much better than the iPad. Like I said, I don't have any sort of tablet, so I'd be interested in what the community thinks.

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All Answers

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Do you need a Porsche **1 to drive to your DR site?

by robo_dev In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

Of course you do. While a Porsche could not carry more than a spare server or two, it would get you there really fast, and you would enjoy the ride.

An iPad or any tablet, in my opinion, is about the least practical item on earth for doing admin tasks. The obvious lack of a keyboard makes even routine tasks like configuring a Cisco router a whole new level of difficulty.

A big issue for many tasks is that the utilities that are needed do not run on any OS other than Windows. For example, while there is a VMWare Vcenter app for the iPad, it's hardly more than a demo. Some web-based configuration tools use Flash, which is not an option with the iPad.

Let's say you want to use a tool such as WireShark to do packet capture: Nope. Apple does not allow ANY apps that do packet capture in the apps store, for security reasons.

So my opinion is that using a tablet for network admin is a bad idea. What you need it a rugged netbook.

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Reponse To Answer

by jbrunsting In reply to Do you need a Porsche 911 ...

So what if I'm off-site and on the road? Do you suggest finding a wifi hotspot or something? Or do you think it worthwhile to get a cell with tethering or even a dedicated cellular fob from Sprint or the like? Do you know of any netbooks you can actually recommend? Or is this just in the line of "basic advice, but no hands-on experience"?

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Hello jbrunsting..

by Peconet Tietokoneet In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

robo_dev has given you some very good advice there. It is up to you if you want to get your hands on a ipad. We do not make your mind up on here, that is up to you to do that, we just give out good advice on what to do or have, what you do about that advice is up to you. If it where me i would stay away from Apple (waiting for the Apple stampied here). Get a good laptop, at least you can put on your own software of choice instead of being locked into one, on the plus side of a laptop/notebook you have USB ports to attach a usb wireless dongle to connect either through a mobile network or wifi. You can not do much with a ipad for what you need.

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Reponse To Answer

by jbrunsting In reply to Hello jbrunsting..

Thanks for your comment, that's pretty much what robo_dev led me to believe, too. So I'm now looking into netbooks with long battery life and how much one of those 3G dongles might run instead. My primary computer at work is a laptop, actually, but it's a Dell Precision 4300, which is a desktop replacement and, while mobile, also quite heavy and bulky to carry around, hence why I was wanting something smaller.

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by aaron.cirilo In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

I have one thinking it would reducing the need for laptop.. Nope. It is Great for what it is designed for.. Surfing @home, long battery life, good speciality apps (bible software)... Otherwise it's useless or nearly useless for admin tasks. No USB connectivity, no console to Network Devices, keyboard from ****, no flash,... I wouldn't spend the money again ... At least with admin task in mind.

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Get a lappy and install the tools you know you'll need.

by seanferd In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

What does iPad have in terms of mobile internet connectivity that a laptop can't? Built-in, even - no tether or USB stick. Heck, I have a small old Dell which supported, for wireless and network:
Bluetooth, WLAN, LAN, Modem, broadband, and SIM cards.
So why an ipad?

But here is the question: Just what sort of remote administration <i>do</i> you do? Do you see iPad apps covering that? Then go for it. But you'll have less flexibility.* Remember, you can't even fully control your own iPad without rooting it.

Have a look at:
for remote administration ideas for iPad.

*When you want to expand the capabilities, you'll need to wait until someone writes an app for that, then you have to get it from the apple store.

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I had the same question

by pwright In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

and reached pretty much the same conclusions as those shared above. I use a Kindle to store all my reference documentation and have a cellular-enabled Netbook for remote administration tasks. The combination of the two is very light-weight to carry, battery life is a non-issue and with 3G (soon to be 4G LTE) connectivity to a VPN, there are few places from which I cannot diagnose, intervene and solve issues when I am not in the office.
But your mileage may vary - I am a *very* command-line centric nerd so keyboard functionality is huge for me. Were I more comfortable with a GUI environment, I might have a different view. If my interventions typically consisted of rebooting a device and I could create a secure front-end accessible by a browser, I might be able to get an iPad to work.
But as it stands, I could only honestly justify an iPad as a means of educating myself about them but not as a productivity tool for network administration.

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Reponse To Answer

by jbrunsting In reply to I had the same question

Thanks, I think after seeing all these replies I agree with being unable to justify an iPad. Until and unless we start deploying them to people here in the school (hence the need to educate myself about them), I can't see getting an iPad. A netbook looks like the path for me, along with maybe a 3G dongle to get me connected when on the road.

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Take a pass... But...

by djcjwags In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

School sys admin here, too. Responding from my iPad, but on my couch. Best use, as you suggested, was to use as an evaluation unit for deployment in classrooms. As an admin, i think I was hoping to get a little more mileage out of it, but just haven't been able to. It has some cool factor to some people and if you want to use it for it's size versus even most net books, then get one. Grab one, too, if your boss says you should get one and will pay for it... As was my case.

It has its place. I'm just not sure it's a sysadmins best option including much of what has already been said.

(note: not that the device takes much learning, but if administration wants them, you would be best served getting one, too, to be able to best support.)

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Not your best option

by Chosen1x In reply to Should an Administrator g ...

Depending on your role and responsibilities you generally are going to need specific tools. And when onsite responding to an an outage than takes more than 5 min to fix taping on a virtual keyboard will get old.. FAST.

I recommend something more stout a little netbook will do but here be wary. Some do not have USBs (for thumb drive or serial converter) some do not have Ethernet ports an instead use only wifi or 3g. So know what you are looking at.

The best option, ESPECIALLY if work is paying for it is really to go with an ultra portable. Have a look at the MacBook Air, the Samsung Series 9, or the Sony counterpart (vaio x series I think). And tether it to your phone if you need to, because you already pay for the data there. If the company wants you available on short notice express your needs and let them put resources to meet them before you come out of pocket.

As a tip of advice if you working in an environment where data security is particularly at issue. NEVER volunteer your own personal property or even bring it on site. This will avoid the potential for many bad things in the future.

Cheers and good luck in whatever you decide to do.

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