Running your school system's network is no easy task. And having the right tools for the job can make all the difference. As IT admins, you’re having to balance the needs of the school networks, the students’ digital learning platforms, and your teachers’ needs for tech support. The situation can be challenging, but the right tools can make it more manageable. Here are 20 useful tools for communicating, testing, and troubleshooting so you can keep your system running without a hitch.
WireShark is a widely used network traffic monitoring tool that lets you examine the activity on your network at a granular level. Because it works across platforms, it's great for monitoring activity on the Mac OS X, Windows, and even Linux systems in your network.
WireShark offers outstanding filtration capabilities, enabling you to monitor the state of the network and track issues that arise over time. And its outstanding traffic monitoring capabilities make it one of the most popular Windows sysadmin tools—not just in education, but in many other industries as well.
Microsoft Message Analyzer
If you're looking for a great complement to WireShark, Microsoft's Message Analyzer is the answer. Like WireShark, Message Analyzer can also capture and analyze network traffic. But it goes a step further by enabling you to correlate what every installed application is doing with what's happening on the network.
Message Analyzer can also help you to troubleshoot application issues and network configuration problems, making it a great solution when used alongside WireShark.
Notepad++ is an advanced text editor that earns stellar reviews from system administrators. It's fast and lightweight, making it perfect for working with large files. It is also fully customizable, from the interface to the keyboard shortcuts, so it's terrific when you're working with code.
Advanced features like hotkeys that handle advanced functions, split-screen editing, and custom highlighting of code syntax all make Notepad++ one of the best tools for system administrators.
One of the best free IT tools for cloning disks and individual hard drives is CloneZilla. For school system administrators managing hundreds of laptops, CloneZilla's disk-cloning capabilities make it easy to create a master disk image and push it out to all the target machines. CloneZilla also offers features like single machine backup and restore, as well as massive parallel updates of multiple machines. For school sysadmins managing hundreds of student computers, CloneZilla deserves a spot in your admin toolbox.
Created for system administrators who need to automate the management of operating systems, PowerShell ISE lets you automate tasks with scripts for almost anything you can think of.
PowerShell ISE works and functions just like the command prompt environment, but with add-ons that deliver major enhancements to its functionality. With the Script Browser, you can easily search for scripts to solve problems in PowerShell, and the Script Analyzer analyzes your scripts automatically and identifies ways to improve their effectiveness. PowerShell scripts can help you solve almost any problem you can think of—making it a must-have network admin tool.
With more than 40 tools in six categories, the Sysinternals Suite is essential for getting to the bottom of functionality problems and security breaches on Windows machines.
One of the most popular tools is System Monitor, which adds more detailed information to the Windows event log to improve Windows OS logging functionality. Autoruns, which identifies which tools are starting automatically, is also useful for monitoring system activity. And AccessChk enables you to get an instant look at what kind of access users have to files, tools, and other resources—and prevent security breaches.
RSAT Tools for Windows 10
RSAT—or Remote Server Administration Tools—enables administrators to manage roles and features on Windows Servers remotely. By giving you the capability to handle Windows Server management directly from your workstation, RSAT improves system security. RSAT includes a variety of tools, including Server Manager, Microsoft Management Console, Windows PowerShell cmdlets, and command-line tools to help you manage different roles running on your server. It's a powerful set of tools that makes it easy to manage all of your resources remotely.
Slack may be a surprising addition to the list, but it's actually one of the most popular IT admin tools out there. Slack allows IT teams to collaborate quickly and effectively, enabling you to communicate about network performance and stay on top of issues when things are going wrong. With Slack channels, your team can create dedicated areas to discuss specific topics. And its integrations with tools like Google Drive, DataDog, Asana, and hundreds of other IT and developer tools make it a great way to share resources and keep everyone in the loop.
7-Zip is an open-source file archiver known for its speed and high data compression. It supports zip, rar, Gzip, bzip2, tar, xz, and WIM formats, as well as its own 7z format, which can produce self-extracting archive files. 7-Zip can be run through a GUI or straight from the command line. Its versatility and speed in handling compressed files make it one of the best admin tools to have in your toolbox.
