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What’s better than a cool tool that makes being a network
administrator easier? Most IT pros have a collection of
favorite tools and utilities they keep in their “toolkits”—I’m
sure you have your own list of personal favorites.
But how many of these favorites are Cisco tools? It might
surprise you how many Cisco tools are available on the Internet, and they’re
there to make life easier for Cisco network admins.
In my opinion, too many network admins spend too much time
hacking away at the text-based IOS console, never considering what’s available
to help them sit back and relax. I know this because I’ve been one of them. While
there is certainly great value in learning all you can about the Cisco IOS,
once you’re comfortable with it, you should consider some automation.
In this spirit, this week I want to share my three favorite
Cisco admin tools. You can download all three tools from the Internet, and they’re
relatively inexpensive. Of course, you can find plenty of tools that cost a few
hundred or thousand dollars, but these tools often contain hundreds of features
that you pay for but never use.
But before we get started, a few disclaimers: You might be wondering
if this is a complete review of all available Cisco administration tools. The
answer is no. I have only run across a few tools that have really made my life
After you read about my recommendations, share yours in this
article’s discussion. Tell me and your peers which Cisco tools have made your
life easier. But first, let’s take a look at the top three Cisco administration
tools I use on a daily basis.
1. WinAgents IOS Config Editor
The WinAgents IOS
Config Editor is useful for a number of things. It’s a TFTP server, a Syslog
server, and a configuration editor. What you don’t realize until you use it is
how helpful it is in managing and archiving changes to a router’s
An enterprise router’s configuration can easily be hundreds
of lines long, and modifying a 50-line ACL can be very confusing. Most programmers
editing a large program would prefer using a dedicated tool instead of Windows Notepad,
even though Notepad would work adequately.
The same example applies to editing large router
configurations. You could use Windows Notepad, but the better tool for the job
would be the IOS Config Editor.
With the IOS Config Editor, after you’ve edited the configuration,
the movement of configuration files from your PC to the router occurs in
seconds. In addition, the IOS Config Editor can automatically back up your
Cisco IOS configuration files and archive them. And remember: It’s never a bad thing
to have a backup.
A single license for the IOS Config Editor costs $99. It’s
not pocket change, but it’s a reasonable price to make editing huge router
configurations easier, not to mention automating router backups.
Click the Figure A thumbnail to see a sample
screenshot of the IOS Config Editor.
2. Kiwi Syslog Daemon
Many of you are probably already familiar with a Syslog
server. In case you’re not, a Syslog server is a program that runs and gathers
event logs from multiple devices. The WinAgents IOS Config Editor comes with a Syslog
server, but it’s really only effective for a small number of devices.
But if you have more than a few devices, I recommend the Kiwi Syslog Daemon. While
you can download the freeware version, it (obviously) has less to offer than
the licensed version. For one, the freeware version doesn’t separate each
different device into a separate file. In my opinion, this ability is the best
benefit offered by the full, licensed version.
Other benefits of the licensed version include the ability
to send e-mail or SMS alerts when certain types of events occur, when event
logs reach certain sizes, or when it reaches a threshold of events in a given
time period. You can purchase the licensed version of Kiwi Syslog Daemon for
$99 for a single license.
I’ve set up Kiwi Syslog Daemon to have a separate file, for
each day, for every router and switch on my network. This way, I have a history
of all types of router and switch events. It runs as a service on a server, and—even
if the machine reboots—the service always comes back up.
Click the Figure B thumbnail to see a
sample screenshot of Kiwi Syslog Daemon.
The Paessler Router Traffic
Grapher (PRTG) is a simple Windows-based traffic graphing program. It uses
SNMP to collect stats from routers and then graphs those statistics.
I use this tool daily to graph my Internet and frame-relay
networks. Of course, this isn’t a Cisco-specific tool per se; however, it’s a
tool that I would not be without when managing any network.
If you only want to monitor one router (or sensor, as they
call it), you can download the Freeware Edition of PRTG. Or, for about $50, you
can purchase the Professional Edition, which allows you to monitor up to 25
I use PRTG to monitor two Internet circuits and one
frame-relay circuit, and I also monitor circuits on other routers as needed. It
also comes with a built-in Web server if you want to share your traffic stats
And no, it isn’t a true network analysis program—if your
circuit maxes out, you’ll need to use another tool to find out why. However, this
tool is great for quickly glancing at your bandwidth utilization on multiple
circuits, routers, and interfaces. I look at it daily—and usually smile,
knowing that the network is “humming along” just fine. For more
information about PRTG, check out “PRTG makes
it easy to monitor bandwidth.”
Click the Figure C thumbnail to see a
sample screenshot of PRTG.
David Davis has worked
in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including
CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of
systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and
performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.