13 free tools ease IT management

13 free tools ease IT management

Freeware, open source applications tackle configuration, NetFlow, patch, storage, security and systems management

Finding the perfect tool to relieve a pain point or fill a gap can be invaluable to network managers. When the tool is free? Even better.

Freeware applications can be a simple utility such as Ping or a more complex set of tools that address many facets of IT management, such as the open source network management software Nagios. In both cases, the tools are free and the benefits are plenty. Tristan Rhodes, network engineer at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, authors a blog on the topic of open source software and supports such free tools for both philosophical and practical reasons.

"I am an advocate for open source software, and I am a network engineer who needs tools," he says. "We use a large number of open source network management and security tools."

Here we've compiled some favorite free software finds that have proven to ease IT management at no cost to their users.

1. FastSCP

This freeware application, introduced in 2006 by virtual systems management Veeam, promises to provide file management capabilities for VMware ESX Server users.

Downloaded more than 12,000 times to date, FastSCP (Fast and Secure Copy) enables IT managers to transfer files between ESX Server and Windows machines, without reconfiguring the ESX Server, Veeam executives say. The company also offers commercial applications but built this freeware tool based on its previous experience with Windows file management products at Aelita Software, which was acquired in 2004 by Quest Software.

Mark Devlin, virtualization consultant at Auracom Technologies in Perth, Australia, says he uses the application because it saves a lot of time and costs nothing.

"FastSCP was the only product that was there at the very beginning of the ESX 3.x release that augments fast data transfer from disparate operating system infrastructure such as Windows to VMware ESX and back," Devlin says. "It greatly reduces downtime by expediting transfer of large contiguous files and provides file system visibility into both Windows and VMware ESX infrastructure."

2. Leaf

Leaf Networks' free software of the same name is a networking platform said to resemble an instant messenger or Skype client, which works to enable network and device sharing between an individual's home office and work PCs, for example, or among several individuals.

For Ryan O'Connell, a freelance software engineer, the application helps him stay connected and in touch regardless of location. "I was looking for a way to stay connected to my home network when I was on the go," he says.

O'Connell says the software works like a messenger application in which individuals can invite others to join the network from an easy-to-use interface after downloading and installing the application. The user interface allowed him to select what he wanted to share and with whom, and Leaf makes it simple for other less-savvy users to join his network.

"It can be used like a VPN or FTP server by users that do not know the first thing about setting those servers up," he explains.

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