I’ve worked as an IT administrator on the front line for many years now, and have assembled a nice collection of tried and tested software and hardware tools that allow me to do my job more effectively.
At least 95% of an MSP’s support work is done remotely using a selection of great tools to manage and remotely control our clients’ PCs. Let’s take a quick look at the tools that are essential in the daily work of all helpdesk and field technicians.
1/ Helpdesk management tools
- RMM (Remote Management and Monitoring) In the office, the helpdesk team will use a solid RMM tool to manage all the desktops and servers you support. This allows you to monitor the status of backups and hard drives, manage patches and antivirus, and to connect remotely to endpoints with minimum effort.
- Service Desk Technicians will need to manage user requests and track progress, schedule onsite visits, and keep abreast of regular maintenance, so a ticketing system is essential.
- Documentation The helpdesk team requires a robust documentation system, and preferably one that manages passwords and integrates sharable work instructions that can be sent to clients.
2/ Field Technicians
Sometimes we need to jump in the van and get to a site to perform our work. A typical day for field techs will involve visiting various sites to perform maintenance, documentation, OS reloads, memory or hard drive upgrades, new PC installs or troubleshooting dodgy internet connections, and cleansing badly infected PCs.
Much of our work is scheduled, meaning you can prepare in advance and gather all the equipment and tools you need. Sometimes though—and quite often after hours—we don’t have that luxury and need to get onsite to resolve a non-booting server or something worse, with no notice.
I once had to drive two hours at two in the morning because water was leaking from the ceiling of the server room, slowly filling up the servers with water; no joke! You just can’t prepare for everything, which is why having a grab bag or toolbox filled with a selection of tools is essential to be successful.
If you can avoid having to return to a site by having the right tools and equipment ready and waiting to use, you will save the client money and time, and you will be more profitable.
Are you looking to build the ultimate admin tool kit? Let’s look at the trusted setup that each of our engineers use daily. You can get a little carried away with tools, and there’s only so much you can carry around with you, so we divide our tools into the following categories: Software; Laptop bag; and Toolbox.
Over time, every admin accumulates their own set of software tools that they use on a daily and weekly basis. This is a selection of the tools that I use. I carry some around with me and others, like the antivirus tools, I download from the vendor’s websites as needed.
Operating system ISO images—Of all the software I carry on by USB drive, I use these the most. If you need to boot up into recovery mode or simply reinstall a PC, you must have all of the usual suspects downloaded in ISO format and ready to burn to a CD. Most MSPs will have some sort of MSDN subscription. If not, use Heidoc to download common ISO images of Windows and Office directly from Microsoft. Always carry ISO images of server OSs—everything from Server 2003 Standard and SBS to Server 2016.
Network Scanner—You will need to scan a network to find a device’s IP at some point, and Softperfect’s network scanning tool is brilliant. Unfortunately, it’s recently gone from a free product to a paid product, but it’s well worth it.
Antivirus, Malware and Adware removal tools—I love these tools, they are quick to download and install, and they all do an amazing job:
- Bit Defender Toolbox—A selection of free antivirus tools for Windows and Mac.
- Malware Bytes—A tried and tested malware removal tool.
- Malware Bytes ADW Cleaner—A recent addition that removes pesky adware.
- Process Explorer—Microsoft’s tool for viewing open files is great for troubleshooting difficult to remove infections.
Hard Drive cloning—If a user wants to upgrade to a larger hard drive, and you don’t want the hassle of reloading all the software, then Clonezilla is one of my favourites. Just select the source and target hard drives, and sit back.
Password Reset tool—I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve had to use this password reset tool—NT Password Reset. You can boot from CD or USB drive, and reset any Windows local user or administrator password.
• Laptop bag
I always carry my trusty screwdriver around with me in my laptop bag, as well as a USB drive, a few cage nuts, and cable ties. If a job requires anything else, then I resort to the toolbox.
Field technicians will always have the essentials listed above with them, but they need a lot more equipment to cover most jobs. Here’s a list of equipment we carry in the back of our vans. Everything is organized in a rolling, portable tool box that can be stored in the van, making it easy to transport and to find what you need.
- Selection of screwdrivers and torx drivers
- Portable labeler
- USB keyboard and mouse
- Cable/fabric ties
- 1TB USB hard disk drive
- Hard disk to USB adapter
- Pre made OS DVDs
- USB DVD RW drive
- Selection of blank DVDs and CDs
- Cage nuts and screws
- Can of compressed air
- Crimping tool
- Punch down tool
- Tone and probe kit
- Network cable tester
- RJ45 connectors
- Spool of network cable
- Network cables of various lengths
- BT extension cables
- ADSL filters
- Wireless VDSL router
- RJ11 cables
- RJ11 to RJ45 cables
You can’t carry every tool you will need, but having a comprehensive selection of tools is essential for any field technician. It’s worth it, as you will save time and money—getting more done in a single visit and avoiding a return trip.