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Mobile apps: The IT pro's new power tools

Robert L. Scheier | March 13, 2012
Heavy-duty mobile IT apps for the iPad, iPhone, and Android devices have many IT departments on the move.

Android users can manage their Active Directory implementations with ActiveDir Manager, while iOS users have AD Helpdesk for iOS. Network Utility for the iPhone enables network administrators to check connectivity via Ping, TCP/IP Port Scans, GeoIP lookup, and to gather IP address information.

IBM XIV Mobile Dashboard for the iPhone and iPad monitor real-time performance of IBM XIV storage systems, allowing IT admins to monitor IOPS, bandwidth, and latency, among other metrics.

Mobile IT apps: Limitations and opportunities As the capabilities of smartphones improve, customers are demanding the same capabilities in mobile administration apps as in their desktop counterparts, says Raj Dutt, vice president of technology at hosting and content delivery provider Internap: "[Customers] don't consider the mobile application to be some second-class citizen. This is no longer just a gimmick thing; people are really using it."

For most administrative functions, a Web portal that has been designed for easy viewing on a mobile device works fine, says Brian Alvey, CEO of Crowd Fusion. Few mobile apps require the finely tuned performance provided by native mobile apps. Still, limitations remain.

Regarding the Dell Kace management app, the lack of a native iPad application "doesn't allow me to use the VNC function," says Gettel's Bement. "It's just [that] the iPad doesn't have VNC installed by default." Bement gets around the problem by switching to Jump Desktop, which he says is "not too big of an annoyance."

CenterBeam's Pirooz would like to see mobile versions make greater use of the Microsoft Active Sync APIs to more easily "push" software to devices. "You can whitelist and blacklist applications," he says, but "there's no concept of pushing a piece of software, and doing an installation, from an administrative perspective, unless the user says yes."

This support would allow mobile admins to perform more of the management functions Microsoft has added over the years, such as enforcing policies or wiping data from mobile devices, he says.

The untethered life of today's mobile IT adminAlthough the mad proliferation of mobile IT applications might be seen as tying admins to their mobile devices more than ever, it's actually good news, many say.

"We've had pagers and phones going on 15 years," says Gartner analyst Jeff Brooks. "The new apps mean it won't be so much 'I'm always working' as it will be 'I'm able to get done what I need to get done in a timely manner,'" he says. "If I'm able, before I go to bed ... to roll over, grab my phone, and answer a question for someone, and get that logged properly, that's one less thing [to do] when I wake up tomorrow and get to the office."

 

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