Everyone is on the go these days. And although it’s hard to tell if the development of mobile devices prompted this mobility or if it was the opposite, the truth is that we are used to our mobile devices and the freedom of movement they allow. Just like we’re using mobile apps for email and social media, just like we have a weather app and a news app, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have our network administration tools on our mobile device as well? Well, it is more possible than ever. Between task-specific applications and integrated remote monitoring and management platforms with mobile clients, a ton of options are available. We’ve scoured the net to bring you this list of the best mobile tools for network administrators.
Before we get to the interesting part, we’ll first discuss network administration tools, what they are and why they are used. Then, we’ll explore the need for mobility in the context of network administration. We all know that it’s nice not to be confined to our computer and to have the possibility to perform our duties from anywhere but is there more to it than that? Finally, we’ll review the best mobile tools for network administrators.
About Network Administration Tools
Network administration is a broad field of information technology which is comprised of very different concepts. We could be talking about setting up, connecting, and configuring networking equipment. It can also refer to the management of security infrastructure components such as firewalls or proxy servers. Some people even refer to the management of servers as network administration.
But no matter what network administration means to you, you most probably accomplish most of your daily tasks using specialized administration tools. There are countless types of network administration tools. One of the most popular is called a network bandwidth monitoring tool. It is used to measure and log bandwidth usage at specific points on a network. It is a basic troubleshooting and capacity planning tool. While this is the type of tools that need to be constantly running, it doesn’t lend itself to being installed on a mobile device, some of the best tools, have either a mobile client app or a mobile-friendly web interface.
Another type of tool is the network scanner. In fact, there are several types of network scanners. Some will scan a given subnet, a range or a list of IP addresses for responding hosts. It can be used to confirm which IP addresses are actually in use and to detect unauthorized devices attached to the network. Other network scanners go further and will scan hosts for open IP ports. They are very useful in establishing the vulnerability footprint of devices and for testing that unused ports are correctly closed or blocked. Contrary to the previous type of tool, this is often used on an as-needed basis and consequently, it is the perfect type of tool for mobile devices, allowing network administrators to bring the tool on location.
Yet another common type of tool is the IP address management tool. This one is closely related to the previous tool although it usually provides much more functionality than just IP address scanning. In the mobile world, there are several tools that go beyond scanning and offer different IP addressing and DNS tools. The functionality of such tools varies widely as everyone has is own idea of what should and shouldn’t be included in those tools. While this variety makes for a better selection of tools, it makes picking the right one as much harder.
There are so many different types of network administration tools, we could dedicate an entire post to them. This is not what we’re trying to do today. All we wanted is to give you a general idea of the variety of tools there are.
The Need For Mobility
Mobility is a relatively new thing yet it seems like everyone wants a part of it. Although it is certainly cool to carry some of your tools on your mobile devices, coolness it rarely a convincing factor for deploying mobile tools. There has to be some other compelling advantage to it. So, let’s have a look at why someone would need mobile network administration tools.
The main advantage of using mobile tools has to do with availability. Many organizations are operating 24 hours a day and need to have on-call administrators at all times. I used to be on-call years ago and it meant that I had to be ready to go back home on a moment’s notice to connect to the office and take care of whatever incident that came up. Being on-call severely limited administrators freedom. Today, network administrators have easy access to several management and troubleshooting tools right from their smartphone and many issues can be solved in minutes from wherever one may be.
Another advantage of mobile tools is their portability. They can be used wherever you are. For large organizations with multiple sites, this can be a major benefit. Imagine that an administrator is dispatched to a remote branch to try to troubleshoot some networking issue. With mobile network administration tools, they could have all the troubleshooting tools they need in the palm of their hand.
The Best Mobile Tools
Now that we’ve explained what they are and got you convinced (hopefully) of their usefulness, it is time to have a look at some of the best tools available. Our list has a bit of everything. We’re starting off with bigger tools which typically install on a server but are meant to be primarily used using a mobile device. Next, we’ll explore a few smaller, more task-specific portable tools that install on mobile devices. Some tools are only available on Android platforms while others are only of iOS. And of course, some are available for both.
