Can an iPad Work in an IT Support World?

Category: Articles
Published on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 Written by Matt

Last week I obtained an iPad.  I didn’t really search it out, it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.  While I have been wanting a tablet device, I haven’t really been interested in anything Apple and was really waiting for one of the Android or Windows 7 machines coming this fall which should be more open to, well, everything.  I frankly don’t want to be bothered by the restrictions that Apple places on any of their devices.  My kids love them, but I’m not so sure.


I’m a consultant. My primary job responsibilities is managing workstations, servers, applications and networks at several companies in Indianapolis;  I’m always looking for ways to reduce the space and weight that I carry around yet will allow me to easily service my customers. For the last several months this has been done on a netbook which has been working ok, so how will this new iPod compare?

The iPad must be able to provide:

1. IpSec VPN software to connect to remotely connect to client networks.
2. Network Tools (such as ping, nslookup, etc).
3. Remote Desktop Connection applications that use Network Level Authentication to connect to servers and workstations.
4. Serial port and software for connecting to Cisco management ports.
5. Wired network as well as wireless.

How does the iPad compare?

Please keep in mind that I don’t have a lot of experience with the applications I selected to meet the requirement above.  They have worked well so far, but I’ve only had the iPad for a few days.  I assume that additional features will be added to these applications and any bugs will be fixed.  I would love to get screen prints for you but I haven’t figured out how…yet.  I’m also not going to spend a lot of time describing the steps needed to configure these applications. 

I started configuring the iPad’s wireless connection options.  I encountered no problems doing this so I then tried to connect to my office’s VPN connection.

VPN connections are native to the iPad.  You can set up L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec VPN tunnels. Proxies are available if needed and it will use certificates too.  Since I usually connect to Cisco firewalls I selected IPSec.  After putting in the server, my login account, Group Name and secret it connected immediately.  It connected so quickly I didn’t think it was working, but then I’m used to the Cisco client and Windows 7.  I felt an overpowering need to ping an internal server to test the connection.  Um, no ping…

Network tools are not included on the iPad but I was able to find one at the App Store.  I selected iWebmaster for iPad.  For 3.99 you get an application that can ping, portscan, find the physical location of a specific IP address, DNS Info (nslookup), examine response headers, provide information on search engine optimization for domains, page ranking, whois, etc.  I don’t have a clue yet whether some of the search engine reports are accurate but the network data was giving me good results.  So on to using remote desktop…

I found again that a remote desktop application isn’t native to the iPad, but one was available in the store.  In this case, I found Wyse Pocketcloud for 14.99.  After I installed it I was able to remote control my web server.  Two factor authentication is an option but I didn’t need it.  I was not able to get Network Level Authentication to work.  This isn’t the application for you if you need it.  There were also some VNC applications available in the store too.

There is no serial port on the iPad and not much hope for one in the future.  The iPad is only wireless as well.  I can’t live without either of these features.

From the results I have so far, the iPad isn’t going to work as a replacement for my netbook.  But will it be able to complement it?  I will leave this for my next blog

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