- by Chad, "The Dream", Weaver and friends
I was asked what I thought was an important tool that every IT engineer had with them when they were in the field and as I thought about it I came up with a few that I have found very useful. You will notice that the applications and items that I find important are slanted towards network uses as that is what I spend a lot of time doing. There are two items that I like to keep with me that aren’t related to networking and have served me well multiple times in the past.
The first item I have used multiple times is a Linux live boot USB key or CD. This is very useful when the OS of a laptop server or workstation is not able to boot, you can gain access to the file system using an alternative OS and sometimes be able to repair the damage, scan for viruses there are even specific Linux boot CDs that allow you to reset the password of Windows systems when you are locked out or missing documentation. The second item I have is a very powerful external wireless network device, the one I have has a range of up to about a half mile within line of site. This helps in large sites when you need network access and the signal on the onboard device isn’t powerful enough to get you a connection. When dealing with wireless networks finding the coverage and signal overlap in an area is important, and some tools out there are very expensive, but for a small site or a single wireless survey I would recommend the Ekahau Heat Mapper tool, this is a free tool that does the job in a pinch. It actually is very useful and I have used a few times to find the best locations for new or existing WAPs.
On the networking side, one of the most important items that I have with me at all time is a Cisco console cable for making serial connections to and networking device. Other vendors use different cables, but overall I get more use out of this single item than anything else I use. Along with this a good terminal emulator program is important. I use Putty exclusively for serial SSH and telnet connections. You can even build persistent SSH tunnels with this tool with a little work I recommend this for anyone thinking of getting in to networking. The final item is a FTP client, I use FileZilla for this purpose but there are plenty out there that can be used for this. This works when you need to transfer files and only FTP is available. These are some of the more important items that I have with me all the time. Now let’s here from the rest of the team!
Ever since Windows 7, my list of tools has gotten much shorter. I used to have all of the Sysinternals tools on a flash drive as well as installing them on XP PCs as a default. But here is a list of must-haves:
+TreeSizeFree – This little program will tell you what is eating up drive space and where it is located on the drive. Installation is not required, only the EXE. Run it and select the drive or folder to scan.
+SolarWinds TFTP server – Extremely useful in TFTP’ing configs to and from Cisco devices.
+A preconfigured virtual machine for testing – Virtual PC, VMWare, or Hyper-V. Having a virtual spare PC to do testing is huge.
+7-ZIP – This is THE archiving tool to have. WinRAR used to hold this spot but 7-ZIP stole it. Even has an easy to use lightweight command line utility. Best part is that this is open source so it’s less likely to have sneaky backdoor decryption cyphers.
+NetSurveryor – A handy tool used to do wireless discovery. It gives great statistics about each AP it finds and even has some nice graphical reports. Perfect for mapping out where APs should be located and to figure out what channels they should use.
+Netscan – A great stand-alone executable that scan scan a network range and report all of the nodes that exist, including DNS name, MAC address, and shared services. A perfect tool for beginning the audit of a network by building a list of devices and their associated address information
+CCleaner – The portable version of CCleaner should always be kept on a USB drive, since it affords a way to quickly and easily wipe a computer of junk files, registry entries, applications, and custom settings. CCleaner became even more useful when they added the ‘wipe free-space’ option, which securely zeroes the unused space on a partition.
+Combofix – Combofix is my favorite last resort for cleaning Windows XP computers that have been infected with viruses. For me, it fulfills the role of the kitchen sink in my troubleshooting, which I bring out only after hitting a wall and getting stuck. Because of how powerful it is, it has the ability to catastrophically damage a system, so it should only be used by IT Professionals who understand the risk and are capable of repairing a system that does meet such a fate.
+BartPE – OpenSource pre-install environment that is easily updated with recent drivers and applications
+CutePDF Writer – Free PDF file creation software
+DiskState – Graphical interface to determine exactly what folders and files are taking up space on both local and network drives
+GenControl – VNC-based remote control software that requires no additional installation and can access any workstation on the local network without requiring user intervention
+ISO Recorder – Free software that allows creation of ISO from a CD/DVD and adds menu options for burning ISO images to CD/DVD
+Magic Jellybean Keyfinder – Discovers Windows, Office, and other third-party product keys of applications installed on a computer
+MagicISO – Virtual CD/DVD drive for viewing/loading ISO images for access
+NK2View – Program for viewing Office 2003 and earlier NK2 files, which store the cache for Outlook E-mail recipients
+nLite – OpenSource software for updating/slipstreaming Windows OS CDs
+Shrew VPN Client – Free VPN client software that connect to most firewall VPN configurations
+Sysinternal tools – Microsoft utilities that provide a number of ways to troubleshoot issues and apply changes/updates to computers
+Wake-on-LAN – Allows remote turn-on of a workstation that is off, provided the BIOS is configured correctly
On the phone
+Level app – when installing hardware, having a digital bubble level works well in case you lose or forget one in your tool kit. You want to make sure the devices are level and look good for the client.
+Unit conversion app - This has been handy during installations and project review for those conversions you forget and to maintain accuracy
+OneNote link in app – allows you to have a checklist on the phone, upload it to your OneNote documentation – no paper!
+Camera – Needed for documenting issues or completions of tasks, can upload to documentation or share from the phone.
+Flashlight app – the day your forget your flashlight, is the day you need it. There are plenty of dark or shadowed places we have to crawl into to plug a cable in, this helps!
+Angry IP scanner – I have used this many times when on a network and you have a device which has picked up an IP address, but you don’t know which one for one reason or another. We had a printer that reset itself and had an APIPA address, but there wasn’t an interface to find out which one. We scanned through the address range and found the device, reset it and it was usable again.
+Wire shark – great network traffic review too. I have used this to show the malformed packets from a vendor was the issue and not the client side issue.
+One note – documentation, all about the documentation. An electronic binder that can be shared and dynamically updated!