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.