by May 2, 2014 0 comments

My bread, butter and wine comes from fixing servers, and I love my work. But when you need to fix a bunch of servers and networks scattered across the globe and above (read as Cloud), then you just cannot manage them locally. You have to make sure you can access and manage them from anywhere.
Technically, Remote Management and Monitoring is an age old phenomenon, but with the advent of powerful smartphones, the need for carrying your laptop to vacations and everywhere els e has become redundant. Now, technically you can fix a server while taking a shower (oh yes we do have waterproof mobile phones around).

So here is my list of top 5 mobile apps which let me manage my servers from anywhere, without which I don’t go anywhere. I use an Android phone, so all my apps will be Android apps. You are free to check whether the app is also available for iOS or let us know so that other system admins can benefit from it.

Price: Free
One of the most important applications that I need is a decent SSH client where I can save the profiles of all my Linux servers so that I can connect to them whenever needed, from my laptop. I do it through XShell. But when I am on the move I use this nice app called Connectbot. This can be compared with any Windows based SSH client against its features.
One key feature I need and is the deciding factor for me is a mobile SSH client, which can not only work with password authorisation, but it should also be able to do key based authorisation. This is a mandatory feature to work with default IaaS based instances on the cloud. And of course, it gives you better security. With Connectbot, I can very easily manage my .pem files and do key based auth.
Here is a quick how to on doing so. First download and copy the key file (most likely a .pem file) to your phone’s /sdcard folder. You can do so by using a simple file browser in your phone. I use E3 File Explorer to do so.
Once the pem file/s are copied to /sdcard location, start Connectbot and expand the menu. Now click on “Manage pubkeys” button as shown in the image.
A new window will open. Here, click on the Menu once again and the click on import. This will open up a pop-up that will show all the files in /sdcard folder on your phone. Here, click on the .pem file and the public key will be added to Connectbot.
Here, you will notice that the .pem file in Connectbot will show up in Red color. This means that the key is inserted, but not loaded. To use this key, you have to tap on the key here. Tapping the key will turn the color to green. This means the key is loaded and ready to be used.
Now connect to the server for which you have added the key. And it should login promptly.
Note: If you are going to use key based auth through your phone to production environments, then make sure you have good screen lock in place so that your .pem files are safe inside your phone. Even a nice antivirus which can do remote wipeout will be wise, so that you can destroy all the .pem files remotely if your phone is ever lost or stolen.


Price: Free
This is a nice remote desktop client for Android. All it does is connect with Windows machines over RDP and let’s you use the server remotely. The beauty of the app is the inbuilt keyboard and a virtual mouse which makes the operation very easy. This is how my Laptop screen looks like through 2x Client.

Price: Rs 300
When I am on the go, one of my key requirements is to make sure I get instant alerts whenever any of my servers are in even a bit of trouble. And as any open source lover would do, I have a Nagios server configured in the cloud which monitors all my servers around the globe. But opening the Nagios website occasionally or just relying on Nagios server’s alert mail is sometimes not enough. So one needs a mobile app to instantly alert wherever there is trouble.
Though there are many Nagios apps for Android, most of them are quite useless. There used to be an app called Nagroid which has disappeared into thin air. That used to be my app of choice for Android, but in the absence of that app, the only stable enough and usable app is a paid one called TiNag. The key thing that has made me select this app is its ability to connect and monitor multiple Nagios and Icinga accounts. The installation and configuration is pretty easy and the interface is also very intuitive. This is how the interface looks like:

Price: Rs 700)
I am an AWS lover and most of my servers are on Amazon IaaS/PaaS. Though now we have a free AWS official app, I would still recommend Decafe over it. Though Decafe is a paid app, it’s much more comprehensive and it has an integration with Connectbot to directly take SSH access to a Linux instance from within its interface.
The first time configuration is interesting. Unlike the AWS official app, which authenticates the app based on the AWS username and password, this one uses the AWS “Access Key” and “Secret Access Key” to authenticate. But as these values are too long and complex to note down and retype, this one lets you login through the website once and takes you to the AWS’s credential’s page and scraps the values of Access Key and Secret key and auto fills it in the configuration menu. And of course stores it, making this configuration a one time process.
Once configured, it lets you do most of the common AWS actions. Given below are a few screen shots of the app:

Wi-Fi Analyzer
Price: Free
Ok, this one is not exactly a remote management tool, but one of my favorites nonetheless. This tool is a full-fledged spectrum analyzer for a Wi-Fi network and can be very helpful in finding and fixing Wi-Fi related issues, or for planning out a companywide Wi-Fi deployment.
The app is capable of identifying all access points in your vicinity and automatically suggests you the best channel to put a new AP. Or for that matter, to find open or insecure Routers or to find rogue APs around.
Here are a few screenshots of the app in action:

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