The perfect system administrator’s toolkit: The Right Tools for the Job?
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By Paul Mah
A good system admin is like a boy scout: always prepared. I’ve put together a list of items that belongs in every system administrator’s survival toolkit.
Read my related blog post.
This is an important tool to have on-hand, especially if working in a corporate environment with multiple LAN points.If you’ve never seen a cable tester before, the two parts can be detached to test spans of cabling by attaching the two parts on the two ends. Individual wires are tested in running sequential order.The more advanced models will allow you to test RJ-11 cables (telephone) too. In fact, I think I believe I have a model featuring a token ring BNC connector somewhere…
I’ve been using this Razer Pro|Click Bluetooth mouse for a couple of months now. Eliminates the need to deal with cables or proprietary RF dongles. I like the Pro|Click due to its higher DPI. I have paired it with my laptop and is brought with me everywhere I go.
Your boss will go “Wow” when you start putting this on. Definitely an essential accessory if you want to impress people. In addition, it also serves a secondary purpose of ensuring that you don’t damage any circuit boards that you touch due to the static electricity built up by trudging reluctantly across the posh carpeted floor. Ok ok, I admit that the actual wrist strap is not reflected in the photo. I realized that only after taking the photos.
Releasable cable ties
Plain old cable ties? Let’s go for the releasable variants instead. Sure, they’re a tad more expensive — but unless you are using them by the dozen, this shouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, most users fail to realize that RELEASABLE cable ties exist. I saw my fair share of my beautiful releasable cable ties being met by Mr. Scissors during my recent server room move. Sob.
Portable hard disk drive
Why would you need a portable hard disk drive? A 4GB or 8GB flash drive should be more than enough, right? Wrong. A 80GB (or bigger) portable hard disk comes in very handy for transfering user files between computers, or for performing a backup before a clean format.
Encrypted USB flash drive
Use your IronKey to store all your important data. The on-board hardware encryption ensure that whatever you store on it remains secure. You’ll need to enter a password before your can access the flash drive. Be warned: ten wrong tries here will zap the encryption key of your Ironkey, rendering the data completely useless.
A standard item that you should bring along. In theory, you can always use the patch cables in your toolkit to replace damaged ones. However, there will be times where it might not be possible to do that, e.g., when there is no proper port.
Hard disk wiper
Check out this stand-alone hard disk wiper. Just plug in target hard disk, and this gadget will ensure that your hard disk is wiped completely clean. No setup menus, or dedicated terminals needed. I’lll be writing more about this tool at the Server and Storage blog soon, so stay tuned.
Hard disk to USB adapter
No matter how much you loathe opening up the dusty innards of a five-year old PC, there are times when you need to do so to get at the hard disk. When that happens, be prepared with the relevant adapter kit to get at whatever type of hard disk the system might contact, be it 3.5″ IDE, 2.5″ IDE or SATA. Not shown here: Power adapters from the full kit.
With so many USB-based peripherals in your toolkit, it would be a shame to be out of USB ports. Just bring along a USB hub to be sure, will you?
RJ11 cable?!?! Well, you never know when you boss might need help with his phone as well. Useful for connecting an analog modem to a wall socket as well. As you might have noticed from the logo, I received mine as a souvenir from them.
Nothing like the feeling of stupidity when you find yourself short of that SINGLE network cable when you need it. Bring at least a couple of them along, with at least another straight-through cable.Color coded ones would be a bonus and certainly look more impressive.
I can hear you asking about the purpose of this tool in my recommendation round-up.Well, your wireless mouse not working? Use this to check if the batteries are flat. Suspect that the AC socket is spoilt? Check using this. Suspect that the PSU is giving out inconsistent voltages as it prepares to conks out for good? Ditto. Mixed up your power adapter for the network switch? I rest my case.
It would be real embarrassing if you find yourself unable to even open the case of a PC or laptop you were trying to fix. Not shown here: various wire cutters and pliers that you might want to put in the bag too.
Nothing like not having adequate power points to make you look silly. Best is to be prepared.
Original disc media
Please bring along bootable ones please if the media is for installing an operating system. CD/DVD disc media is still the most common denominator around. Well, excluding a Macbook Air anyway.
Serial to USB adapter
Because this is so compact, just throw it into the bag as well. Useful to diagnose devices still using the RS-232 serial port with your USB-only laptop. If you laptop still has a serial port, then perhaps it is time to upgrade your laptop.
Experts won’t talk about this. Network administrators want this to be banned. Introducing the RJ-45 extender. So what if it plays electrical havoc with your cabling standards. It works pretty ok — as long as you don’t use too many of these, don’t move them around too much, and of course, keep it a secret from your network administrator. P.S., It has proved a life-saver a few times. Should not be used as a permanent fixture unless absolutely necessary. This does degrade the quality of electrical signal on your network.
If wireless broadband access is available where you live, it would certainly be useful for OOB (out of band) testing of firewall and/or Internet connectivity. Show here is a 3.6mbps HSDPA USB modem.
Read my related blog post.