Remote Desktop Connection Manager
Last week the Exchange Team blogged about the Remote Desktop Connection Manager being available for download at Microsoft.com (here is the article). This is a handy tool indeed and I’ve switched over from my trusted Remote Desktop console that came packaged with Windows Server 2003 and was an extension of the original TSMMC I used back in the PowerShell day.
Firstly I would like to point out that I’ve structured my Remote Desktop console pretty well, although there are a few limitations. Firstly servers cannot be moved up and down in the order. Therefore if you use a site code in your Domain Controller naming convention and you bring a new site on, to maintain a list sorted alphabetically I had to rename all the servers from the mid-point onwards to essentially ‘shuffle’ the servers down a spot.
My other major frustration was being able to identify servers that I had an active connection too.
Above is an example of my Remote Desktop Console structure. As you can see I’ve structured my servers by Role. This has worked well for me in my current role, but previously I have structured by customer or had separate consoles for each customer I supported.
Moving along I installed the Remote Desktop Connection Manager last week and despite this being the first public release it is listed as V 2.2.
Okay… that’s a little bland, but this is where the power of the Remote Desktop Connection Manager (known hereon in as RDMAN) starts. I click “File > New” and when I create a group it is saved as an .rdg file. This is cool, each of my top level groups are now portable. I can already see the power for handing over solutions to customers, I can provide them a pre-configured console with RDP access to each of their servers.
Right-clicking on the group I have the option to either “Add Servers” or “Import Servers”. When I click “Add Servers” I am prompted stating that I can’t add groups and servers to top level groups and if I add servers I can no longer add groups. This is okay for ATM in the Exchange Group and I will show why I might not use it for the Domain Controllers group. But rather then simply adding each of my Exchange Servers one at a time I can also import them. Heading back to my original Console I can right click and “Export List” from my Exchange Servers group. This saves a text file with each of the server names, I simply use that as the “Import Servers” and viola populated.
Next this is cool If i click on the group I can see thumbnail views of each of my servers.
This is nice but this is only the beginning. If I sign out of one of my Exchange servers it shows in the console that I’m not connected. Furthermore the list of servers is always in alphabetical order with the servers that I’m connected to moving to the top of the group.
Check out this option, by right clicking on the group I can enter my credentials just the once and sign onto all servers in the group. (Just a tip for young players.. Don’t miss-type your password, if you had say 30 servers in the group and you miss-type your password you will have 30 AuthN failures and probably lock your account out)
Let’s take a look at the properties of the group now. I’ll only screenshot a few tabs here as some of them are self explanatory.
Tab 1 – File Settings is just the group name, path to the .rdg file and a comment section.
Tab 2 – Logon Credentials – So the the option is here to store your credentials for each connection or simply “Inherit from parent”. Personally I don’t like to store my credentials inside apps but, being able to set the default username is handy. In my old Remote Desktops console I would have to manually enter it the first time I connected to a server and then it would be stored, here I enter it once for the group and I’m done.
Tab 3 – Gateway Settings – All the settings and again credentials for connecting via a RDS Gateway Server. I don’t use this functionality so lets move on.
Tab 4 – Connection Settings – Here we can connect to the console, change the Start Program or even the port :).
Tab 5 – Remote Desktop Settings – Simply Colour depth and Desktop Size. Just like my Remote Desktop Console I simply choose fill the pane.
Tab 6 – Local Resources – Standard settings from the local resources tab of the Remote Desktop Connection dialog.
Tab 7 – Display Options – Sets the options for the thumbnail view.
Tab 8 – Security Settings – Offers some options around AuthN and warnings for errors etc.. I haven’t looked into these options too much as this stage.
Remember earlier I mentioned that I could add groups. This is cool feature because I may have servers that share a role but different AuthN requirements I can simply spilt these out. A great example is Domain Controllers from multiple domains.
It is pretty obvious that I am really happy with RDMAN. It solved many of my issues with the Remote Desktops Console and adds functionality that I didn’t even think of. A big thanks to Julian Burger at Microsoft for creating the tool and the Exchange Team for working to the help make it public. My advice, if you manage or deploy Windows Server environments is get on board.