For IT admins, remote doesn’t have to mean less control

You can end up working with one hand tied behind your back when you rely solely on the tools that come with your tech ecosystem

For IT admins, remote doesn’t have to mean less control

As IT administrators, the quicker we can diagnose a problem the better. But contrary to user expectations we can't be everywhere at once. Or can we?

Remote access tools have been around for a long time -- in fact, they are a dime a dozen these days -- and they are all relatively good. GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, and so on all provide solid remote access, control, and support.

But we need more than the ability to remote into a server or user's system. We need powerful tools to assist with the diagnosis before we even connect to that server or computer. And we may need more than the built-in tools to get the level of capabilities required. I call that remote IT administration.

Microsoft provides a variety of tools for "manual" remote control and administration. It recently released the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 10, which allows admins to work with the next-gen Windows Server technical preview. The tools include Server Manager, MMC console snap-ins, PowerShell cmdlets, and more to assist with remote administration.

As an IT admin, you no doubt have worked with many of Microsoft's built-in tools, and you certainly know how to remote in to take control, diagnose, and resolve issues. You also know how long that typically takes.

Microsoft typically releases a Remote Server Administration Tool (RSAT) for each version of Windows Server and each version of the Windows client -- but they don't all work the same. There are sometimes significant limitations based on the client and the server you're looking to control. 

Of course, you could always remotely PowerShell into a server, which I often do when working with Office 365 because it can be the only way to perform a task. But to me, that's actually moving away from the concept of remote control. I want tools that can do some of the work for me. In certain cases, you can install an agent on servers, PCs, or devices, which I'm fine with if the agent has a small footprint and doesn't squawk on my network 24/7.

Whatever the method, I want to be able to connect to different operating systems (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux) and get to the heart of matters quickly.

One tool to assist remote troubleshooting of such a range of operating systems is Goverlan. After seeing it recently, I realized how long it had been since I'd encountered a fully functional remote administration tool -- because I typically work and play with Microsoft-only tools. Having a richer set of options at my disposal was like giving a guy an automatic can opener when he'd been using a manual one for years.

Some of the features you want for remote IT support include the ability to access a system and perform tasks without interrupting the user when possible (after all, remote access is disruptive). Goverlan includes such behind-the-scenes fix-it features, it can connect to a variety of OSes, it can work with Citrix systems, and it can report on and manage active directory, among other capabilities.

To be effective as an IT admin in a world where we are often understaffed, have half our workers telecommuting or on the road, and cope with so many disparate systems, we need to combine what we get gratis from Microsoft with both freeware and paid products like Goverian and Dameware.

It's easy to forget about those third-party tools when you work in a vendor-specific environment, such as a Microsoft shop. But that means you're doing IT with one hand tied behind your back. Go beyond remote control and basic troubleshooting tools, and invest in remote IT administration.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.