Netwrix Lockout Examiner
In a school environment, it's always a headache when a student or teacher gets locked out of their account. In these situations, Netwrix Account Lockout Examiner can be a lifesaver. It's a freeware tool that notifies system administrators when account lockouts happen and provides a link to details with more information. At that point, IT staff can use Account Lockout Examiner to identify the root cause of the lockout and quickly unlock the user account to get things back up and running. Account Lockout Examiner is an essential tool in a school environment, enabling you to minimize disruptions to learning and help students and teachers get on with their day.
Treesize is a powerful, efficient disk space manager for Windows. Treesize enables you to get detailed analytics on your disk space usage, including visualizations of disk usage as pie or bar charts, tree maps that show hierarchies of folders and subfolders, and statistics about file types and owners throughout your system. Treesize also enables you to track changes between system scans over time and manage disk space remotely from your mobile device.
Every day you're juggling dozens of accounts and software tools—and you know you need a solid password manager to help you keep track of it all. That's where KeePass has your back. KeePass is a free, open-source password manager that can generate strong random passwords and store them securely. KeePass lets you maintain secure passwords for all your accounts without ever writing one down, enabling you to get on with the rest of your work without worrying about a security breach.
FileZilla is a cross-platform lightweight FTP client that enables you to connect to SSH secured hosts, making it useful for administrators and clients who are more comfortable working with a GUI than with the command line interface. The Pro version adds support for cloud storage platforms like Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Cloud Storage, and Microsoft OneDrive. For simple FTP, FileZilla is a great choice.
If you're looking to automate repetitive tasks, Ansible is one of the top network administrator tools to consider. Ansible comes with over 1,300 modules, enabling you to manage system configuration and application deployment quickly and easily right from the command line. It's the simplest way to automate IT provisioning.
Netcat has been described as the "Swiss army knife" of utilities for its ability to support a wide range of commands to monitor network activity. While Netcat shines as a back-end tool for handling anything dealing with sending or receiving port information, it also can be used to transfer files directly and connect to other networked systems.
In education, we often work under tight budget constraints, and that makes Uptime Robot's free website monitoring perfect for education system administrators. With their free plan, you get a ping every five minutes and an instant alert if your site goes down. With an easy-to-use interface that delivers great value, Uptime Robot is one of the best tools for system administrators available today.
DataDog monitors your entire IT infrastructure and all of your applications, and it delivers comprehensive data dashboards. You can get a granular analysis of specific issues, or you can zoom out and get a high-level overview of the big picture.
DataDog can gather logs from all of your services and applications and enable you to visualize log data. It can also deliver alerts on specific events to notify you of performance issues. DataDog is one of the best tools for monitoring your entire infrastructure and visualizing data on system performance.
Process Hacker is a free, open-source task manager. Its advanced features and customizability make it a terrific alternative to the Process Explorer included in the Sysinternals suite. With Process Hacker, you can get a detailed overview of system activity, access analytics on system performance that enable you to identify runaway processes and resource hogs, and edit and control services. Its versatility and functionality make it one of the best Windows admin tools to add to your toolbox.
AMANDA and Zmanda
First developed at the University of Maryland, AMANDA—or Advanced Maryland Automated Network Disk Archiver—is the world's most popular open-source backup and recovery tool. Initially designed to back up network computers to disk drives, its capabilities have expanded over the years to include backup to cloud storage. Today the software's development is supported by Zmanda, which provides a cross-platform Amanda client for backup and recovery.
When you're on the go, sometimes you need to connect to your servers remotely, and PuTTy is perfect for that. It's an open-source Telnet and SSH client and terminal emulator that lets you connect to your servers with a text-based interface. PuTTy offers command-line SCP and SFTP clients, enabling you to transfer files securely. And it offers the ability to automate processes remotely using its command line utility Plink. All in all, PuTTy is one of the best tools for system administrators, especially anyone who's often on the go.
Learn How GoGuardian Can Make Your Day-to-Day Easier
With a suite of tools to help you manage your school system's tech resources, GoGuardian helps make your day easier. GoGuardian’s filtering and monitoring tool provides a single, unified user interface to configure content filtering across your entire system. And with GoGuardian Fleet, you can effortlessly manage your district's entire Chromebook deployment, including distributions, returns, and repairs.
Want to learn more? Take a look and see how GoGuardian can make your day easier!