The Essential Toolkit for the Networking Novice
These four free, open-source tools are essential for anyone new to the work of enterprise network optimization.
As your business grows, your network is bound to grow with it. But technology often develops at too fast a pace for many companies to effectively manage — and those same companies often find that their existing networking tools simply can’t handle their increasing networking demands.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of free tools that are indispensable to any novice network administrator struggling to support their rapidly advancing IT infrastructures.
These four network management platforms are essential for any network administrator, or alternatively, any small- to mid-sized businesses with no network administrator looking for a DIY networking tutorial. While this list should cover all of your basics and enable you to monitor and manage your network traffic on a budget, the tools we’ve featured also offer some surprisingly advanced features that you can implement as your network and knowledge continues to grow.
As networks get bigger, they naturally become more complex — this can make it nearly impossible to keep track of all your IP addresses. Many organizations use Excel spreadsheets to document their growing network of devices, but this method can quickly become unwieldy. That’s why we recommend turning to TeemIP from Combodo instead.
Using TeemIP is better for a number of reasons: it scales, it provides consistent and comprehensive documentation of your network IP resources, and it’s free. It’s also web-based, so it will run on almost any AMP stack and operating system and on all major internet browsers. Finally, it can integrate external data sources, which makes the transition easy if your company has been relying on spreadsheets.
Once it’s installed and integrated with your data, TeemIP will combine IP address management with a trouble-ticketing system so that admins managing IP addresses and network devices have easy access to their locations, organizations, users, and roles. It can handle IPv4 and IPv6 address registration, subnet and range planning, and capacity tracking and management. And because Combodo regularly rolls out new updates and features, TeemIP is prepared to grow with your enterprise.
2. Kali Linux
Developed by Offensive Security, Kali Linux is a collection of cybersecurity tools available in multiple formats, including “live” versions, hard disk installable versions, and ARM versions. While its installation can require some trial-and-error, as many of its download links are maintained on a best-effort basis, its utility makes it worth the initial time investment.
Because the focus of Kali Linux is security, it will have a minimal impact on your network — that’s to minimize the chances that it will be detected by any malware or cybercriminals running anti-forensics. It also comes with a number of serious security tools pre-installed, including Information Gathering, Vulnerability Analysis, Web Application Analysis, and Password Attacks, allowing you to interrogate your digital assets, discover threats and attacks, test your defenses, and find vulnerabilities — all for free.
Wireshark is a packet-capture and network protocol analyzer that’s suitable for networks up to the scale of mid-sized companies. It’s arguably the best tool that exists for this purpose, beating out a number of commercial platforms. Additionally, installation is easy, and it runs on both Windows and Mac.
Once it’s up and running, Wireshark can help you capture packets on one or more interfaces available on your machine using a capture filter. Once you stop capturing, you can use a display filter to exclude captured packets, enabling you to focus on the traffic that matters to you. It will also color-code exceptions based on severity level, a user-friendly touch that network novices will appreciate.
Any enterprise that’s running a collection of web applications is also going to need multiple servers to deliver them, and that complex environment is going to require a server management tool. We recommend Webmin, a system that assists with the monitoring and management of host systems — and does so impressively well (considering that it’s free).
Webmin runs on over 100 operating systems and is fairly straightforward to install on most platforms. Once it’s installed, you can access the Webmin configuration module, from which you can manage all other modules in your network. It also allows for a huge range of add-on features and facilities, but the base installation alone allows you to monitor performance, shut down and restart, create or restore backups of critical system files on demand, and more.
A Swiss Army Knife Networking Tool
While all of these tools are both cost-effective and powerful, they require a steep learning curve for networking novices. During the time you’re spending learning the basics, your enterprise is sacrificing security and efficiency. Even for experienced network administrators, it can be difficult to keep up with the demands of a growing network on your own.
Hiring an in-house IT support team, however, can be cost-prohibitive for many companies — not to mention difficult to assemble. That’s why an experienced cybersecurity and network management partners like Turn-key Technologies (TTI) is a great option for many small- to mid-sized businesses.
Offering both efficiency and expertise for your business — something a DIY solution simply can’t replicate — TTI has the IT industry veterans on staff to help your flourishing business continue to grow.
By Tony Ridzyowski