Centralize, Manage and Secure Remote Connections
Are you looking for a solution to centrally manage your passwords and connections to hosts in your network? In a review of Remote Desktop Manager by Devolutions, we look at the features, functionality, and impressions of this application to manage connections to your infrastructure.
Contents of this article
- Remote Desktop Manager features
- Remote Desktop Manager versions
- Cloud repository vs. local entries
- Creating sessions and connecting
- Useful session options
- Managing users and security
- Managing credentials and third-party password managers
- Auditing and reporting
- Concluding thoughts
Having the right tools for the job as an IT admin can make the difference in being able to carry out daily tasks quickly, easily, and efficiently. One of the basic tasks IT admins generally carry out is connecting to and managing servers and other devices on the network. Having a centralized management solution to manage connectivity to your various network resources greatly eases the burden in connecting to your infrastructure.
Remote Desktop Manager (RDM) by Devolutions is one such tool that promises to manage connections across your environment with various cloud features
Remote Desktop Manager features ^
First of all, what is Remote Desktop Manager? Simply put, Remote Desktop Manager is a single utility to centralize remote connections and credentials. This can include servers, workstations, network devices, websites, cloud resources, virtual infrastructures, and many other types of connections. It contains an impressive list of features and functionality within a single application. Below are some of these features and highlights.
- Remote Connection Management: Can centralize, manage, and launch all of your remote connections from a single pane of a glass management utility.
- Password Management: Stores all of your passwords and credentials in a secure centralized vault along with your remote connections. Also, if you already have a password solution like KeePass, you can integrate RDM with your existing solution.
- Secure Access: Remote Desktop Manager allows securing access to critical resources in your environment and protects them from security attacks and insider threats. Additionally, RDM includes two-factor authentication in the Enterprise version for additional security.
- Built for Collaboration: Manage administration of your environment across the entire team with sharing and administration of resources granularly configurable.
- Easy Management with Templates: Create templates to ease the burden of administering your environment and managing permissions and accounts.
- Auditing and Reporting: With the centralized management RDM allows, you also have the ability to perform auditing and reporting, and you can create customized reports.
The Remote Desktop Manager connection utility is also compatible with many of today’s tools and technologies. These include Apple Remote Desktop, Citrix, Dameware, FTP, Hyper-V, LogMeIn, Radmin, Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP), Secure Shell (SSH), SSH Port Forwarding, TeamViewer, Telnet, Terminal Services, VMware, Virtual Network Computing (VNC), secure copy protocol (SCP), Wayk Now, X Windows, and many other systems and protocols.
Remote Desktop Manager versions ^
Devolutions provides two versions of the Remote Desktop Manager application. They offer RDM in both a Free Edition and an Enterprise Edition. What features do you get with the Free Edition vs. the Enterprise Edition? Below is a comparison of some of the more major feature differences between the two editions.
|Feature||Free Edition||Enterprise Edition|
|Remote connection management||Yes||Yes|
|Personal and commercial use||Yes||Yes|
|Shared database and vaults||No||Yes|
|Role-based access control||No||Yes|
|Audits and reports||No||Yes|
|Integration with existing password managers||No||Yes|
For a full comparison of the specific differences between the versions, check out the official Remote Desktop Manager comparison page to compare the Free Edition and Enterprise Editions.
What’s the licensing or pricing for the Enterprise Edition of Remote Desktop Manager? There are four options for licensing or purchasing the RDM solution.
- User license: Price $199.99 per named user
- Site license: Unlimited users for a single site—Price $4,999.99
- Country license: Multiple sites, single country (contact sales for the price)
- Global license: Unlimited users, multiple sites, worldwide (contact sales for the price)
Cloud repository vs. local entries ^
Let me say that when you use Remote Desktop Manager for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by everything it can do. It contains a lot. It is definitely what I would describe as an “everything and the kitchen sink” utility when it comes to creating, managing, and interacting with your sessions.
