In our post A Day in the Life of An Information Technology Administrator, we learned that the guys and gals who manage the network and its related systems are arguably the busiest people in the IT room. But no matter how skilled they may be, every administrator needs a set of dependable tools to guide them in diagnosing problems, analyzing storage space, and monitoring the overall health of the network. Here is a list of tools MSP administrators can use to assemble their own trusty toolkit for servicing Windows desktops.
1. Sysinternals Live
It’s no surprise that some of the best tools for Windows administrators are distributed by Microsoft itself. Sysinternals Live fits the mold. Created by Mark Russinovich, Sysinternals Live is a robust kit in and of itself designed to help manage, troubleshoot, and diagnose Windows desktops and applications. It contains more than 70 useful utilities, including the virtual desktop manager “Desktops”, password manager “PsPasswd”, and powerful rootkit detection tool “Rootkit Revealer”. Sysinternals Live is highly recommended for IT administrators and developers alike.
2. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer
MBSA is yet another Microsoft tool designed to help manage the Windows environment. A rootkit is one of several nuisances that pose a threat to the security and integrity of your network. Whereas Rootkit Revealer detects a specific type of threat, MBSA sniffs out potential vulnerabilities that are caused by backend negligence. For instance, it helps administrators address issues such as poor configuration, and missing updates that are integral to security. MBSA offers suggestions based on Microsoft’s own security recommendations, which might give administrators an added peace of mind.
Documents. Images. Videos. They aren’t too heavy individually, but once they start to accumulate, they can leave your system with very little breathing room to spare. WinDirStat is a nifty utility that can help administrators determine which files are clogging up their hard drives. Once you fire this baby up, you see exactly how hard drive space is being consumed through three different views. The “Treemap” is one of the best views to look at as it takes a simple approach that allows you to identify files by colored rectangles, and determine how much space each file is using.
Network traffic watching giving you the blues? Then Wireshark could end up being one of your favorite tools. Wireshark is a popular utility that specializes in the mission-critical process of packet analysis. It serves up an intuitive GUI that supports the simple and deep inspection of XML, SSL, and hundreds of other protocols that are essential to network communications. Data is captured in real-time and delivered in offline reports that allow you to conduct analysis at any time. Wireshark is well known in Linux circles, but its open-source capabilities and flexibility port over to Windows just fine.
If you’re running Windows, you’re probably running quite a few expensive enterprise applications as a result of it. Tools like OpenNMS prove invaluable when you have big business administrative needs on a small business budget. This open-source app is an enterprise-class platform capable of monitoring thousands of devices from a single desktop, delivering the type of flexibility and scalability today’s IT service providers need to flourish. OpenNMS provides easy-to-read reports on memory, CPU, and bandwidth usage, while allowing you to have alerts of trouble routed via email, IM, SMS, and other preferred channels.
There are two things to like about the tools on this list: they’re completely free to use, and highly portable. Despite the power they’re packing, each utility is lightweight enough to load up on a USB-friendly storage medium. So whether you’re in the office, at home, or have to pay a visit to the data center, you can put on your IT cape and save the day in plug-and-play fashion!
Photo Credit: Daniel M. Hendricks via Flickr