Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sysadmin Mobile Devices

Manage any network of sufficient complexity, and eventually you'll want to be alerted to when something breaks. I've mentioned this in general, but not all devices are created equal. What should you look for?

In my devices, I need a full qwerty keyboard. I really do, even if I'm only replying to email. I've seen people texting with a number pad, but my brain is hardwired now to querty. Of course, if you were hardwired to Dvorak like some people are, you might feel differently.

By far, the most important service my phone provides me is email. Since we don't have a Blackberry Enterprise Server, I have a rule on my corporate mail that forwards email to my blackberry. It's actually a combination of rules, crafted to get it to work the way I want. Since I subscribe to all manner of lists and newsletters, those things get sent out around the clock. I don't want to be woken up at 3am because someone on the Likewise Open list can't authenticate their AIX machine. For this reason, I have my mail rules setup to forward everything (excluding some high-traffic lists) to the blackberry, and then from 10pm till 8am, only emails originating from our externally-facing domain are forwarded. Since all of my internal cron job notifications are sent from the imaginary domain we use for internal resolution, they don't get forwarded. I have specifically set up Nagios to send emails from an external-domain account, so I get them all the time. This ensures that my bosses can get a hold of me, and that I'm aware of any critical weirdness happening at any hour of the day or night.

Also important to me is an SSH client. I don't make full use of mine yet, for reasons I'll explain, but I can administer my firewalls from outside with my phone. I have heard, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong, that if your corporation has a Blackbery Enterprise Server, you can use that connection to reach internal hosts. I don't know that I'm going to be running my own BBES anytime soon, but that's a strong argument for it. There appear to be lots of remote desktop solutions available too.

All in all, my blackberry provides me with sufficient access to resources. I wish there was a VPN solution for it that I was convinced would work with my Netscreen solution , but I suppose you can't have everything.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that the blackberry is the bees knees, as it were. I'm sure there are better solutions out there. I'd like to think the iPhone would be amazing, but I don't know how typing commands on the keyboard would go. I doubt the auto-correct on spelling would like some of the unix commands I'd be typing.

What do you use for a mobile device? Can you do any remote administration through it, or is it just for communication, and you fall back to your laptop in emergencies?