The Enterprise Edition is the version I will be keying in on from a functionality standpoint, and I will be showcasing some of its features. Perhaps one of the most powerful features of the Enterprise Edition is the ability to store your entries in an online cloud repository. This means your entries are accessible from all of your devices. Online Drive is present inside RDM Free and Enterprise, but it’s not considered as a team data source. It has been designed for single user usage. Other connection manager solutions may be “local only” meaning you must “sneakernet” your entries around with you. This means you must make sure to copy the connection entries between your devices. The Enterprise Edition containing cloud storage does this for you. This eliminates the worry of having the latest and most up-to-date entries on the device you are using.
When you first install the Enterprise Edition, you have the ability to create the Cloud online storage location and store your entries there. You can also use Local Entries in the Enterprise version as well as many other data source storage locations suited for either single users or team/shared configurations.
Remote Desktop Manager Enterprise Edition allows storing entries in an online repository
Remote Desktop Manager has a wide variety of data source storage options. The Add New Data Source screen has a number of available data sources to store your data for RDM. These are classified as either Individual or Team. The Add New Data Source screen details which data sources it supports for which configuration, whether shared or not. As you can see, you can use enterprise-grade database server technologies such as Microsoft SQL Server.
Remote Desktop Manager supports multiple data source storage locations
Below, you see an example of configuring Microsoft SQL Server as your data source. You configure the hostname of the SQL Server, and you can choose between local SQL authentication or Integrated Security (Active Directory). Choose your database that you want to use, and you are done. Note that the user needs enough permissions to create the database and to create the first RDM administrator account.
Configuring a SQL Server database for storing RDM teams
Creating sessions and connecting ^
Adding your first entry is as simple as clicking the “+” button in the upper-left corner of the application. This launches the Add New Entry dialog box. Click the Session option in the left menu to choose to create a new session. You have a tremendous number of options available for configurable sessions. These include:
- Microsoft Remote Desktop Gateway
- …and many others…
Below, we are creating the classic RDP connection.
Creating a new connection in Remote Desktop Manager
Once you choose the type of session you want to create, the configuration dialog box for the particular session type will launch. Below is a look at creating a new RDP connection. You can configure just about every aspect of your connection imaginable. You can tweak many options to customize the experience and many great features I haven’t seen in other connection managers.
Remote Desktop Manager contains a wealth of configurable options with a new connection
As a side note regarding passwords using with your connections, do you find yourself visiting password-generator sites for strong password suggestions? Remote Desktop Manager has a built-in password generator that makes creating a strong password extremely easy.
Under the Tools tab, choose Password Generator.
Using the password generator in Remote Desktop Manager
Using the password generator, you can use the built-in password templates to make creating strong passwords easy. Also, you can customize the different criteria of the password, based on length and complexity requirements.
Customizing password criteria using the password generator
Now, let’s get back to the sessions. Once you have created your connections, you can connect by simply double-clicking on the name of the connection underneath your data source. Remote Desktop Manager has a very intuitive graphical interface that is easy to navigate and control for your connections. You can open each new connection in a new tab that allows moving back and forth easily between connections.
Connecting to a saved RDP session in Remote Desktop Manager
A great feature of Remote Desktop Connection Manager that I found extremely useful was the application’s ability to adjust your session automatically to the screen resolution you are connecting from. I have seen many connection managers that have had issues, especially if you are connecting from a high-resolution display. However, I found Remote Desktop Manager to be very agile when it came to connecting from various laptops or desktops with different resolutions.
Useful session options ^
One of the handy options I spotted was the ability to perform certain actions upon connecting or disconnecting from your session. You can choose to run the following:
- Command line
- Message prompt
- Macro, script, or tool
- Copy to clipboard
This can come in especially handy if you have pre- or post actions you may need to run on certain connections for various purposes and use cases.
