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In Pictures: IT toolbox for the iPad

In case of emergency, tap these handy tools for network and server admins

  • iPad apps for IT survival When I get frantic calls from my users at random times, I turn to the assistant that's always by my side: my iPad. With so many good technical apps available for the iPad, I can use the tablet to manage my servers from just about anywhere I can get Wi-Fi. This collection of iPad apps includes remote access, network diagnostics, documentation, and other tools I’ve been using for the last couple years. It certainly isn’t one-size-fits-all, but it has been extremely useful to me. It’s all you need for those minor changes -- to reset a password, unlock a user account, add a firewall exception, create a new SSL-VPN user, and more.

  • SNMPmon 5.3.0 Test your SNMP configuration without having to fire up your enterprise monitoring system. SNMPmon lets you “walk the MIB” -- pull configuration data from routers, switches, and servers -- and gives you a quick and easy way to dig into the SNMP OID (Object Identifier) necessary to create custom SNMP queries if a MIB is unavailable or incomplete. This tool is especially useful as you dive into upgrading equipment configurations from SNMP 1 or 2 to the dramatically more secure SNMP 3. Price: $4.99 Developer: Marcio Almeida Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 4.0 or later

  • NetScanner 2.7 This SNMP tool is so good, I'd buy an iPad for it alone. NetScanner is easier to use than many Windows and Mac SNMP query tools. Simply enter your SNMP credentials and scan the subnet. If you have multiple sets of credentials, NetScanner will try them all when you trigger a query. If you've made the move to SNMP 3, NetScanner will display a massive amount of information about your local network devices, and it will add devices outside your local network by IP, range, or subnet. Even without a full set of credentials, NetScanner will find all kinds of devices on your network and give you basic info such as manufacturer and device type.

  • NetTools 1.7 Never underestimate the basics. It’s amazing just how revealing ping, traceroute, and DNS can be when you’re trying to solve networking problems. NetTools has become my first stop when I get calls for help. This simple tool means never having to ask if the machine is actually turned on. Awkward! Price: $3.99 Developer: Terminal Software Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 3.1 or later

  • Network Toolbox 1.05 As a network geek inclined to bulk up on diagnostic tools, I liked how this little app adds port scanning and whois lookup to what I already have with NetTools. What makes Network Toolbox particularly valuable hides in its config menu where you can vary the size and number of pings; traceroute timeouts and time to live; and portscan delay, packet size, and range. A LAN tool also lists out the ARP table for the iPad -- useful but limited to your wireless connection. Price: 99 cents Developer: Wyllys Ingersoll Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 4.2 or later

  • Mocha RDP 2.9 Until we all shift to using PowerShell for managing Windows servers, we’re going to need a remote desktop client. Mocha RDP stands out with support for iPad multitouch gestures that allow you to shrink or expand the Windows desktop on the fly. While a bit risky, this RDP client can also save both username and password if your group policies allow. If only the app itself were password protected, I might be willing to save more user information. I only recently discovered that Mocha RDP has a wake-on-LAN option in its configuration for each server. Until then, I used the Depicus Wake On LAN app. Price: $5.99 Developer: MochaSoft Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 3.0 or later

  • iSSH 5.3.0 We have a rule: Thou shalt never allow unencrypted log-ins. This means regular old telnet is out, and SSH (Secure Shell) is in. Zinger-Soft’s iSSH has just about everything I need to work on a *NIX machine, combining support for a wide variety of terminal emulations (VT100, VT102, VT220, ANSI, and xterm) with a tunneled VNC client, RDP, and x-server. Heck, you can even do a key exchange for public-key/private-key authentication. Maybe a bit expensive for an iPad app, but it’s a full set of features for $9.99. Price: $9.99 Developer: Zinger-Soft Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 3.2 or later

  • iVMControl 2.3.11 Alas, VMware’s management tools are still only available for Windows. This third-party app allows me to connect to my vCenter or ESX/ESXi servers from the iPad. Little things like quickly mounting an ISO, checking an alarm, or forcing vMotion actions no longer require a Windows laptop. Of course, iVMControl is not quite as flexible as VMware’s client, but I don’t have to suffer through the time lags of an RDP session to a machine running the native tool. Price: $9.99 Developer: Project Eureka LLC Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 3.2 or later

  • Decibel Meter Pro 2.0.4 Unless you have access to a calibrated decibel meter, you shouldn’t consider the readings from Decibel Meter Pro to be gospel. Still, this tool will give you an idea of just how loud your servers are. I find it handy to measure how loud a new server is compared to my existing units. Price: 99 cents Developer: Performance Audio Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 4.0 or later

  • Multi Measures 2.5.0 This measurement multitool has replaced the simple spirit bubble level I obtained from Stanley Toolworks. Multi Measures combines 10 pretty useful tools: Protractor, Ruler, Surface Level, Spirit Level, Plumb Bob, Seismometer, Stopwatch, Assorted Timers, Metronome, and Teslameter. Some are more useful than others, but it feels good to have all of those tools available all of the time -- very handy for leveling out monitors, racks, and more. Price: 99 cents Developer: SkyPaw Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 3.0 or later

  • Air Display 1.6 It’s not cheap by App Store standards, but certainly cheaper than another monitor. Once you purchase Air Display for the iPad, the Windows or Mac counterpart is a free download. The downside is that this second monitor must be on the same Wi-Fi network as your PC or Mac. While HD video is jerky, ordinary video refresh is pretty quick -- very acceptable for most nonvideo applications. Price: $9.99 Developer: Avatron Software Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 4.3 or later

  • ScreenChomp 1.3 This app is sooo much more than a drawing tool. ScreenChomp lets you import just about any image from a camera or image library; annotate it with text, ink, or icons; and record a voiceover describing the process. I use it to annotate maps with directions to my office, create short process documents for racking servers or hooking up equipment, or just to circle important items on Web pages, screen captures, or photos I’ve taken with the iPad2 camera. Price: Free Developer: TechSmith Compatibility: iPad only; iOS 4.2 or later

  • Hot-e-V 1.0 This app from down under is currently the only iPad implementation of the RemoteFX client protocol -- an RDP replacement that leverages graphics processors inside the server to present rich, 3D graphics to thin clients. I’ve been doing a bit of testing and heavy graphics applications such as AutoCAD, Revit, and Matlab that run off the shared virtual machines as fast or faster than a dedicated workstation. I haven’t used it often because RemoteFX is currently a royal pain to get running on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. But when Windows Server 8 fulfills the promise of drop-dead easy RemoteFX implementation, I’m ready. Price: $14.99 Developer: ThinLinX Compatibility: iPad only; iOS 4.3 or later

  • Evernote 4.2 I’ve saved the best for last. Evernote has made an appearance on my Windows Phone 7 phone (Nokia Lumia 710), my iPad, my Mac, my Windows machines, and my Dell Streak 7, replacing Microsoft’s OneNote as my main way to document projects. My favorite ploy is to use my smartphone to snap pictures of server serial numbers, machine internals, shipping documents, rack layouts, and more, then pull them into Evernote for annotation. Being able to annotate that same picture without transferring it to the PC and to look up any of my notes on any of my platforms make Evernote the one app that I just couldn’t do without. Price: Free Developer: Evernote Compatibility: iPhone and iPad; iOS 3.0 or later

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