Definitions

remote monitoring

Remote administration

Remote administration refers to any method of controlling a computer from a remote location.

Software that allows remote administration is becoming increasingly common and is often used when it is difficult or impractical to be physically near a system in order to use it, or in order to access web material that is not available in one's location, for example viewing the BBC iPlayer from outside the United Kingdom. A remote location may refer to a computer in the next room or one on the other side of the world. It may also refer to both legal and illegal (i.e. hacking) remote administration (see 0wned).

Requirements

Internet connection

Any computer with an Internet connection, TCP/IP or on a Local Area Network can be remotely administered.

For non-malicious administration, the user must install or enable server software on the host system in order to be viewed. Then the user/client can access the host system from another computer using the installed software.

Usually, both systems should be connected to the internet, and the IP address of the host/server system must be known. Remote administration is therefore less practical if the host uses a dial-up modem, which is not constantly online and often has a Dynamic IP.

Connecting

When the client connects to the host computer, a window showing the Desktop of the host usually appears. The client may then control the host as if he/she were sitting right in front of it.

Certain versions of Windows XP have a built-in remote administration package called Remote Desktop Connection. A free cross-platform alternative is VNC, which offers similar functionality.

Common tasks for which remote administration is used

General

Controlling one's own computer from a remote location (e.g. to access the software on a personal computer from an internet café).

Shutdown

  • Shutting down or rebooting another computer over a network

Modifying

  • Editing another computer's registry settings
  • Modifying system services
  • Installing software on another machine
  • Modifying logical groups

Viewing

  • Remotely assisting others
  • Supervising computer or internet usage
  • Access to a remote system's "Computer Management" snap-in

Popular software

Windows

Windows Server 2003/2008, Windows XP, Windows XP Media Center and Tablet PC Editions, and Windows Vista Ultimate, Enterprise and Business editions come with Microsoft's Remote Desktop client.

Windows Server 2003 comes with built-in remote administration tools, including a web application and a simplified version of Terminal Services designed for Remote administration.

Active Directory and other features found in Microsoft's Windows NT Domains allow for remote administration of computers that are members of the domain, including editing the registry and modifying system services and access to the system's "Computer Management" Microsoft Management Console snap-in.

Non-Windows

VNC can be used for remote administration of computers, however it is increasingly being used as an equivalent of Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Protocol for multi-user environments.

Back Orifice, whilst commonly used as a Script Kiddie tool, claims to be a remote-administration and system management tool. Critics have previously stated that the capabilities of the software require a very loose definition of what "administration" entails.

Linux, UNIX and BSD support remote administration via remote login, typically via SSH (The use of the [] protocol has been phased out due to security concerns). X-server connection forwarding, often tunnelled over SSH for security, allows GUI programs to be used remotely. VNC is also available for these operating systems.

Apple Remote Desktop provides Macintosh users with remote administration capabilities.

Radmin (Famatech Remote Administrator) is also a widely used tool for remote administration with features such as secure password authentication, file sharing, remote shutdown and high frame rate transfers.

Scriptlogic's Desktop Authority encompasses remote control as a part of remote management. This solution includes: secure web-based access to client machines, real-time diagnostics and troubleshooting, management of the file system, users/groups, registry, virtual memory, reboots and more - without user interaction, interactive remote monitoring and control of the desktop, supports clients running Windows 98 through XP/2003/Vista.

ASA (Automated Systems Administration) is a comprehensive, multipurpose, centralized product, sets new standards in desktop/network systems monitoring, security, simplification, ease-of-use, and affordability for small to large-sized enterprises.

Wireless Remote Administration

Remote administration software has recently started to appear on wireless devices such as the BlackBerry, Pocket PC, and Palm devices, as well as some mobile phones.

Generally these solutions do not provide the full remote access seen on software such as VNC or Terminal Services, but do allow administrators to perform a variety of tasks, such as rebooting computers, resetting passwords, and viewing system event logs, thus reducing or even eliminating the need for system administrators to carry a laptop or be within reach of the office.

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