Product Reviews

Remote Administration Made Easy

Famatech's Remote Administrator version 2.2 provides a quick and easy remote access tool for your Windows clients.

Are you looking for a quick and easy remote administration tool for your Windows clients?

Famatech's Remote Administrator V2.2 (RAdmin) is an extremely simplistic, incredibly fast remote access tool for controlling any version of the Windows operating system after Windows 95. I was able to install it on two computers in less than five minutes and begin working with its features. Although upgrading from version 2.1 installs into the same directory, you must manually uninstall 2.1 in order to cleanly remove its start menu folder and shortcuts. And unfortunately, RAdmin does not offer a remote client install. You'll have to utilize your current software distribution methods if you wish to push the remote server piece out to all your clients. RAdmin does require that you use TCP/IP and does not support any other protocols. If connecting to NT 4.0 OSes, SP4 is also a requirement.

Console Sharing
RAdmin uses a multi-session video hook that allows for any number of users to connect to a remote machine's console at any one time. This may be great in an educational or training-type environment, where as a teacher you want to demonstrate something to all your students remotely. Consequently, because it uses a "console" session, all users see the exact same thing when connected, in essence, sharing the console. This is one limitation of console access, and means only one administrator can work on a machine at a time.

Unlike other console-type remote products however, RAdmin does use terminal access technology, sending only mouse and keyboard signals back to the controller, increasing its speed and saving bandwidth. RAdmin's bandwidth settings are configurable and can be set according to your medium, whether it be modem or direct LAN access. I might note that the video hook driver currently used was built for NT 4.0, although it functions seamlessly under Windows XP/2000/2003 and is extremely fast. Documentation states that version 3.0 will include updated video hooks for these newer OSes.

Control Access
RAdmin offers five different connectivity modes. Full Remote Control, Read Only Remote Control, Telnet Access, File Transfer Access and Remote Power Options. These options are all built into a single service running on the host machine. Telnet is not available for non-NT kernel Windows OSes. Controlling the ability to use each of these options is configurable using an NT security model access control list as shown in Figure 1. By creating similar Active Directory groups, I was able to simplify control access.

Figure 1. Remote Administrator's access lists let you permission each connecting user in a granular fashion,.
Figure 1. Remote Administrator's access lists let you permission each connecting user in a granular fashion, offering any combination of Full Control, Read Only, Telnet, File Copy and whether or not you want to allow Remote redirect.

Password Authentication
Security was Famatech's main focus when developing its newest 2.2 version of RAdmin. What was optional in version 2.1 is now mandatory in version 2.2—Password authentication. The default install of 2.2 requires that you now submit a password or use the built-in NT security model to tie into your existing AD environments. All passwords are encrypted using strong 128-bit encryption or NTLMv2 if using NT security. All data communications between client and host are always encrypted, using industry standard MD5 and TwoFish encryption algorithms. You can even create an IP filter list, accepting inbound connections only from IP addresses you trust.

You can also proxy client connectivity. One of my favorite features in RAdmin is the ability to use a single host as a proxy server, acting as a redirect for all connections over the default TCP port 4899. This "redirect" node proxies the traffic from the client and redirects it to the destination host. Very cool! This allows you, as the administrator, to open only one port on your firewall, and point it to your proxy RAdmin server. This port is not static, and can be changed to something more suitable for your environment.

Is It Worth It?
Like many product pricing packages, Famatech scales its licensing such that the more you buy the less it costs per unit. Each single license lets you control two computer nodes. Though the $35 license fee is a bit steep for a market lending many free remote administration software products accomplishing similar tasks, RAdmin offers an extremely simplistic, incredibly fast remote access avenue, shining in its ability to redirect remote access to all your nodes via a single host. Offering free e-mail support for any type of license purchased is another plus. With its ease of use, quick install and lack of unwieldy bloated features, RAdmin offers an administrator unquestionably simplistic, yet remarkably fast remote access to all your Windows clients, whether they're in the next room or across the country.

About the Author

Kirk Vigil, MCSE, MCSA, is a systems engineer for Netbank Inc. He's worked with the Windows NT/2000 line of products for more than 10 years, focusing on enterprise messaging. He specializes in the design and implementation of Win2K.

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