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Five Free Tools Every Network Administrator Should Have

Every network administrator has their own set of tools that they like to use on a daily basis to help them do their job. Here is my list and why each one of these free programs are in my toolbox.

PuTTY - PuTTY is a very versatile telnet application for use when you spend a lot of your day working on Cisco equipment. PuTTY allows a number of different ways to connect to a piece of equipment including Raw, Telnet, Rlogin, SSH, and with the newest version of PuTTY Serial connection.

The newest Serial option becomes very handy for network administrators since HyperTerm is no longer available with Windows Vista and you still need a serial connection for new routers and switches. PuTTY is also very customizable and can be run from a USB drive without installing anything onto the computer.

Sniffer - There are actually two sniffer applications that I keep in my toolbox, WireShark and Smsniff. Both programs are free to download and use but the difference is that Wireshark has more functionality when it comes to filters. But smsniff can be launched from a USB drive without any installation onto the workstation. I use Wireshark more for general network slow downs where I have to monitor the entire network or an entire VLAN to pinpoint the problem.

I can use Smsniff on a single machine when I know that machine is having a problem but I don't know why. I simple run Smsniff on the problem machine and then watch the network traffic that comes across it. If it is a network problem I will see it reflected in the trace from Smsniff and I didn't have to waste time configuring port mirroring or setting up a laptop to get the trace.

PumpKIN - PumpKIN is a free FTP server program that you can download and use to host your computer as an FTP server. I use this program main for transferring Cisco images back and forth from the switch or router to my computer. This program become very valuable when you have a switch or router down that you need to get back up quick.

NetScan - Netscan is a very useful tool that will attempt to ping every address within subnet or vlan and tell you which ones respond. NetScan will also try to resolve the IP address to a DNS name for you. I use this tool a lot when I want to quickly see who it connected to a VLAN and I want to know if anyone shouldn't be connected, or who is connected via DHCP.

NetStumbler - NetStumbler was one of the first "Wardriving" programs you could get to pick up other people's wireless networks. I use this tool on a regular basis for the opposite reason, I want to be able to check for rouge access points on my network. I simply use this little tool and walk around all of my offices and see what wireless devices pop up. I have found a couple of employees who wanted to work out side or away from their office and added a wireless AP so they could.

Those are 5 tools I believe every network administrator should have in their toolkit. For their ease of use, small size, and versatility they made my top 5 tools. Check out my other articles including 5 Tools Every PC Tech Should Have.


Mike Walton has been in the technology field for over 8 years and has 6+ years in hospitality technolgy. Mike has experience with Microsoft Windows Server 2000, 2003, Windows 98, XP, and Vista, Networking, Cisco Equipment, PCI DSS, and many more. Mike Walton is also the founder of MikeNet PC Free Articles and Videos. [The website www.mikenetpc.com cannot be found].

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