Lead Image © Roywylam and Hans Slegers, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Roywylam and Hans Slegers, 123RF.com

My Five Favorite Sys Admin Tools

Welcome

Article from ADMIN 44/2018
By
I've written hundreds of articles over the past two decades, and I always seem to come back to a single theme: sys admin tools. I have five favorite tools that have not only stood the test of time but have also served me well in every job I've held, including when I ran my own computer consulting company.

I've written hundreds of articles over the past two decades, and I always seem to come back to a single theme: sys admin tools. I have five favorite tools that have not only stood the test of time but have also served me well in every job I've held, including when I ran my own computer consulting company. Some IT folks want to keep their tools secret, but I feel like keeping those kinds of secrets hurts everyone, especially the secret keeper. It doesn't elevate you as a technical person to pretend that you have a corner on a covert tool that you just can't tell anyone about lest you reveal your true identity. Sys admins aren't superheroes. We serve at the pleasure of our employers, and we are overhead – meaning that our salaries and benefits subtract directly from the corporate bottom line. It's time to be transparent about these things and share our knowledge with each other. To that end, here are my favorite sys admin tools and why I continue to love and support them.

PowerShell: If you administer Windows systems, you must learn PowerShell. There's just no other tool as powerful and as comprehensive for administering Windows systems through interactive sessions or through scripts. PowerShell modules are available for Active Directory, Exchange, Hyper-V, VMware, and an array of other technologies.

Pulseway: Pulseway is a sys admin's best friend. You can fully monitor and manage Windows, Mac, and Linux systems from a web browser or from a smartphone. Pulseway requires a highly configurable agent on each managed system, but the level of detail and the capability to use command-line executables and scripts and PowerShell is invaluable. Additionally, you can apply patches, chat with logged on users, view graphical screens, take snapshot views of webcams, work with printers, apply advanced notifications, and work with a host's virtual machines. Pulseway is an extremely inexpensive but powerful tool that I'll never work without.

Wireshark: If you need to scoop up network traffic for analysis, you'd better install and learn Wireshark. Wireshark is a network analyzer that doubles as a security tool. It is the ultimate tool for finding errant traffic, detecting rogue applications, and possibly discovering bad guys on your network.

Cygwin: I haven't worked on or built a Windows server in the past 20 years that didn't get a fresh install of Cygwin on it. Cygwin doesn't turn your Windows system into Linux, but it's very close. By putting C:\Cygwin\bin in your path, you have most *NIX commands at your disposal. I once ported an entire library of Tivoli *NIX scripts to Windows to expand a management platform to Windows without my coworkers having to learn a whole new set of tools. Once your Windows system is up and patched, install Cygwin to really unleash the potential that a hybrid system can give you.

Webmin: This is the ultimate Linux tool – a web-based interface that gives you full control over your Linux system. It works on other *NIX platforms, as well. In fact, I once walked a fellow sys admin through the install of Perl (and other open source prerequisites) and the installation of Webmin over the phone. When he finished and looked at the Sendmail configuration screen, he paused for at least 10 seconds before responding with, "This is going to save me so much time. I have 20 Solaris systems to set up Sendmail on tonight." I responded with, "You're welcome, and you owe me." He has been a Webmin convert ever since that phone conversation way back in 1999. He never paid back the favor, and I'm sure if you ask him now, he thinks he found Webmin on his own.

Sure, I have other favorites such as Fing, arp-scan, PHP, Remote Desktop Connection Manager, and autoexpect, but those are totally secret. I can't tell you about them, nor will I ever mention them in mixed (tech savvy and non-tech savvy) company. They're my secret stash, and after all, I have to retain my superhero status somehow.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy ADMIN Magazine

SINGLE ISSUES
 
SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
TABLET & SMARTPHONE APPS
Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • Eat. Pray. Script.

    Lazy … er, smart … administrators are hard at work in the background via scripts, cascading scripts, and cron jobs.

  • Win-Win with Cygwin

    Windows administrators: Expand your horizons and your opportunities with Unix commands via Cygwin. Use Cygwin’s extensive list of Unix utilities for scripts, maintenance, compatibility, and automation.

  • MobaXterm: Unix for Windows

    MobaXterm, a portable X server for Windows, bundles built-in Unix/Posix tools into a single portable EXE file, letting you use a Linux command line and tools on the Windows desktop.

  • Old and New
  • A TurnKey Linux software evaluation platform
    TurnKey Linux comes with more than 100 of the most important free enterprise solutions to create a test environment for evaluating new open source system or business software on a local system, on a virtual machine, or in the cloud.
comments powered by Disqus