Configuring events before and after connect and disconnect
Let’s take a look at another feature with Remote Desktop Manager Enterprise: users and security. Remote Desktop Manager Enterprise Edition allows multi-user access for sharing access to the connection manager.
Managing users and security ^
You can configure user accounts in Remote Desktop Manager under the Administration menu This feature is available using an Advanced Data Source like SQL Server, SQL Azure, MySQL or MariaDB. If you would like to have your users created automatically, you can use the Password Server (DPS) as backend data source.
Click Users. This will launch the User and Security Management dialog box. Click +Add User to add a new user. This allows creating users for accessing RDM. This also lets you assign Roles to each user, defining the permissions the user has in the system. Roles are managed manually and users are added manually to the roles. If you want to manage roles via AD groups, this is only offered with Password Server (DPS).
Managing users and security with Remote Desktop Manager
Creating Roles is similar to creating a new user. On the Administration menu, click the Roles button. Create the role name; then under the Privileges menu, you can assign permissions. Roles fit in with the idea of “role-based access control” where certain users or groups of users may need certain permissions and access to features.
By creating roles in Remote Desktop Manager, you can create a set of permissions and functionality a user has when logging into the RDM application.
Adding and managing roles for user permissions
Managing credentials and third-party password managers ^
Much of the value contained in a connection manager utility like Remote Desktop Manager is the ability to save passwords and have those documented, saved, and secured in the solution. Notice one of the features in the Add New Entry dialog box is the ability to create a Credential Entry.
Under the External entries, you can make use of very popular password managers and have those integrated with Remote Desktop Manager. This includes the likes of:
- Password Safe
- Secret Server
- Pleasant Password Server
- …many others…
Managing credentials and using third party password managers
Remote Desktop Manager automatically helps you get the required files needed to integrate with your password manager of choice. It detects that KeePass in this case is not installed.
Installing the KeePass plug-in in Remote Desktop Manager
If you click the Install Plug-in button, Remote Desktop Manager opens an Installation Path dialog that allows configuring the path to KeePass as well as the command using a Chocolatey PowerShell installation. Two DLL files need to be deployed into the installation folder of KeePass, so that RDM can communicate with KeePass to fetch the credentials. The DLLs can be downloaded here.
Remote Desktop Manager makes installing required third party plug ins easy
If you want to store your passwords natively within the Remote Desktop Manager solution or use an external third-party password manager to house your credentials, RDM has you covered with either option and great integrations to allow interacting with your password manager of choice.
Auditing and reporting ^
When using a centralized connection and password manager shared among multiple users, auditing user activity becomes extremely important for security and compliance purposes. Remote Desktop Manager provides really good functionality in this area.
Under the Administration tab, click the Reports button.
Accessing reporting functionality for Remote Desktop Manager
You can run a wide variety of different reports from the Reports dashboard. This includes expired entries, user activity, permissions, users, roles, last usage, deleted entries, and many other objects. From the Generate Report screen, you can filter down to the type of report you want to run or simply leave all of them displayed and choose the individual report you want to run.
Choose a report to generate
After choosing the Activity Logs report, you can further customize the information displayed in the resulting report generation.
Customizing the report chosen
Once the resulting report finishes generating, it will display in a tab in Remote Desktop Manager.
Viewing the resulting report generation
This feature of Remote Desktop Manager makes it a great tool that is compliant with various regulatory and audit requirements IT operations face today.
Concluding thoughts ^
If there is one downside to Remote Desktop Manager, it could be that its strength (number of features) could also be a downside. It literally has so many features and options that it is sometimes difficult to find a setting or a configuration you are looking for. However, I would take an overprovisioning of features rather than a lack of features any day.
In this review, we’ve barely scratched the surface of options and settings contained in Remote Desktop Manager. If you are looking for a very powerful and full-featured connection manager utility that has everything you need in one application, Remote Desktop Manager may very well be what you are looking for. Devolutions did a great job of packing features and functionality IT admins need into this single utility to manage connections to infrastructure.