If you're like most system administrators, you're either on-call on a set rotation or on-call all of the time. With laptops and netbooks, you can roam freely when you aren't physically at work, but even a light computer is a pain to lug around. Rove Mobile Admin solves this problem by providing phone-sized administration tools that let you handle emergencies as well as perform routine maintenance on your servers and network infrastructure.

What can you do with Rove Mobile Admin? Besides managing Windows and Active Directory (AD) from your phone, you can manage Cluster service, DHCP, DNS, Exchange Server, Hyper-V, IIS, and SQL Server. That's just the supported Microsoft software. You can also manage Citrix, HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO), IBM Lotus Domino, Novell NetWare, Oracle, Research in Motion BlackBerry Enterprise Server, RSA, Symantec Backup Exec, VMware, and more. If the software that you need to manage isn't supported, you can use the included remote desktop client and do it the old fashioned way. You can also manage a network through a Telnet or Secure Shell (SSH) connection.

There are two editions of the product: Professional ($595 per CAL) and Basics ($295 per CAL). For the most part, the Basics edition supports only Windows and AD, but that might be enough to meet your needs. If you need to manage a NetWare, Oracle, SQL Server, or virtual environment or advanced Microsoft technologies like Cluster service or IIS, you'll need to invest in the Professional version. (You can check out the differences between the two editions at www.roveit.com/products.)

Rove Mobile Admin requires the .NET Framework 2.0 and can be installed on a domain controller (DC) or another server. Licensing for the product is provided by an activation code that requires that the server be connected to the Internet.

The installation is quick and painless—it literally takes two minutes from start to finish. After the software has been installed, you simply point your mobile device to Rove Mobile Admin's website and install the client on your phone. However, if you have an iPhone, you need to download the app from the iTunes Store.

I used my iPhone to test the functionality of the Rove Mobile Admin Professional edition. You can also use it with Apple iPod, BlackBerry, Google Android 1.5+, and Windows Mobile 6 mobile devices.

Like any form of remote access, the first hurdle is to open a secure network path from your phone to the Rove Mobile Admin server. Make sure that your connection adheres to your company's security policy. For example, some companies might require a VPN connection, whereas others might simply require an SSL connection through port 4054.

For my tests, I used the iPhone's Wi-Fi connection to access my virtual test network, which consists of a DC running Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003. The first thing I noticed was how simple and clean the interface was. There isn't a lot of real estate on a smartphone screen, and Rove Mobile Admin makes good use of the limited space, as Figure 1 shows.

I spent some time in the various areas of the Rove Mobile Admin tool and found each area intuitive and easy to use. I tested the command-prompt feature and remote desktop connection—I could see myself using these in times when I didn't have a laptop handy. On my Exchange server, I edited the storage limits and viewed the mail queue. And I quickly reset a user's password with just a few clicks—a perfect example of a problem that often pops up at the most inopportune time.

I sure don't like to be called in the middle of my golf game to fix a networking issue. However, if I do, at least I know I can quickly solve the problem with this useful tool.