A few years ago, IT engineers had no choice but to lug laptops with them for doing routine maintenance on network devices. The laptop, however, just wasn’t made for this. For one, the laptop doesn’t necessarily facilitate ease of use in field IT situations. If you’ve ever tried entering a long series of commands on a laptop while standing up, you know how frustrating this can be.
Another problem is the relatively short battery life of many laptops. For a busy field engineer, the last thing you need is for your laptop’s battery to go dead right in the middle of a console session. Even though there are still cases where the laptop is the only solution, there’s no doubt that terminal software for mobile devices would make life easier when performing simpler network operations.
This is why a wide variety of terminal applications are now available to help IT engineers make the most of the portability of the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Previously the best options have been iSSH and pTerm—which support SSH and Telnet connections—and Prompt, which works with SSH only.
But while these are all no doubt very useful, there are certain situations in which they just fall short. Since none of these apps allow you to make a serial connection with your iPad, that’s a whole host of console possibilities that are out the window. For instance, how will you debug a router once it’s crashed, rendering wireless connection to that router impossible?
Also you should read this Quora’s topic What is the best iPad terminal app? here are a lot of reviews from users.
Use Serial Cable with iPad
Using a serial cable with an iPad gives the device a whole new array of possibilities for working with network devices. This would be extremely helpful to engineers who don’t have a laptop with them at all times, but always carry an iPad or iPhone. However, none of the aforementioned apps support iPad serial cable connection.
Until the recent release of Get Console, anyone using an iPad to connect to serial-equipped network devices had no choice but to use one of the available terminal apps to get a Telnet or SSH connection. However, without a serial cable, this leaves the iPad off limits for a variety of standard field IT operations. Allowing engineers to use an iPad with a serial cable not only opens up new possibilities for working with serial devices, it also expands the number of uses for the iPad.
Let’s say you’re configuring a device for the first time. You won’t be able to use the current iPad terminal apps to connect through Telnet or SSH, so serial connection will be crucial. So, does this call for breaking out the trusty laptop? Not necessarily. Previously available iPad terminal apps aren’t able to connect through serial in their new, straight-from-the-app-store state. But if you’re willing to jailbreak your iDevice, you can download apps that will allow you to use a serial cable with your iPad.
To Jailbreak or not to Jailbreak
Jailbreaking is the process of bypassing restrictions that Apple puts in place to keep users from installing unapproved software. Naturally, Apple takes whatever measures they can to make this difficult. Even though they were unsuccessful in having jailbreaking outlawed, Apple still sticks it to jailbreakers any way they can. One way they do this is by voiding your warranty. If you start to have problems with your device and take it into the Apple store for repair, they will refuse to work on your device if they detect even a whiff of jailbreaking.
Not only can jailbreaking void your warranty, it can compromise the security of your machine. There have been a number of vulnerability scares involving jailbroken Apple devices. In 2011, a security hole in JailBreakMe 3.0 even caught the attention of the German government! Although a fix was issued promptly, there’s no guarantee that other, possibly more severe security issues may arise. Another security mishap involving jailbreaking was a mass “Rickrolling” that occurred in Australia, when a worm infected jailbroken iPhones and replaced the user’s background wallpaper with a picture of singer Rick Astley. While neither of these presented serious long-term problems, it’s only a matter of time before hackers find a way to exploit the security weaknesses that jailbroken iDevices present.
Another way Apple expresses their disapproval of jailbreaking is by installing new protections with every iOS update that make it harder to bypass Apple’s proprietary software. Every time the latest iOS update comes out, your phone will revert to its original Apple-approved condition, and any jailbreak apps will be gone. This means that if jailbreaking is your favored method of using a serial cable with your iPad, you’ll have to wait for the hacking community to get its act together every single time you get an iOS update. Usually it only takes a couple weeks or so for the new firmware to be jailbroken, but you’d have to spend that whole time without being able to use your iPhone or iPad with a serial cable. And of course, you could just forgo the updates, but that will present security issues in its own right.
Existing App Store Apps
Get Console is currently the only app, either jailbroken or apple-store-approved, that supports the use of serial cable with network devices. It also supports Telnet and SSHv2 interface. Even if you are only looking for an app that supports either Telnet or SSHv2 only, Get Console is still superior with its support for sharing session to web to enable user to get help over the internet via the iPad/iPod/iTouch internet connection (Wi-Fi/3G).
Get Console is also unique in that it is the only app that allows the user to upload and download Configuration script and log files to and from get-console.com website, allowing multiple users to share a script or review a log remotely. Additionally, Get Console supports Copy/Cut/Paste integration, enabling user to copy a script from an email for example. There is also the optional Service Desk integration and Private Server.
The Answer? Get Console
You don’t have to jailbreak your iPad. If you’re looking for an Apple app-store-approved terminal app that lets you use a serial cable with your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, Get Console is the first one available that lets you do that. Get Console enables serial connection with an iPad, which creates a wide range of opportunities for field engineers to start using their iPads for communicating with network devices manufactured by Cisco, HP, Juniper, and others. The app also allows engineers to use their iPads and iPhones with serial cables as a “backup option” in the event of a laptop crash.
There’s a lot more to Get Console than just using your iPad or iPhone with a serial cable. The Get Console website also allows for whole IT departments to effectively manage scripts and logs by keeping them in their own repository on the website. Get Console is the only terminal app that allows engineers to download whole configuration scripts—via the website—and paste them into the terminal. Engineers can also create a file for every terminal session which can be uploaded to the website and stored for later use. With the uploading capability, NOC engineers will be able to look at logs to determine the problem without even leaving the office.
Conclusion: The Best Serial Solution for iPad
Get Console is the only terminal app that allows serial connectivity to any Cisco, HP or Juniper port without jailbreaking. In fact, Get Console is being tested on new serial devices on a regular basis, and the list of compatible devices will continue to expand. However, it’s not necessary to have the serial cable since Get Console also works remotely through SSH and Telnet. This completely eliminates the need for having other iPad terminal applications, leaving Get Console as the only terminal app your iPad will ever require. And at $9.99 USD, it’s a cost-effective solution to the dilemma of which iPad terminal app to buy, since it has all the features offered by the others and more.