Sometimes it can be rough being a sysadmin on the go- many of the calls sysadmins get asking for help are when they’re stuck somewhere without access to a computer. When you’re stuck in a train without your laptop and your junior sysadmin floods your inbox with panicked emails about the mail server not responding, sometimes it can be helpful to have something to act as a backup. Enter your Android phone! With the host of Android apps available that relate to network management, you never have to be without some form of remote control over your servers. Here are some of the best Android apps we’ve found for managing remote servers from your Android phone!
ConnectBot is, bar none, one of the best network management apps for Android. A good SSH client is essential for network management on the go, and many system administrators (including myself) have found themselves in a tight spot where they’ve got their phone with them but not their laptop. Having an SSH client on your phone is a lifesaver, especially if the fix for the problem is just a few bash commands away- not a problem for a phone keyboard! The app also understands signals like SIGINT, making it far more functional than you might have thought it would be. The rest of the bells and whistles like ANSI color and the snazzy default font are really just icing on the cake, and ConnectBot is one tool that should be living on every network admin’s Android phone.
2. Wyse PocketCloud
For those of us running Windows servers (or Mac / Linux servers with a GUI and VNC) an SSH client isn’t always enough. Wyse PocketCloud is here to handle your RDP needs, and it does it with flair. RDP on phones has historically been cumbersome at best, but it really feels like the Wyse devs took time to see what worked with an RDP setup. There are a host of little things about the app that really make it efficient and user-friendly: it automatically adjusts to your device resolution, for example, and it has little navigation circles for precision point-and-click when your fingers are just too stubby to get the job done. Performance is great as well- WiFi lag is nearly non-existent, and 3G RDP performs better than you would expect from a cellular network remote desktop session. Definitely a keeper if you’re looking to admin Windows servers with RDP enabled!
As great as ConnectBot is, it doesn’t include SCP support- something that might stymie us Linux admins when we’re looking to transfer files. If you need to get files to or from your server, AndFTP is the app for you. Despite the name, it’s not just for transferring FTP files: AndFTP can handle FTP/SFTP and, if you’re willing to spring $5 for the Pro version, it handles SCP as well. AndFTP includes everything you’d expect from a desktop secure transfer client- SSH keys, password authentication, and all the FTP / SCP functionality you’d expect from something like Filezilla or WinSCP. Definitely worth having, and it’s a great complement to ConnectBot!
Nagios is both the bane and the boon of network admins everywhere. It’s many a server admin that has cursed Nagios for waking them up at 5 AM, but no one can deny that it’s one of the best server monitoring tools in the business. aNag is a Nagios client for Android devices that aims, according to its developer, to provide a sysadmin with “an embedded overview of all their Nagios-monitored infrastructure”. In fact, it does that wonderfully- it can run multiple Nagios instances, it can recheck all services on a host at the touch of a button, and it has (crucial to any Nagios program) the ability to fine-grain notifications and service filtering. Moreover, the program doesn’t feel cluttered: though Nagios can be overwhelming at times, aNag always seemed to be able to pare down to the information I needed when I needed it.
5. Exchange Touchdown
This one’s the odd man out on the list precisely because it’s a network management app, but it’s not for your phone: it’s for everyone else’s phone. Though it does exist, Android’s native groupware client leaves something to be desired, especially on the corporate level. Exchange Touchdown tries to remedy that by creating a groupware client that plays a bit more nicely with Exchange, and it does a very good job. It supports all the features you’d expect from Android’s own groupware client, including email sync, contacts, calender, etc., but it also supports all of the enterprise-level features you’d expect from a corporate phone such as security policy enforcement, PIN assignment by administrators, and remote wiping. Definitely worth a look for executives who don’t want Blackberries or Blackberry Enterprise Server but want to use Android in the office.
Being powerless to do anything while your colleagues and bosses frantically try and get in touch with you can be one of the worst feelings in the world. Thankfully, if you’ve got an Android phone, you’re never out of the loop for long- you can log in and restart a hung process or RDP into a server and get critical files you need with no hassle with these network apps. Don’t let your lack of a laptop, however rare that might be, derail your sysadmin powers: use these apps in tandem with each other to make your Android phone a lean, mean, network-managing machine.