Authors: Guest Writer
Guest Post by Ric Chapman.
I think I’m somewhat safe in saying that Windows Phone 7 arrived late to the game and is still very much the underdog in today’s smartphone market. But whilst Microsoft are busy playing catch up their hard work is slowly paying off as it starts to carve its place among the Android, iPhone and Blackberry competition. Its ease of use and excellent integration into the Microsoft ecosystem is what’s starting to make it popular among home, business and now the technical community alike.
Having said that there’s still a bumpy ride ahead, at the time of this writing there are only 45,000 apps in the market place compared to Apple’s 500,000! When the phone was released, Technician apps were practically non-existent. I know, I was there, eagerly looking for what I could use out in the field. I didn’t find much, and what I did find didn’t work.. at all. But thankfully today is a much different story and I bring you the apps that I’m using on an almost daily basis as a Computer Technician.
Lync 2010 arrives on time as promised and is an excellent app for staying in touch with colleagues, clients and family whilst on the move. Although it integrates nicely with the OS it would have been nice to see something similar to the Messenger integration deployed with Mango, but I’m just nit-picking. It’s a great app and although the app is free, you do require access to a Lync server. Mine comes courtesy of Office365, it just works and works well.
Price: FREE – Lync server required
My Home Server
I absolutely love this app and is a must for anyone who owns their own or installs and maintains home servers for their clients. You can connect to any Home Server whilst you’re on the move allowing you to check important notifications, disk space, access files and manage user accounts including user creation and password resets. If your clients are happy for you to have access you can monitor and provide basic support from wherever you are at a touch of a button.
My Business Server
Almost identical to the My Home Server app with a focus on Microsoft Small Business Server Essentials only, would have been nice to have seen this for the SBS Standard but perhaps something will arrive later down the line. The SBS Essentials edition is the server of choice for my small business clients and as a support app is indispensable. The Live Tile only adds to my excitement by providing an instant indication of available disk space and the number of important / critical alerts you have pending right on the phones home screen.
Sky Wallet is a powerful password management app and I would be lost without it especially as clients are increasingly becoming reliant on their support techs for remembering their account details. Where Sky Wallet shines is its integration with SkyDrive, your details are synced and encrypted on your SkyDrive storage. If you need to reset your phone, you needn’t worry about losing the data. Secondly there’s a desktop companion app which comes included with this app allowing you to access your passwords directly from your PC avoiding the need to move back and forth between your desktop and phone.
Price: £2.99 / $3.99
Trial Available: Yes
The flashlight tool is a very easily overlooked app and I’ve simply lost count on how much I’ve used this, I often find myself under a dimly lit desk or a dark comms cupboard. As I’m always carrying my phone, it makes sense not to be carrying a torch. There is a large array of flashlight apps which offer a variety of features so do shop around.
Any technician working with medium and larger businesses should already know how to do this sort of thing without a calculator. But who would want to? We all work to a schedule and unless you can do this sort of thing in your head in less than 10 seconds then you might as well reach for your pocket. There are plenty of calculators out there, this one works great and has the added bonus of being free.
The title of the app can be a little misleading and is simply a reference tool. I specifically use it for the Ethernet Pinout information when making up my own network cables.
Whilst there are plenty of remote desktop tools out there this is by far my favourite, not the cheapest but the one I generally get the best performance from overall. Most of these apps come with free trials and I’d recommend you try them before making a final decision.
Price: £4.99 / $5.99
Being a Kindle fan I downloaded this app the moment it became available and whilst I do read for pleasure, a lot of my reading also involves tech or reference books. Whilst not strictly a technical tool it can be a great informational tool avoiding the need carry the large books that plague most students and technicians. A quick and easy EBook reader on the go.
0 0A small collection of network connectivity tools providing ping tests, tcp port connection tests, http and https connectivity tests as well as the ability to save a selection of URI’s for periodic checking, useful if you’re wanting to check the health of multiple web sites quickly. It’s absolutely free if you don’t mind the adverts which are not intrusive.
Price: FREE with ads or £2.29/$2.99 for the ad free version
The SSH Client
1 1A very simple and free SSH client that works brilliantly, the paid version comes with telnet support and a ton of customisation and configuration settings.
Price: FREE or £2.49/$3.49 for the PRO version
IP Camera Viewer
2 2I find these are quite popular tools among the tech community so I’ve included my favourite, originally acquired to keep an eye on my home office as I struggled to find anything that I was certain I had left on my desk. Turns out wife likes to clean my desk …. a lot. IP based cameras provide an excellent option for security and this app extends their use allowing you to keep an eye on things whilst on the move.
As mentioned previously, the Windows Phone integration with Bing and the Live services are what helps this phone stand out among its peers and may play a large part in its future success. The following items are not apps but integrated features within the OS that work exceptionally well and can prove invaluable whilst out in the field.
The Office hub provides excellent mobile office apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the ever popular OneNote. I live in OneNote and much prefer this to carrying around a notebook and pencil, an excellent note taking app regardless of your situation.
Finding new addresses is always a daunting task but Bing Maps makes the whole process a lot easier, I did have concerns about how it would stand up against Google Maps on other smartphones but I needn’t have worried. If you have a phone holder in the car it even serves well as (very temporary) sat-nav replacement provided that there is decent data coverage of course. Mileage is presented to the user but is not recorded so I use OneNote to take down mileage and the phones multi-tasking features make it easy to flick between the two apps.
Microsofts cloud based service Office 365 was made for Windows Phone, whether you need an Exchange based email service, SharePoint file access then you simply cannot go wrong. Email access is powerful and SharePoint makes easy work of file collaboration with colleagues and clients. Office 365 is beyond the scope of this article but I do urge you to check it out.
Cloud based file access with SkyDrive is simple and easy and was a missing key feature in the original release. I now store all my client notes and access them from the cloud whilst onsite where necessary using the free SkyDrive service.
Bing – Local Scout
Nowhere near home or the office? Need that coffee to see you through the next appointment? Then the local scout integrated with the Bing Search app is what you need. Food/Drink located and mapped in a couple of moments … a true techy life saver.
45,000 apps compared to 500,000 is quite a small number and Microsoft has some way to go before it’s covering all our technical needs. There’s no news on an official DropBox app (although there are plenty of alternative third party DropBox apps available) and presently there’s no word on how Skype will integrate with the phone. But I sense these things and other much needed apps are not too far away. 45,000 whilst comparatively small is still too large for one tech to cover so if there’s anything I’ve missed that you feel deserves a mention then please comment and let us know.
Guest Post by Ric Chapman: Ric has been in the IT support business for 12 years driven by his love of tech and passion to help others. Ric carries several certifications from both Microsoft and CompTIA and worked in a myriad of support environments, that experience he now puts into developing his own IT consultancy business.
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