13 great Windows Phone apps for IT pros

A baker's dozen of mostly free apps for server monitoring, remote access, network troubleshooting, password management, even scripting -- right from your Windows Phone

Top IT tools for Windows Phone

One of the biggest knocks against Windows Phone as a platform is the ecosystem itself. The Windows Phone store doesn't have the sheer volume of apps you'll find on the Apple App Store or Google Play, and many of the big names are missing. Even if the numbers don't compare, there are still some gems to be found, particularly for those of us in the IT world. Here are 13 of our favorite apps for Windows Phone, some of which you may recognize and others that will probably be new to you.

Network Tools

Network diagnostic skills are a must for any IT worker, and knowing which tool to use in order to troubleshoot a problem is a big part of that skill set. The Network Tools app (free) gives you access to several basic tools needed to perform network troubleshooting, including ping to test basic connectivity, nslookup to perform name resolution and test DNS queries, and an NTP query tool to validate proper time synchronization. Each of these network functions is critical to the health of your network, and the Network Tools app gives you the ability to troubleshoot these services any time.

NetSuite

When network or data center failures occur, one of the first steps we often take is to determine the extent of the damage and which servers or services are affected. This is where the NetSuite app ($1.99) for Windows Phone excels. NetSuite allows you to create a list of hostnames or IP addresses to test, as well as the ability to configure port numbers for each entry. Once configured, the entire list of hosts and ports can be queried to determine which are available and which are unreachable. NetSuite offers additional features in the realm of cellular and Wi-Fi performance testing.

Network Speed Test

Network bandwidth apps are often no-frills, and Network Speed Test from Microsoft Research is no exception. Used primarily to test upload and download speed, Network Speed Test also shows you network delay, jitter, and packet loss. Though not a sophisticated network diagnostic tool, this free app can be useful as a first step in diagnosing network issues or determining the quality of a network you haven't used before. We'd love to see additional pro-level features in the future. What do you say, Microsoft?

Splashtop Personal

One of the bigger names in the PC remote arena, Splashtop allows you to remotely control your PC from anywhere with an Internet connection. The bummer is that Splashtop requires the Anywhere Access Pack to use Splashtop Personal (free) over cellular (a capability included in the Enterprise or Business licenses). Other minor downsides to Splashtop Personal are the requirement to both register and install a client application. But once registered and configured, the PCs connected to your account will be listed in an address book, providing you with instant access to each connected computer.

TouchDevelop

Another free gem from Microsoft Research, TouchDevelop is essentially a social scripting platform. You can create scripts using the TouchDevelop app directly on the phone or using the TouchDevelop Web app. And you can share your scripts by publishing them to the TouchDevelop website or even exporting them to the Windows Store as a Windows 8/RT app. TouchDevelop is great for just playing around with developing for Windows Phone. It even allows you to use many of the sensors built into Windows Phone devices.

TeamViewer

Like Splashtop, TeamViewer is a remote access solution for Windows Phone but with significant differences. Although TeamViewer allows you to remotely control a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer, it is mainly geared toward online meetings and collaboration. The biggest advantage TeamViewer offers over Splashtop is the ability to connect to a session using a TeamViewer ID, meaning a username and password does not need to be shared between users in order for a connection to be initiated. TeamViewer is free for personal use but requires a license for commercial purposes.

Token2Shell

Token2Shell is easily the best SSH2/Telnet client on Windows Phone, and at the hefty price of $9.99, it should be. The features list is too long to compile here, but the app supports numerous authentication methods and encryption algorithms. Also included are several UI niceties, such as a transparent virtual keyboard and pinch to zoom. Perhaps the coolest feature is a bar-code scanner that can be used to input large amounts of text in a single shot, allowing you to easily package reusable bits of code in a compact form factor.

LastPass Portable

Any IT pro has more usernames, passwords, and other credentials than can be easily or consistently remembered. Password managers like LastPass allow for encrypted storage of your credentials, as well as the ability to synchronize your passwords between multiple devices. LastPass Portable requires LastPass Premium, a $12-per-year service, which is completely reasonable. A password manager of some sort is a must-have for IT pros, and LastPass Portable is easily the best choice for Windows Phone.

Password Generator

Generating a password from random characters may be best practice from a security standpoint, but it doesn't do any good if you can't remember the thing. For those of us in the IT field, however, creating a random password for temporary use can be a daily task. Password Generator lets you define complexity requirements right down to the special characters allowed for use. Generated passwords can be copied and pasted into an email, and they can be completely purged from memory for security purposes.

Springboard Series for Windows

Keeping up with the latest Windows features, tools, and techniques is a constant struggle. Microsoft's Springboard Series for Windows is essentially a portal into Microsoft's blog posts, how-tos, and videos on deploying and supporting Windows. Having this content available in a portable form factor gives you additional opportunities to catch up as you sit on the bus or train or lie sleepless at night. Other apps are available for those looking for similar content with a slightly different focus, such as the TechNet Mobile App and the Microsoft IT Showcase.

Website to PDF

Web browsing on a mobile device has improved dramatically over the last few years, but it still has a long way to go. Website to PDF is simply a front end for pdfmyurl.com, allowing you to save a PDF copy of a Web page for later use. Snapshots are taken by entering a URL directly or accessing a Web page through either a Google or Bing search. The resulting snapshots aren't perfect by any means, but they frequently offer the most convenient way to save or share content from a Web page.

Authenticator

Microsoft's Authenticator app is a simple way to add two-factor authentication to one or more Microsoft accounts. The initial pairing process requires either an account name with secret key or a simple bar-code scan using the app. Once paired, a Microsoft account can only be accessed by providing both the account password and the security code generated by Authenticator. This additional security should appeal to people who have their Microsoft accounts tied to business-level services like MSDN, Azure, or the Windows Store.

My Server

My Server works with Windows Server 2012 Essentials to provide you easy access to your server on the go. With this free app you can access files, view users, monitor the status of critical tasks, and receive alerts indicating potential system issues. Though My Server is limited to use with Windows Server 2012 Essentials, Microsoft has additional apps for use with Windows Home Server 2011, Windows Storage Server 2008 R2, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials. Each of these apps requires installation of the Windows Server Solutions Phone Connector Add-in.