The act of shutting down or rebooting a PC seems like such a simple task doesn’t it? When you’re done work at the end of the day, you choose “shut down” and you’re done until Monday morning. If only the rest of the world of IT were so simple, right?
For those that manage computers and servers, shutting down and rebooting takes on a whole new life. When people have problems, IT techs are often quick to ask if they tried rebooting. It’s not because they’re lazy, it’s because they know that rebooting a PC fixes nearly 90% of the most common issues out there.
In fact, in the field of IT, the ability to reboot a PC or server from anywhere in the company or even from outside the company can mean the difference between fixing a problem from the comfort of you own home, or having to drive in to work to reboot that machine. Not a fun proposition.
Thankfully, there’s a really cool tool called Switch that does nothing more than lets you remote reboot or shut off a computer. Okay, I lied, it does a whole lot more than that, but on the surface that’s all it appears to do.
Using Switch To Maintain Your PCs & Servers
So here’s the bottom line about Switch in just one sentence – it gives you the flexibility to schedule regular maintenance reboots, remotely restart servers or PCs when there are problems, and it lets you actually detect problems and instantly respond to them without any user input required. Now it sounds a lot more interesting, doesn’t it?
You install a license of Switch onto the server or PC that you want to monitor and manage remotely. It allows you to do this by installing itself as a “server” on your PC, available on port 2388 of your host. Here, you can see that I have Switch running on my machine, and this machine can be accessed from anywhere on the network. I had zero issues with this software running alongside my antivirus software.
If you notice any problems, you may need to make an exception for it in your AV software. If you are using this software in a Corporate environment, you can access it from home by dialing in via VPN and then connecting to the host using port 2388 as shown above. Similarly at home, you could set up your own VPN to connect in from the Internet.
In its simplest form, Switch basically gives you the ability to connect to that machine using your web browser. On the Dashboard for that PC or server page, you’ll see the dropdown list with the shutdown, reboot, or sleep options as well as the option to delay before those choices.
But that is just scratching the surface of what this software can do. If you scroll down the dashboard page, you’ll see where you can “Add” new switches. This is where the juicy stuff resides. When you click on “New” you’ll go to a new page where you can configure when and how you want this PC or server to reboot, shut down or go into sleep mode. You can have as many “switches” set up as you like, which means you can configure an entire set of circumstances where the computer will essentially perform its own maintenance.
What do I mean by this? Well, for instance, maybe you’re running this in a Corporate environment where Corporate headquarters issues regular Windows patches and some PCs that don’t have regular users, like multi-use kiosk PCs, may never get rebooted. Switch lets you either go in and reboot remotely, or you can just set up the PC to regularly reboot once a month or so, and you never have to worry about a post-patch reboot on that PC again.
Another really cool feature that I like for my laptop is the “Low Battery” switch option. This is useful for those times when you accidentally leave your laptop sitting at home, turned on, and unplugged. Rather than let the battery run down to absolutely nothing and potentially have a hard shutdown that could affect the hard drive, you can set up a switch so that when it detect a certain low battery percentage (say 20%), it’ll automatically shut down or go to sleep mode – your choice.
Oh, and here’s another really cool feature – the “Ping” tool. This Switch allows you to have the computer automatically perform a regular ping to some URL or IP address. When the Ping fails, you can have the computer reboot.
So, why on earth would you ever want to do this? Well, if you think about it, this is a good way to constantly monitor the network connection, or even the Internet connectivity of a server or device. If you have a critical PC or server that has to have a good Internet or network connection, this will allow you to instantly detect problems and then perform a reboot that will hopefully resolve the connectivity problem.
It also allows a nice delay so that it’ll only reboot if connectivity is lost for up to a certain amount of time, like 30 minutes or an hour. Rebooting doesn’t always fix the problem, but anyone in the IT field knows that very often it does, and it can save you a lot of downtime if the computer automatically tries that option without your intervention.
Another feature of Switch is the ability to ensure a certain process is running. If it isn’t, you can reboot the PC so that it kicks off upon startup again.
This can be really useful for servers where you have a single critical process serving lots of clients. That service has to be up 24/7, and when it’s down, the server is essentially serving no purpose. It’s a paperweight. You know the service launches upon startup, so why not just have the server reboot itself, restart the service on its own, and the connectivity issues your users experience just went down dramatically.
The Dashboard page gives you an overview of overall uptime for that system (time since last reboot), and a list of all of your configured switches.
Switch also provides you with a logging feature that you can use to make sure that all of the switches you set up are working as desired.
The service also comes with a nice login security feature so that only you, the administrator, have the ability to configure and monitor the switches.
Another really cool feature is e-mail notifications, where you can receive an email every time one of the switches is triggered.
This is a nice way to have an overview of the activity for all of the computers where you’ve installed switch – so basically you get to sit back and be an IT superhero without exerting very much effort. Isn’t that what every IT administrator dreams of?
What do you think of Switch? Is it the sort of app that you see could be put to good use at home or in your Corporate environment? Give Switch a shot and let us know what you think in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Electric Switch On-Off Via Shutterstock