The Right Tool for Easy Access to Servers

Visionapp Remote Desktop software

A tool to harness access to multiple servers and applications.

I can remember ten years ago when I only had to worry about two servers, one for the entire agency and one for the computer lab. I can remember seven years ago when I only had to worry about five servers – one for the agency, one for email, two terminal servers for other offices, and one for the computer lab.  I can remember five years ago, after adding in VOIP, I only had to worry about eight servers because we added three for the VOIP and one additional terminal server.

It was probably around five years ago that it started to get difficult to manage all the connections to the servers for one person. That was the last time that I could easily off the top of my head perfectly indicate how many servers I had in service. The wonderful use of virtualization made it way too easy to do what software vendors wanted you to do – keep their application isolated on its own server. You can blink your eyes and “Viola!” you now have doubled your server counts in 1/4th of the time it took to bring up one physical server.

But this growth did come at a cost to me and I started to use a tool that I didn’t realize that I needed as badly as I realize that I need now. The application is called visionapp Remote Desktop. I cannot even say that I went out and researched this one on my own. One day, one of the engineers from our IT Support Company was on site and I turned around and said “What’s that?” and he started to explain this application that he used to keep not only connections to all of my servers at his fingers tips, but other customers too. I feared to find out how expensive it was, and boy was I surprised.

Yes, nonprofit geeks out there celebrate – I was able to start using visionapp Remote Desktop for free. Yes, now there is a trial version, but look again at their website, there is a freeware version of this application. If you have more than one server, I suggest you go to their website and get this wonderful tool.

VisionApp Remote Desktop helps with collaboration, administration and management.I started out with just my servers on this and with my credentials to logon to the servers. While I was on the trial version of this software, I didn’t have many different types of usernames and passwords for the servers. It was just the one username and password that I used to be the Administrator. I had a long history of fat-fingering that bad-boy hardened password for the Administrator account and now all I had to do was make sure that I got it right twice when entering in the credentials. As long as I didn’t go changing that password, I was in a good shape.

But this is more than a hyped-up “Remote Desktop” application. The power of this application became much more apparent once I exceeded the 15 connections limit and purchased the software for enterprise use. That was around the time that upper management allowed me to hire another staff member.  I was worried about how I was going to have to get all of this information ready for the new staff member to have access too. When in the Tech Department, that staff member was going to need to have their own access to all of the servers I painfully setup in my visionapp. That is when I found the export option. The export option allowed me to take all the connections that I had already set up and put it into a file, without my credentials attached to the connections. The new staff member installed visionapp, imported the connections, and only had to set up their own credentials. Easy-peasy! No hours of sharing IP addresses and explaining why these three servers have dashes in their names and none of the others did.

That export has saved me multiple times too. When we were suddenly maxed out on network resources and needed another server, the only machine that could operate as one was my desktop machine. (Yes, that’s another story for another time). This started a chain reaction of having to jump from my desktop to two laptops, and the last laptop ended up needing to be rebuilt twice. The easiest process of this was reimporting my server connections to visionapp.

Visionapp Evaluation Process

A flowchart of how the visionapp Remote Desktop evaluation process can go

Last story about how visionapp has made things so much easier. My department has been overseeing a huge transition to a new stand in preparation to move to a new building. During this time, all of our servers have been moved from one virtualized server platform to another virtualized server platform. They have been renamed, readdressed and updated so many times in the past several months that no one would ever want to make a flow chart of the changes. But, since the engineer overseeing all of these changes uses visionapp, no big deal. To make sure that my entire department had the right names nad IP addresses, the engineer simply exported our folder of connections so we could just import the new information. With less than 5 minutes, my department was as up-to-date as the engineer implementing all of the changes.

I’m only highlight the parts of visionapp I believe are the most valuable to me as a nonprofit techie. (Until I went over 15 servers, all of this was available to me as the freeware version.) Visionapp does a much better job presenting all of this material and you should visit their site at http://www.visionapp.com/ to read more about how visionapp Remote Desktop can even help you with more than just RDP connections. (Yes, you can connect to external applications from visionapp too!)

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