As a technologist and IT professional who wears several different hats throughout my workday, I typically throw my full support behind any proven technology that can lighten the workload–or at least free up more time so that I can be as productive as possible for myself and my fellow team members.

It is also my core belief that it’s important to work smarter, not harder, as I’ve said many a time. This means leveraging the automated tools available to you to simplify the task, but it also means being able to utilize the non-automated tools to manually resolve an issue when nothing else will do the job.

That’s why, in this age of centralized infrastructure management consoles that make configuring network devices as easy as connecting them to the network and powering them up, someone like me–who spends 80% of their time in an IDF–can appreciate tools that require you to know how to actually connect to a device and configure it manually when automation won’t work. One of the most useful of these tools is PuTTY.

At its core, PuTTY is a Telnet/SSH client (with a bundled in SFTP client as well) that can be used in conjunction with console cables to connect to a device’s console port so you can troubleshoot and reconfigure a device when you need to. As a remote tool, PuTTY can run over a network connection–either encrypted or unencrypted–as well as push firmware updates and configuration changes, just like you could if you were physically connected to the device (Figure A).

Figure A

One of PuTTY’s key features is session management, which allows for the saving and loading of stored configurations that can connect to a variety of devices using multiple settings. For those who have to manage devices across various vendor tiers, this eliminates the need to configure a session for every device (Figure B).

Figure B

Another useful feature, especially when having to service call a device with a vendor, is the collection of extensive logging options that essentially “print” everything you see onscreen to a log file you can send to vendor support for advanced diagnostics (Figure C).

Figure C

PuTTY also supports a number of security algorithms and ciphers to ensure data is encrypted and transmitted securely. This includes the use of private key files, which can be linked to allow for specific security requirements to be met (Figure D and Figure E).

Figure D

Figure E

On the PuTTY SFTP side, the lightweight client supports encrypted connections only and can be used to transfer files to/from devices in addition to remotely downloading and uploading saved configurations and firmware updates over SSH (Figure F).

Figure F

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Other tools?

Do you use any tools similar to PuTTY that help you in your day-to-day? Share your recommendations and experiences in the comment section below.