Our first entry is a great product from SolarWinds, one of the best-known makers of network administration tools. The company’s product portfolio is as huge as it is impressive. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is considered by many as one of the best bandwidth monitoring tool available. But that’s not all, SolarWinds also makes many free tools, each addressing a specific task of network administrators.
For on-the-go administrators, SolarWinds has a great product called Mobile Admin. The tool’s client can run on any iOS, Android or Blackberry device to monitor and help troubleshoot IT issues on the fly. It provides secure mobile access to monitor over 40 applications, including Windows, AD, Exchange, VMware, SQL Server, and the SolarWinds Orion platform. The tool is not just for mobile devices, though. You can access its intuitive web interface from any computer, laptop, or smartphone with an internet connection.
- FREE Trial: SolarWinds’ Mobile Admin
- Official Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/mobile-admin/registration
Mobile Admin lets you manage node details, interfaces, and events from products in the Orion platform such as the Network Performance Monitor or the Server and Application Monitor. It can also be used for Active Directory management, virtualization management, email server management, backup management, remote access, Windows administration, network administration, service desk management, and database administration.
Mobile Admin is licensed by the number of people using it. A single user account can access the server from an unlimited number of mobile devices. Prices start at a modest $695 per user. There is also an unlimited user option which can be advantageous if you have more than four users. If you’d like to see for yourself what this excellent tool could do in your environment, a free 14-day trial is available from SolarWinds.
Itmanager.net is a full-fledged remote monitoring and management platform. But contrary to the previous entry, this one is a cloud-hosted Software as a Service offering. As such, you won’t have to install a local server on your network. The idea behind this product is to let you manage and monitor your network and servers from anywhere. ITmanager.net is supported on all desktops, tablets, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices and even on the Apple Watch.
When it comes to features and supported systems, this is where Itmanager.net shines. The platform will let you remotely manage almost anything. You can use the service to manage Windows servers, Active Directory, Exchange, and Microsoft Office. It also has built-in support for VMware and Hyper-V as well as XenServer and XenApp. Furthermore, it can be used to manage anything that has a web-based user interface. This includes routers, switches, network-attached storage devices, and printers, for example. And if your devices don’t have a web-based interface, it has built-in telnet and SSH connectivity so you can manage virtually any device through the service. It also supports remote control connections using either VNC, RDP or ARD.
Itmanager.net is priced per administrator. There are four subscription levels, each allowing an increasing number of monitors and boasting more features. The Lite plan is just $5/month but it is limited to one administrator and two monitors. It is also limited in what can be managed. It only supports SSH, telnet, VNC, RDP, and ARD connections. At the top end of the spectrum, the Enterprise plan supports virtually any type of monitoring and management, has priority support and come with professional, services from the Vendor. Its cost is $99/month. There are also two intermediate plans with increasing levels of functionality and capacity. If you want to give the service a test run, a 7-day trial is available.
3. Pulseway RMM
Our third entry is another product of the same type as the previous two. Pulseway RMM claims to be the easiest way to remotely monitor and control IT systems from any device. It allows administrators to fix issues on-the-go and be more productive.
This tool will allow you to monitor virtually every component of your IT infrastructure. It will handle Windows, Linux and Mac systems as well as any application running on these platforms by using the monitoring API. You can use this tool to get real-time status, system resources, logged-in users, network performance, control Windows updates, manage IIS, SQL Server, Exchange, Active Directory, VMware, Hyper-V, SNMP -enabled devices, and many more.
Feature-wise, what Pulseway RMM has to offer is nothing short of impressive. It has automated network discovery so you don’t have to add every system manually. Once set up, it gives you complete visibility over every component. Need to connect to a system for deeper troubleshooting? Remote desktop is built right into this tool. The system will also handle operating system patch management. And if you have virtual infrastructures, the product is also compatible with both VMware and Hyper-V. All that functionality can be easily accessed right from the mobile device of your choice.
Pulseway RMM is a cloud-based Software as a Service and its monthly cost is based on the options you select and the number of servers and workstations you need to manage. Prices start as low as $47/month. There’s also a free account that will let you monitor 2 personal computers. Other than that a free trial of an undisclosed duration is available.
