Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Remote Administration

Able to managing CIs remotely is very important part of ICT professional’s routine. Support analysts, Helpdesk operators, technicians and system administrators doing this on daily basis. All the latest equipments are manufactured with this functionality. Today’s servers, storage, printers, MFPs, cameras and bio-metric devices have built in support for remote management.



However, different companies use different approach to implement this functionality. Different devices also use different technologies. If one printer can be managed by using third party tool, others may be only managed remotely via its native software. These two software may have different functionalities; one may provide complete audit details with respect to active directory user names and other may only capable of displaying ink usage and online toner ordering services.
We can mange servers and PCs through their operating systems. As long as the operating systems are same (or belong to same manufacturer) they can be managed by one tool or solution. Otherwise you have to setup different management solutions to meet this requirement.
It is extremely difficult to manage heterogeneous environments with different types of CIs (e.g. thin clients, PCs, Servers, PCs and Mac etc). Reducing physical visits is the main point behind all these tools and technologies. Reducing physical visits results in work done efficiency for system administrator and for helpdesk professional reducing desk side visits proved to be helpful for reducing costs and expenditures. Different CIs and OS may require different type of management tools. For a simple windows machine you can use remote PS tools, RDP and remote assistance for unattended configuration, console access and supporting users respectively. For UNIX based OS you can always use SSH to configure changes and other administrating. For management of different printers, HP’s Jet admin is very useful tool as it supports multiple types of printers and provide very easy to use management console. Rare types of card printer, MFPs, Cameras and proprietary systems can always be managed by built in web server. Managing remote assistance for thin client users was very challenging as there were only native solutions available. Some types of TCs also support shadowing tools (e.g. VNC viewer), which are very helpful to provide remote assistance to the connected users. As for now there is not a single tool available which can provide both management and assistance feature on different types of Thin clients. Things became easier with the use of embedded OS thin clients. But this approach result in under utilization and inefficient usage of OS licenses. For out of band management on different PCs we need different utilities. But OOBM on all types of servers can be accessed through secure shell connection or by a web browser.  In a complex and heterogeneous environment we need several tools to perform administration, configuration, monitoring and assistance of computer systems remotely.

I like to mention few amazing tools here. As stated above the HP Jet Admin can be used to manage several types of printers. MS System Center Suite is a very efficient solution and provides all above functionalities for windows environment. You can use RFB viewers and some native tools to manage thin clients. Competitors of these tools and solutions lack several features. It is highly recommended to analyze and calculate the feasibility of a solution with respect to your environment. Sometimes it is better to create uniformity among CIs to eliminate the need of extra set of tools.