10 Free Server Tools Your Organization Needs

Wednesday Nov 24th 2010 by Kenneth Hess

Got tools? Add these valuable and free server tools to your toolbox to make your computers, network and wallet very happy.

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This list of 10 free, essential tools is an amalgam of tools for all sizes of companies and networks. The range of tools covered here are generally cross-platform (i.e., they run on multiple OSes) but all are extremely useful to the system administrator, network administrator and first-level support personnel. While all of these tools are free to download and use in your network without payment of any kind to their developers or maintainers, not all are open source. The 10 essential tools listed here, in no particular order, are from various sources and represent the very best in tools currently used in large and small enterprises alike.

1. PSTools

PSTools is a suite of useful command-line Windows tools that IT professionals consider essential to survival in a Windows-infested network. It provides automation tools that have no rival. There is no greater free toolset for Windows available anywhere. Microsoft provides this suite free of charge. If it's not part of your Windows diagnostic and automation arsenal, stop reading and download it now. Be sure to come back and finish the list. You can multitask, can't you?)

2. SharEnum

ShareEnum is an obscure but very useful tool. ShareEnum shows you all file shares on your network. Even better, it shows you their associated security information. This very small (94K) tool might become one of the most valuable and useful security tools that you possess. It is another free tool from Microsoft.

3. Nagios

Nagios is an enterprise infrastructure monitoring suite. It's free, mature and commercially supported. It has grown from a niche software project to a major force in contemporary network management. It's used by such high-profile companies as Citrix, ADP, Domino's Pizza, Wells Fargo, Ericsson and the U.S. Army.

4. Wireshark

If you run a network of any size or topology, Wireshark is a must-have application. It is a network packet capture and analysis program that assists you with your ongoing quest for a trouble-free network. Wireshark won't prevent network problems, but it does allow you to analyze those problems in real time and possibly avoid failure.

5. Apache

The Apache project isn't just a web server. The project, officially known as the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), consists of almost 100 different projects under the Apache umbrella. Yes, the famous and wildly popular HTTP server, Apache, is the project's namesake and mainstay, but it isn't the only nymph in the forest.

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6. IP Plan

IP Plan is a little-known project that has potential in any size environment. It's not a DNS service, but it is a web-based, IP tracking application. The reasoning behind a tool like IP Plan is that DNS tracks systems that are in use. But to whom do you go when an IP address conflict, and how do you know which IP addresses are free to use? You won't -- unless you have a tool like IP Plan. It's easy to use and free. What more could you want?

7. Eclipse

Eclipse is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which you can use to create applications with almost any computer programming language. Eclipse has wide language support, but it is historically viewed as a Java development tool. You can develop Windows applications in this very complete IDE as well as applications for every current operating system.

8. KVM

Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM), now owned and supported by Red Hat, is a free, full virtualization solution. Full virtualization means hardware abstraction enables you to use almost any OS in a virtual machine. Each virtual machine has its own display, network, disk, and BIOS, and it functions like a physical system. You install an OS into a virtual machine just as you would to a physical system. Yes, even Windows.

9. OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org (OO.o) is the free equivalent of Microsoft's popular office suite. OO.o sports a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, database and more. It is compatible with Microsoft Office and can use or export in almost every imaginable file format. OpenOffice.org is not only easy on the wallet (free), but it's also the darling of IBM, which has created its own derivative: Lotus Smartsuite.

10. Webmin

Webmin, for the unitiated, is the ultimate lazy system administrator tool. It's a web-based interface to your UNIX or Linux system that covers almost every configurable aspect of the system and any add-on program you can ponder. You can't rely on it for 100 percent of your system administration tasks, but you can probably use it for 99 percent of them.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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