Hardware

The well-stocked sysadmin toolkit

Jerry Smith shares the main components of his daily toolkit as a sysadmin, including an everyday office supply that doubles as a go-to support tool. Is there anything unusual in your kit?

While we systems administrators are running from server room to data center and back again saving the world, we never leave without our trusty IT toolkit. Today we're going to take a look at what a typical systems administrator carries in his or her backpack on a daily basis. These are tools we simply cannot live without. In the comments section add your own must-haves, especially if you have something obscure or unconventional.

#1 Laptop

The 15" Macbook Pro is my undisputed weapon of choice. This isn't a Mac vs. PC article so whatever laptop you carry is fine. The longer the battery lasts the better and an additional power supply is definitely a must have.

#2 Backpack

To carry your arsenal of IT goodness a backpack is in order. I use a Swiss Army pack that can be picked up at a local retailer for around $50-70. It has adjustable straps and is large enough for your laptop and all of your gear plus your tablet of choice.

#3 Smartphone

A smartphone is as much of a necessity as your laptop today. You can surf the web for a quick fix, call for support, listen to music, and take notes. The camera can be used for those hard-to-see areas in your server rack and you can install a flashlight app for those dark corners. Perhaps most importantly, your phone can be used as a mobile hotspot if all network connectivity is down. (Be sure to carry a spare charger and earbuds.) I personally carry the iPhone 4 but as noted with the laptop, other flavors of smartphone are all welcome in this discussion.

#4 Serial to USB

As laptops evolved over the years one of the items that didn't make the design cut was the serial port. To overcome this, many IT departments keep an old laptop lying around just for configuring switches, routers, and firewalls. I carry this keyspan serial to usb converter and it seems to do the job fine.

#5 USB Drive

Just about everyone today carries a USB drive with them. This is a 32GB Sandisk that has encryption software for things you don't want others to see. The large capacity means plenty of storage space for drivers, anti-malware utilities, even entire operating systems.

#6 Toolkit

A screwdriver is an absolute must, and until laptops, servers, switches and racks all use the same screw, a multidriver is required. This kit is perfect for mobility as it's only about 6"x4" and less than an inch thick.

Other tools not pictured
  • Cables- I don't go crazy with these but I do carry an ethernet cable and a small variety of USB cables.
  • Notepad and pencil- tried and true and always useful.
  • Dropbox or Box.net- you can keep files there and access them anywhere with an internet connection. Also perfect for sending links for others to download patches and hotfixes.
  • Ninite- this one-stop-shop for common downloads is the best thing since sliced bread; in one download you can get antivirus, iTunes, OpenOffice, and a host of other free utilities.
#7 Rubber bands

I always keep a handful of rubber bands in my kit to keep things organized and many times the rubber band has been the most important tool I carry. How's that you ask? How many times have you been replacing a hard disk in a server only to find the head of the screw is stripping? The fix? Place a wide rubber band between the screwdriver and the screw and the rubber band will fill in the stripped area. Try it and you can thank me later.

What's in your toolkit? Have you replaced your laptop completely with a tablet? If so, which one? What are your favorite odd-ball "tools" that you carry?

About

Jerry Smith is an IT Pro with over 15 years experience. He currently is a Systems Engineer for a leading SaaS firm in Birmingham, AL.

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