9 Tools All Sysadmins Need In Their Toolbox

As a sysadmin, you love tools. It doesn’t matter how many features overlap because each tool provides a unique way of looking at data. Here are 9 must-have tools to get your data fix (and be more productive):

1. A phenomenal performance monitor

If you’re still using Task Manager to monitor the performance of your machine, it’s time to upgrade. It’s easy, and comes with Windows, but it lacks the depth of a good monitor.

Taking advantage of the depth of metrics displayed by Windows Performance Monitor requires becoming a master, and it’s worth every second. If you haven’t studied performance monitoring in-depth, now is the time.

This tool does more than monitor your data. You can create data collector sets, which organizes multiple data collection points into a central area to be used to analyze performance. You can group and ungroup data sets as you see fit for a custom report that gives you the details you need.

Another benefit to using Windows Performance Monitor is that you can schedule your data collection.

2. Windows Power Shell

Graphical interfaces are great, but if you’re a sysadmin, you shouldn’t be afraid to geek out with commands. Power Shell is included with Windows OS, but you may not be aware it exists.

You can use Unix style commands and as with Unix, you can hook Power Shell commands together for more efficient use. It’s easy to search for files based on filename and content.

3. A powerful remote administration tool

As a sysadmin, having control of your machines at your fingertips is important. Dameware provides remote admin tools that let you reset passwords, wake sleeping and hibernating computers, reboot from a crash, view and clear event logs, run custom scripts, manage processes, and even move files and reformat disk drives all remotely.

It’s also easy to run custom scripts by creating custom system tools. Just specify the command, create the command line arguments, and assign the directory where it should run. Your new system tool will be accessible from the menu bar.

4. A tool to view network connections made by programs

TCP View gives you the power to see what IP addresses your computer is connecting to. If you find unknown IP addresses, it could be a hacker accessing your machine.

TCP View also shows you if you have useless software eating up bandwidth and CPU power. Many vendors install update tools that are unnecessary, and this tool will call them out.

5. Task Scheduler for Windows

Just like setting up a cron job in Unix, you can automate tasks in Windows with Task Scheduler. It’s located under Administrator Tools, or you can open it with Command Prompt by typing taskschd.msc. Use this tool to compress or move log files, clean up your database, or check for updates.

When you open Task Scheduler, you’ll notice companies like Adobe and Google will already have tasks scheduled to launch their applications to perform background processing. With Task Scheduler, you can schedule your own.

6. Netstat

Every serious IT professional should have Netstat in their toolbox. This is a powerful command-line tool that shows you all network connections, routing tables, network interfaces, and protocol statistics.

Netstat lets you view current and former connections along with the processes that created them. You can also view ports listening for incoming connections.

7. A tool to see what servers your applications are talking to

Knowing what network packets are being transferred to and from your computer is great, but if you want to see the breakdown, including protocol headers and content, you need Wireshark. Use this tool to see what information is being transferred between your applications and the servers they communicate with.

8. A solid virtual machine for troubleshooting

Did you know that Microsoft invented virtual machines, but VMware was faster to bring it to the masses? If you don’t want to pay for a virtual machine, you don’t have to. Hyper-V is Microsoft’s free virtual machine and included with newer versions of Windows OS. Since Microsoft originally invented the technology, you don’t have to wonder if it’s going to work.

9. Microsoft Access

Although not included in Microsoft Office anymore, Access is a powerful database that imports data and runs SQL commands without the need to know SQL. Access can be used to import your Windows event log and process it with the graphical interface to generate reports and export the data into multiple formats. It’s a powerful database, and well worth investing the time to learn.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.