Disaster Recovery

Choose the best tools for each task or the same tool for everything?

One of the more challenging areas of system administration is leveraging the dynamic mix of tools and utilities for every task. IT pro Rick Vanover discusses whether using the best tool for each task makes sense or setting broad standards for all tasks is the way to go.

I frequently say "use the right tool for the job" in reference to one particular tool over another for any area of IT administration. For me, it usually revolves around the general practice of system administrators using legacy tools (i.e., those built for physical machines) to perform every task within a virtualized infrastructure. This can be as complicated as data protection or as simple as system uptime management.

The question becomes: Should administrators use the same tool for everything or identify the best tool for each task and particular platform and deliver the best possible services? Over the years, I've been on both sides of this argument. I am currently on the side that opts to use the right tool (or the best tool) for the job because, with many tools, specific features that are available for certain platforms (such as virtual machines) may not be available for tools optimized for other platforms. At one point in my past, I took the stance of approaching any given area of system administration with a standards-based approach, from the entire organization perspective. In both cases, those were the right way to go at the time.

The issue with deciding to leverage specific tools for specific platforms or environments is primarily a training curve. IT administrators must ensure that each environment can be supported fully by the IT staff. It becomes slightly more complicated when additional tools come into play; on the other hand, that can be a sign of the organization's intent to not leave any features on the table.

In most situations, the preference to use a tool for each platform indicates that there are one or more features that make the other platform superior. A single tool for all platforms may be the "good enough" approach. Using multiple tools may incur complexity in licensing, support, and troubleshooting. There is something to be said for one tool for all systems for ease of troubleshooting, governance, and budgeting.

These arguments frequently come up with data protection, system management, alert management, monitoring, and remote administration tools. What is your take on using the right tool for the job? Share your comments in the discussion.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

11 comments
skooboy
skooboy

Do you think talking about "skinning cats" is funny? In law enforcement, I've sick pieces of shit do that to innocent animals. How about if I apply the same analogy to your kids?

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

Best leave out the threats there Skooboy, I doubt your colleagues in 'law enforcement' would approve!

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Ease up there Skooboy. It's a common American phrase. Sure it's dated and lost it's association from the meaning of the words. If you skin and cook a cat, you'd be Chinese. If you skin and cook your children you'd be a Cannibal and a murderer. I'm not saying that it's right. I'm all for animal rights but here in America many people do not respect animals that are not their own pets. My friend calls his own dog "The emergency food supply". It's a joke, and it's funny.

spage
spage

The law of meetings says: the number of people in a meeting is inversely proportional to the amount of work that gets done. I propose a new "Law of Blogs" which this blog definitely proves: The more replies to a blog post, the more likely it will devolve into stupid commentary, flame wars, and trolling.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

So will you show me how to do it. About the best way to get rid of the kids easily if you ask me. ;) Col

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

This article is very vague and filled with generalizations. Each situation is unique. Do not approach every problem thinking that you know the solution before a proper asessment.

b4real
b4real

I'm wanting people to populate examples where they have tool A that performs function 1; yet have to decide whether tool A works "THE BEST" for all platforms. I can give examples, like how to back up a virtual machine compared to a physical machine. Use the same tool for both; or the best tool for each.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford like.author.displayName 1 Like

...which can be summed up as "There is more than one way to skin a cat". Right, but, umm, we already know that...?

ric0
ric0

These 2 rule are non exclusive. A generic good-enough tool can be the best tool if "best" means to have just one tool. More generic IT staff can do most daily things with a good enough tool, while the experts use the specialist tools to dig into the dark matter. "Best" is subjective and dynamic.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

...master of none applies to software as well. All-in-one systems are very rarely the best, the only time I can think that they are suitable is when used by less experienced staff who need everything in one place or with a common interface. Dameware is a good example of this. They can be expensive too. But a good engineer/tech will know the proper way to manage each system, and that is generally either via its command line or specialist tools. If anyone can recommend a free all-in-one which manages everything better than the myriad of tools I currently have to use then let me know.

spage
spage like.author.displayName 1 Like

One of the problems with "swiss army knife" solutions is complexity. IT admins already have too many things occupying too much mental space, so simplicity should always be the goal. Remembering each of the multiple facets, switches, etc of a complex all-in-one tool can be exhausting if not frustrating. Arguing on the behalf of simplicity, I prefer a "right tool for the job" methodology that keeps mental and physical organization the highest priority. There are fringe benefits too: single-purpose tools are often more effective. thoughts?

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