There are more than 180 iPhone apps that can make rude bodily noises, but what about more useful apps for IT managers that can help you manage the rude moments when you network is down or when you can’t easily get access to a full-blown desktop?
My favorite app for business travel is the Amazon Kindle book-reading client. I can quickly buy and download books to read when I am on the road, never having to worry when a flight is delayed that I will be stranded trying to figure out which James Patterson http://www.jamespatterson.com/ novel from the airport bookstore I haven’t yet read. But let’s look at my Top 5 IT business-related apps to download and try out. Most of these apps require the v3.0 firmware on the iPhone, iPad or the iPod device to work properly. All are low-cost or free to boot.
Network Utility Pro v2.1 ($2.00). Need to do a quick check of your Web server on the Internet or look up a domain name? This is the utility for you. It comes with tools such as ping, port scan, who-is queries and geographic look up. For the price it is the easiest to enter data (a “.com” dedicated soft key would be my only suggested improvement to save on some keyboard taps). When they add netcat support, this will be a must-have for security professionals familiar with that tool.
9BitLabs Simple Network Area Prober (SNAP) v1.02, ($2.00). This is the tool to let you scan your local area network and see what else is nearby. It only works over a Wifi connection and will enumerate all the hosts that are on your subnet. You can drill down and see the IP and MAC addresses of each host, along with the name of the vendor of the network adapter and whether the host will accept network pings. You can also do a quick port scan and see which lower-numbered ports are open and accepting connections. When I used SNAP on my home network, I found that my Roku video streaming box had an open port of 8080.
Citrix Receiver v2.1.1 (Free) allows you to remotely control a desktop from your iPhone and run any Window apps on XenApp 5 or Presentation Server 4.5 hosted servers. While looking at your Windows desktop from the tiny iPhone screen can be frustrating and an exercise in using the scrolling features of the iPhone, it can be helpful in those emergency situations when you can’t get to a full desktop and need to fix something quickly on the fly. You can also use a feature called DocFinder to locate documents on your network servers. You can host or join GoTo Meetings, and you can quickly set up a demo account from your iPhone to try out the many other features that are available, which is a nice touch.
Magnetism Studios’ FileMagnet v1.3.2 ($5.00) One of the more glaring omissions of the iPhone is that it lacks the ability to copy files―other than music and photos―to and from your desktop. There are a number of file sharing apps available on the iTunes App Store, and my favorite is FileMagnet. You need both the iPhone app as well as a desktop companion client to communicate to your iPhone. Both your desktop and your iPhone have to be connected over the same local WiFi network, and you need iTunes as well, which presumably isn’t an issue.
Once you install the desktop client, you can push files from your desktop over to the iPhone by simply dragging and dropping them in the Finder or Windows Explorer to the special FileMagnet window. It can automatically manage the connection between the desktop and iPhone for you, too. Viewers for many popular file types are included, such as PDF, Microsoft Office, and webpages. You can store as many files (and as large a size, too) as you have room on your iPhone to hold them.
IPEToolbox, v1.2.1 ($1.00) Remember your first networking class where you had to learn how to calculate network subnet masks and other TCP/IP arcana? Well, now you can do it all from your iPhone. There are a lot of utilities that can help you scan your network, including R-U-On, Banana Glue (Why do app developers have to adopt the Apple cuteness ethos?), but this one goes beyond the basics. Besides knowing how many nodes on your network a /16 means you can calculate the optimal subnet size given the number of nodes, how to write various allow-and-deny firewall rules, and a VOIP bandwidth calculator where it will tell you the number of Erlangs for your voice traffic. This is the iPhone app to impress the members of the opposite sex that Pepsi should have funded rather than that lame AMP app.
If this has whetted your appetite, a number of traditional IT vendors such as Cisco and Cymphonix are exploiting the iPhone to demonstrate how to integrate mobile apps with their hardware and software. You should check those out too.
David Strom is a freelance writer living in St. Louis and the former editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, DigitialLanding.com, and Tom’s Hardware.com. He has written two books and numerous articles on networking, the Internet, and IT security topics. He can be reached at [email protected] and his blog can be found at http://strominator.com.