The unexpected joy of Windows admin from a tablet

Windows' Remote Desktop is a lifesaver for IT admins, but a new breed of mobile tools may be a better option

The day after Microsoft made its big announcement about the Windows 8-based Surface tablet, I received a big box from Microsoft. I was superexcited and thought, "Microsoft sent me one!" The box did indeed contain a tablet -- an awesome one. But it was a Samsung Slate with Windows 8 Release Preview preinstalled.

It's not the Surface tablet (I'm still hoping Microsoft will send me one when they're ready -- hint, hint!), but it was still a great opportunity to see how Windows 8 performs on a touchscreen and on a tablet. What was the first thing I downloaded and configured? Remote Desktop.

[ Robert L. Scheier surveys the cornucopia of mobile tools available for IT, and Brian Chee chooses the best IT tools on the iPad. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

I have systems all over the place: desktops, servers (Windows Home Server 2011 and a Hyper-V server running all sorts of systems), and remote servers with companies I consult for all over the country. I typically jump in through either a remote desktop protocol connection or a virtual network computing connection like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC. I'm flexible, as long as it gets me to a desktop where I can work with the administration tools.

However, more mobile apps are being developed that make it unnecessary to remote into a desktop; you can use a tablet instead. Many of these tools even work from my smartphone, which I don't use for remote desktop because the screen is too small.

For example, AdminBridge's FeatherNet lets you manage Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Hyper-V, and VMware from iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and Windows Phones. The connection is encrypted through SSL, with server access governed by Active Directory policies. You pay $15 per month to use the tool with no limit on managed entities.

It was clear that using FeatherNet on a mobile device wouldn't let me do everything I can do with a desktop-based remote connection. But I could do all those annoying things that come up when I'm usually not at my desk: handling a user's forgotten password, creating a mailbox, and so on.

If you're looking for a mobile tool that can do more, consider Solarwinds' Mobile Admin (you may know it from its earlier owner, Rove, which had been previously named Indiguro). It costs $695 per seat, but it provides access to more than 40 IT tools -- including PowerShell, File Explorer, Performance Monitor, Services, Exchange, and Active Directory -- from iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and BlackBerrys. However, it doesn't run on my Windows Phone.

Personally, I love the remote-desktop approach to remote IT management. But I can see how being able to perform common IT administration tasks while on the go from a mobile device can take the stress off admins at a time where they're expected to support people in multiple locations at once.

This article, "The unexpected joy of Windows admin from a tablet," was originally published at Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.