4. Network Toolbox
The Network Toolbox from Marcus Roskosch is a multi-functional app for Apple devices. It offers 43 different tools which are meant to be used by IT professionals. Some of the included tools, for instance, will let you analyze local and public networks to identify security issues or wrong configurations. The Network Toolbox has several built-in scanners and comes with various scanning options for devices, ports, DNS, WiFi, HTTP, and security protocols and status.
The features of the Network Toolbox are as numerous as they are impressive. let’s see what some of the best and most useful ones are. Several DNS and domain tools are included to perform DNS queries or whois lookups. This product also includes a very potent WiFi scanner which can discover all devices on your wireless network with details including IP, MAC, Vendor, Network Name.
More elementary tools include a ping utility which can ping both IP addresses or domains and will graphically display its results which include errors and round-trip time (RTT). Another similar tool is the visual traceroute which will let you analyze how packets get to their destination. There’s also a socket analysis and terminal tool with predefined protocols for Telnet, FTP, HTTP, POP3 and IMAP. It will let you inspect server responses and send arbitrary data to a server.
The Network Toolbox has way too many features to describe them all in details. It’s got FTP and SFTP clients for file transfers. It has an SSH client to connect to remote systems. The toolbox also includes an IP address calculator, an HTTP browser, and a web crawler. It will inspect SSL certificates and scan and discover Bonjour or UPnP services. It has a complete help system with detailed instructions for each tool as well as written and video tutorials available. And the best part is that all this can be yours for a mere $6.99. The Network Toolbox is available from the iTunes App Store.
Next on our list is Fing, another tool that runs off your mobile device. It is a free tool that’s available for both Android and iOS devices. The tool—or should we say the toolkit—will let you discover which devices are connected to any Wi-Fi network, map devices, detect intruders, assess network security risks, troubleshoot network problems and achieve best network performance. The product includes more than a dozen free network tools such as a Wi-Fi scanner, a port scanner, DNS lookup, ping and service monitoring.
Here’s an overview of what tools are included in Fing.
- Wi-Fi/LAN scanner to discover all devices connected to any network
- Advanced analysis of NetBIOS, UPnP and Bonjour names, properties and device types
- Devices and networks inventory
- Internet connectivity checker
- ISP analysis and location
- Subnet scanner
- Port scanner that will automatically find open ports and available services
- Ping and traceroute for network quality measurement
- WOL to remotely wake up devices
- DNS Lookup and reverse DNS lookup
- Network intruder detection
- Network monitoring
Fing is free to download from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.
As you’d guess from its name, LanDroid is an Android app. The tool—which is totally free and not ad-supported—provides several all-in one-network analysis features in a single app. It comes with many features such as local net, ping, traceroute, port scan, IP lookup, SSL cache, and is IPv6 compatible.
As for the features of LanDroid, they are about as complete and varied as other tools on this list. Here are some of the most significant.
- DNS Lookup (using a fixed remote server)
- NetStat – to show active and listening connections
- ARP & ND Cache
- IP port scanning
- IP Network Calculator
- SSL Check
The tool features an adjustable font size as well as command auto-completion from history and full IPv6 support. Reviewers in the Google Play Store have indicated that LanDroid is fast and has a straightforward, easy-to-use interface.
Our last tool is called ezNetScan. It is a free app for both Android and iOS and it includes a set of tools that allows network administrators and engineers to scan wireless networks quickly and easily.
Several other options allow you to easily customize your network list, including assigning device specific icon, tag names to devices and add a note or comment to any device. It also has SNMP-based features allowing you to list installed software and/or hardware information about networked devices.
Here’s an overview of some of the multiple tools included in ezNetScan.
- Service Scan
- Wake on LAN
- DNS lookup
- Installed Software & Hardware details (for SNMP enabled devices)
The tool allows you to email scanned device list & command results. Alternatively, you can also view all your scanned network details in offline mode. While ezNetScan is a free tool that you can get from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store, the plus version—which will set you back $1.99—adds configurable network parameters and widgets, as well as with the possibility of exporting data in .csv format, to filter results, and create graphs from your data.