Network Administration: Software Tools - dummies

Network Administration: Software Tools

Network administrators need certain tools to get their jobs done. Administrators of big, complicated, and expensive networks need big, complicated, and expensive tools. Administrators of small networks need small tools.

Some of the tools that the administrator needs are hardware tools, such as screwdrivers, cable crimpers, and hammers. The tools that I’m talking about here, however, are software tools. Here’s a sampling of the tools you’ll need:

  • A diagramming tool: A diagramming tool lets you draw pictures of your network. Microsoft sells a program called Visio that’s specially designed for the types of diagrams you’ll want to make as a network administrator.

  • A network discovery program: For larger networks, you may want to invest in a network discovery program such as NetworkView that can automatically document your network’s structure for you. These programs scan the network carefully, looking for computers, printers, routers, and other devices. They then create a database of the network components, draw diagrams for you, and chug out helpful reports.

  • The network’s built-in tools: Many of the software tools that you need to manage a network come with the network itself. As the network administrator, you should read through the manuals that come with your network software to see what management tools are available.

    For example, Windows includes a net diag command that you can use to make sure that all the computers on a network can communicate with each other. (You can run net diag from an MS-DOS prompt.) For TCP/IP networks, you can use the TCP/IP diagnostic commands.

TCP/IP Diagnostic Commands
Command What It Does
arp Displays address resolution information used by the Address
Resolution Protocol (ARP).
hostname Displays your computer’s host name.
ipconfig Displays current TCP/IP settings.
nbtstat Displays the status of NetBIOS over TCP/IP connections.
netstat Displays statistics for TCP/IP.
nslookup Displays DNS information.
ping Verifies that a specified computer can be reached.
route Displays the PC’s routing tables.
tracert Displays the route from your computer to a specified host.
  • System Information: The System Information program that comes with Windows is a useful utility for network managers.

  • Hotfix Checker: Another handy tool available from Microsoft is the Hotfix Checker, which scans your computers to see what patches need to be applied. You can download the Hotfix Checker free of charge from Microsoft’s website. Just go to Microsoft and search for hfnetchk.exe.

  • Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer: If you prefer GUI-based tools, check out Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer. You can download it from Microsoft’s website free of charge. To find it, go to Microsoft and search for Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer.

  • A utility program: Get one of those 100-in-1 utility programs, such as Symantec’s Norton Utilities. Norton Utilities includes invaluable utilities for repairing damaged hard drives, rearranging the directory structure of your hard drive, gathering information about your computer and its equipment, and so on.

    Never use a hard drive repair program that wasn’t designed to work with the operating system or version that your computer uses or the file system you’ve installed. Any time that you upgrade to a newer version of your operating system, you should also upgrade your hard drive repair programs to a version that supports the new operating system version.

  • A protocol analyzer: A protocol analyzer is a program that’s designed to monitor and log the individual packets that travel along your network. (Protocol analyzers are also called packet sniffers.) You can configure the protocol analyzer to filter specific types of packets, watch for specific types of problems, and provide statistical analysis of the captured packets.

    Most network administrators agree that Sniffer, by Network General, is the best protocol analyzer available. However, it’s also one of the most expensive. If you prefer a free alternative, check out Ethereal, which you can download free from Ethereal.

  • Network Monitor: All current versions of Windows include a program called Network Monitor that provides basic protocol analysis and can often help solve pesky network problems.