Eight IPhone Apps for Sys Admins

For almost any system administrator, the idea of "off-time" is fictional. Even when I'm on vacation, there's an unwritten expectation that if need be, I'm going to be summoned to solve a problem. (Even on my honeymoon, for example, I found myself spending a half-hour or so dealing with a work issue.)

By John C. Welch
Tue, May 19, 2009

Macworld — For almost any system administrator, the idea of "off-time" is fictional. Even when I'm on vacation, there's an unwritten expectation that if need be, I'm going to be summoned to solve a problem. (Even on my honeymoon, for example, I found myself spending a half-hour or so dealing with a work issue.)

As a result, having just a plain cell phone isn't an option for a sysadmin like me--smartphones become mandatory. Since its release, I've been on an iPhone, and since the introduction of the App Store, my iPhone has gone from merely handy to a really useful tool. So, in no particular order, here are the things I use to make my sysadmin life easier:

EDGE: When you host Web sites and other Internet-based services, the ability to check them from an outside network is critical. So, when we need to test "from the outside", I just turn off Wi-Fi, sit at my desk and do external testing.The same rule applies for 3G iPhones, obviously. (I haven't upgraded yet because I'm cheap.)

Safari: Fortunately, I never need Flash for my work, but I cannot function without a Web browser. With the iPhone, I never have to.

Mail: Like having a decent Web browser, I can't live without e-mail. In addition to just being able to get email, the Exchange Active Sync (EAS) support in the iPhone lets me test different servers' implementations of this with ease. This was important to us when we changed e-mail servers recently. Being able to fully test iPhone support was a major benefit, and helped us not have to rely on vendor promises.

LDAPeople: I've written about this application before, but LDAPeople from Boneware bears mentioning here as well. Since our network is based around Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), being able to get information from our LDAP setup is invaluable and very convenient when we see indications that our LDAP servers may be getting wonky. Since LDAPeople is just an LDAP client, nothing more, it's a more direct way to test our LDAP servers without having to fire up Mac OS X's Address Book, or Entourage, or some other application that uses LDAP.

WinAdmin: The world isn't single-platform, and neither is my network. I have a number of Windows Servers that I have to take care of, and because Windows command-line access is sub-optimal, the best way to remotely administer a Windows box is via Windows Terminal Services. I use WinAdmin from Carter Harrison to manage such systems. WinAdmin is a simple client for Windows Terminal Services, and makes it easy to remotely log in to and administer my Windows Servers. We also have AquaConnect Terminal Server running--Mac terminal server software. With WinAdmin installed, I can connect remotely main network monitoring server--an Intel-based Xserve running Mac OS X Server 10.5.6.

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