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What are some useful remote server management tools?

Choosing software for remote server monitoring and maintenance depends on organizational and administrative needs. Here are a few programs to include in your search.

There are many remote server management tools -- from out-of-the-box offerings to more advanced, configurable software. The tool you choose should depend on the characteristics of the environment you manage, as well as the cost and complexity constraints of your organization.

Windows environments can employ Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT), which enable IT administrators to manage Windows Server systems from a remote desktop running the Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise or Education editions. RSAT is available for free from Microsoft's Download Center.

Windows environments can also use Windows Admin Center, which provides a browser-based remote server management tool to manage Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 10, and other systems via a gateway installed on a Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 host.

The gateway relies on well-established Remote PowerShell and Windows Management Instrumentation-over-Windows Remote Management tool sets to securely connect and manage servers from anywhere using Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. Windows Admin Center is available free from Microsoft.

Most features available in free tools, such as Microsoft's tools, focus on secure communication, and they rely on the management capabilities already installed in Windows operating systems. For example, RSAT includes Active Directory Domain Services tools, Group Policy Management tools, domain name system/Dynamic Host Control Protocol server functions, File Service tools and a Share and Storage Management Console snap-in tool.

Additional remote server management tools

Commercial software is also available, and many products have broader feature sets that might appeal to busy enterprise management teams. For example, SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) combines remote access with additional systems management features such as reporting and analytics, patch management, active discovery, system backup and recovery, managed antimalware, risk assessment, and automation.

Most traditional enterprise systems management tools provide some level of remote management capability.

For cloud-based, remote management-as-a-service offerings, admins can evaluate options such as NinjaRMM, which provides monitoring and alerting for broad heterogeneous environments including Windows, Mac, cloud and simple network management protocol devices. NinjaRMM provides device search and grouping capabilities that enable faster issue identification and remediation. It also offers support for software discovery and inventory, as well as patch management, reporting, automation and integration with antimalware tools.

MNX Solutions has a hosted remote management service for Linux server environments. An off-site backup management option enables customers to install, monitor and manage backups. There are also functions for security monitoring; operating system maintenance, which includes updates and patch management; service troubleshooting support; system backups; and restoration and unlimited support requests.

Of course, the number of available remote server management tools is constantly changing, and most traditional enterprise systems management tools provide some level of remote management capability. For example, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager supports the remote administration of client systems.

This was last published in October 2018

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What features do you look for in remote management software?
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