Wireless management dos and don'ts

Remote management via handheld devices, like Pocket PC, may give IT managers even more management flexibility than previously available via Web browsers. These dos and don'ts will help IT managers get a handle on this new medium.

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Many IT managers think Web-based remote management is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, remote management via handheld devices, such as Microsoft's Pocket PC, may give IT managers even more management flexibility, according to Tyler Smith, marketing vice president for Altiris, Inc., a systems management software vendor in Lindon, Utah.

Any time a new management capability comes along, there's the risk that IT administrators will consider it a cure-all, Smith said. With remote handheld support, IT managers can keep tabs on the network even if they can't physically be at the office OR near a Web-enabled PC, he said. But, don't plan to manage your systems in Boston from a beach in the Bahamas yet. Instead, take the time to consider the costs, benefits, and real uses of mobile support. Smith offered the following tips for those contemplating wireless management systems.

Don't use the fact that remote management is possible from a handheld device as an excuse to buy a new toy, Smith said. While using a handheld for remote management isn't crucial, it can be a time and money saver -- just make sure you really will use it before making it another IT expense.

Do decide if handheld support of remote management will make your IT department more effective. The key is to have a solid wireless connection, said Smith. "Remote management from a handheld device is only as effective as your connectivity." Ask yourself: Is my wireless connection mature enough? Once I'm connected, can I do real-time management?

Do look for a handheld platform that is robust enough to have management capabilities, Smith said. "Generally this means high-speed wireless access, Web browser support, plenty of memory and color display."

Do make sure that your software supports Web-based remote management. That way, you can add new functionality easily, without writing new code constantly. For example, if you want to add help-desk support in a 32-bit Windows console, you'll have to tweak the code. If the help desk is browser-based, however, you only have to make the help desk interface smaller to fit in the handheld's viewing screen.

Don't adopt a separate management platform for handhelds. Most organizations should adopt a single, integrated management solution that allows them to manage their IT environment from both the desktop as well as a handheld.

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