Management on the Go

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2003-08-04
 
 
 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
PocketAdmin for Windows
Expand Beyonds PocketAdmin for Windows lets companies manage Windows servers and workstations remotely from an Internet-connected Palm OS or Pocket PC device. PocketAdmin for Windows is more costly than using the Terminal Services that Microsoft includes with Windows, but its also better suited to mobile devices.
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY GOOD
CAPABILITY GOOD
PERFORMANCE GOOD
INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY GOOD
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Does a good job presenting remote management tools on small device displays.

  • CON: Wont work with Pocket PC 2002 VPN client, nor will VPN work with most Palm OS devices.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    Microsofts Terminal Services Client RealVNCs Viewer for Pocket PC ExpertCitys GoToMyPC PocketViewer
    Expand Beyond Inc.s PocketAdmin for Windows allows IT managers to access and manipulate their Windows-based infrastructure on the go, enabling Palm OS and Pocket PC handheld devices to expand beyond their typically limited roles as personal information managers.

    In eWEEK Labs tests of PocketAdmin for Windows, which shipped last month, we were able to remotely tackle a broad range of management tasks through the products nicely laid out, HTML-based mobile client interface. We could also access these controls through a PC Web browser.

    By its very nature, a remote management tool—particularly one for mobile and wireless devices—presents certain security concerns. Companies that deploy PocketAdmin for Windows can work to harden potential soft spots by enabling Secure Sockets Layer encryption and VPN (virtual private network) links between their mobile management devices and the PocketAdmin software.

    Note, however, that the VPN option is not available on most Palm OS devices, the browsers for which use a proxy. In addition, PocketAdmin will not work along with the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol VPN client that comes with Pocket PC 2002, but it will work with third-party VPN clients for Pocket PC, such as those from Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. and Certicom Corp.

    Tougher, two-factor authentication is available with PocketAdmin through integration with RSA Security Inc.s SecurID. We could configure PocketAdmin to require SecurID authentication to connect.

    For defining user accounts and permissions, PocketAdmin takes advantage of Windows Active Directory Services, with which administrators can restrict which machines and services may be accessed and managed. The PocketAdmin clients do not store user names or passwords on ones mobile device.

    PocketAdmin for Windows costs $2,500 for up to 10 servers or workstations, $10,000 for up to 100, and $25,000 for up to 400. In comparison, Microsoft Corp.s Terminal Services are included with Windows, and Terminal Services Client ships with Pocket PC. ExpertCity Inc.s GoToMyPC, which offers a Pocket PC client, is a hosted service that costs $24.95 per PC per month, with an activation fee of $49.95. RealVNC Ltd.s RealVNC Viewer for Pocket PC is free software licensed under the GNU General Public License.

    However, these mobile remote control tools deliver a full-size machine desktop to the tiny display of ones mobile device—a method that resulted in lots of frustrating panning around to find the controls we sought.

    PocketAdmin enabled us to quickly access controls for managing users, groups, printers, shares, events, processes and services, both for domains and individual machines to which we had given ourselves rights through Microsofts Active Directory.

    For tasks that were included in the PocketAdmin client interface, such as starting applications other than system services, we could connect to our test servers from within PocketAdmin through a Secure Shell-based console.

    PocketAdmin for Windows is powered by Expand Beyonds XBanywhere 2.2, which runs within the Apache Tomcat Web application server. (The XBanywhere setup software installs Tomcat as well.) XBanywhere, which generates and serves the content to its mobile clients, runs on Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003, Solaris 8 or 9, and Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.3 or 8.0.

    A separate server element, Windows Gateway, links XBanywhere to a particular Windows domain. The gateway will run on Windows 2000 SP2 or higher or Windows XP Professional.

    Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

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