What's the best Cisco router configuration and management tool?

It's rare to be able to accomplish everything you need using only the Cisco IOS; the reality is that additional tools are necessary. Because of the plethora of tools available, the challenge is selecting the <i>right</i> tools. David Davis is on a mission to compile the ultimate list of Cisco administration tools -- but he needs your help.

When it comes to network monitoring and administration tools, the options are plentiful -- and often overwhelming. Even after a few months of installing recommended tools, I often forget which ones do what and how to use them. And I know I'm not the only one.

In my weekly Cisco Routers and Switches column, I frequently introduce a tool that helps improve and simplify Cisco router and switch management and configuration. I've heard from readers about their own experiences and favorite tools, which has often inspired me to write columns about some of the more handy choices.

But now, I want to create a definitive list of Cisco management tools that should be in every administrator's toolbox, and I need your help. Readers, which tools can't you live without?

Before you answer, let's look at some of the tools I've discussed in the past:

These are all great tools, and there are plenty more out there. For example, what about SolarWinds Engineer's Toolkits and CiscoWorks?

But how many network tools can you really use? How many tools do you have installed that you actually use consistently? The reality is that, while there are many helpful tools available, we often stick to a few tried-and-true picks.

In my case, just after installing a Syslog server (Kiwi), TFTP server (tftpd32), SSH/Telnet client (SecureCRT), network monitoring (WhatsUp), protocol analysis (Wireshark/Ethereal), and network performance tool (PRTG), I'm exhausted. It can be difficult to recall what all the tools were and how they function -- and even more difficult to keep them all up to date with the latest version. In the case of the more complex tools, you may need a class or a large book to learn how to use the tool.

My Start menu is so full of tools that it's beginning to take over my 19-inch monitor when I click Start. Why do I need so many tools?

I can't be the only one overwhelmed by all these tools, and it's time to narrow it down. Here's what I want to know:

  • Which tools do you use every day?
  • What critical tools have I left out of this discussion?
  • Is there a tool that you feel can really "do it all," or is that unrealistic?
  • What's your take on CiscoWorks? Is it the one that really can "do it all"?
  • If you were training a new administrator on managing, configuring, and troubleshooting the network, which three tools would you say to use?

I want to hear from you! Jump into this article's discussion, and weigh in with your thoughts and experiences. It's rare to be able to do everything you need to do on a network using only the Cisco IOS. The reality is that additional tools are necessary. However, because of the plethora of tools available, the challenge is selecting the right tools.

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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.