Last year, I wrote an article about compiling the ultimate list of Cisco administration tools ("What's the best Cisco router configuration and management tool?"). I listed what I thought were some of the best tools out there, and TechRepublic members chimed in with a ton of comments and recommendations.
Like most of you, I love finding new tools that help me manage and troubleshoot routers. But what if you had to choose just one network management and troubleshooting tool? Do you think there's one tool out there that's really "best of breed"? If there is, I think I may have found it.
Meet PacketTrap pt360 Tool Suite
In my opinion, it's difficult to find a strong "all-in-one" tool that really can provide all the router management and troubleshooting help you need. Recently, I discovered the pt360 Tool Suite from PacketTrap, which offers both a free version and a professional version that's currently in beta.
This tool suite is a one-stop shop for router management and troubleshooting. Here are some of the things this tool can do for you:
- Ping Scan
- Graphical Ping
- DNS Audit
- Port Scan
- MAC Scan
- SNMP Scan
- Trace Route
- TFTP Server
- Traffic Jam
- Cisco Configuration Management Editor
These are tools any network administrator needs for general network troubleshooting. However, this tool suite also offers some specific help for Cisco administrators in its free public beta of the professional version.
- It includes a centralized repository for Cisco router configuration, allowing you to edit, upload, and download IOS configuration files.
- The Router Configuration Editor displays router configurations and automatically compares the running to the startup configuration, color-coding the results.
- It can decrypt any type-7 router password.
- You can use it to upload or download router configurations as long as you have the SNMP community strings or Telnet passwords with the proper permissions.
In addition, while not Cisco-specific, all of the other tools are very necessary for any administrator troubleshooting a network. For example, if you received a complaint that a remote Cisco WAN connection is running slow, you could use the Graphical Ping feature to graph the response of the LAN interface on that router, as shown in Figure B.
Five things that make the pt360 Tool Suite stand out
So what sets the pt360 Tool Suite apart from the myriad tools out there?
1. The name pt360 comes from the idea that the tool offers a 360-degree view of your network. But it also means that you have all the tools in one place. That means you don't have to download and learn so many different tools, and you don't have to worry about buying multiple tools, updating multiple tools, or copying and pasting from one tool to another.2. The pt360 Tool Suite lets you define "device groups" and use those groups throughout every tool in the suite. For example, let's say you created a device group called "all routers" on your network. You could then do a Ping Scan on all routers, all at once, just by selecting that group and clicking Run, as shown in Figure C.
This is a definite timesaver. In fact, I've saved every manually entered DNS name or IP address so I can quickly use these tools on any of the devices I've used them on in the past.3. As you can see in Figure C above, no longer do you have to be "single-threaded." There are tabs across the top of the interface, and you can allocate different tabs to perform different tasks and then change back and forth between the tabs. In addition, you can create a dashboard, as shown in Figure D.
5. I know many of you out there don't have the luxury of specializing only in network administration and must also do some server administration. With pt360, you can monitor your servers and network devices from the same interface, using the same dashboard console.
6. PacketTrap is big on community involvement. The top of every page of the application includes a Give Feedback link, and they really listen. In fact, the first time I saw pt360, it didn't offer any Cisco administration tools; the company added them in the latest version because of demand from its current user base.
Download the free version
Want to try out this new tool for yourself? We've got it right here on our site. Download it from TechRepublic, and give it a whirl.
At the end of the month, PacketTrap plans to release a non-beta professional version of pt360, which will include some more advanced features such as network mapping, discovering, inventory management, Windows Active Directory monitoring, and the Cisco Configuration Editor. While this version will cost money, the free version will still be available.
In my opinion, pt360 is a great all-in-one tool for both Cisco network management and more general troubleshooting.
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