The network manager's (free) toolkit
10 great free downloads for your network.
By Preston Gralla, Computerworld (US online) | Computerworld US | Published: 01:00, 14 February 2008
Designing a network, or keeping a clear record of one you already have, can be an exceedingly frustrating task. Most drawing programs don't have adequate tools for creating network diagrams. And as for pencil and paper, the less said about them, the better.
If you're looking for a tool to help you design your network or keep visual track of one you already have, you'll want to get Network Notepad. With it, you can design your network and draw schematics that are more than flat documents -- they're live and include links so that you could, for example, Telnet into any device on your network just by clicking on a button on the diagram.
It comes with a palette of icons for routers, servers, printers, boxes, hubs, modems and other network devices. To design your network, choose graphics from the palette and drag them onto your diagram, and connect the devices using a set of drawing tools. You then define the properties of each device such as giving them names and IP addresses. You can also import a host file, and Network Notepad will automatically populate the devices with the right IP addresses.
You can also program five buttons to launch programs when a device is clicked upon that will then act on the device. So you could click on a device to ping it, for example. Your diagram becomes a live, interactive drawing.
This little free utility is a great way to get a quick list of all the devices connected to your network, listed by IP address, along with information about each. It does a lightning-fast scan of all IP addresses in a range that you specify, then specifies whether a device is present at each address. For each device, it lists the status, the machine name, NetBIOS information, ping information and MAC address.
The program will do more than just scan your network. It also gives you a set of tools that lets you shut down PCs remotely, use the "Wake on LAN" feature for any PC whose network card supports that capability, and connect to remote PCs via RAdmin, if it's installed. You can also apply some operations, such as shutting down remote PCs, to a group of computers, not just individual ones.
Here's the Swiss Army Knife of network utilities, and you won't have to pay a penny for it. This freebie puts a whole suite of tools at your fingertips, including ones for conducting ports scans, DNS lookups and pings, and scanning for network shares, checking on routing tables and more.
The security modules are especially useful for quick-and-dirty network scans. There's a network port scanner that can scan all computers on your network and report on their open ports, and a share scanner that reports on all the shared drives on your network.
The information modules are also useful. With them, you can examine your routing table and add and delete entries in it. You can also find out what IP addresses are available to be assigned on your network. Other modules do advanced DNS lookups, let you view all the network adapters connected to computers on the network and add and remove their IP addresses, and more.
Want to know if your servers are up and running? Then get this utility that will monitor whether your servers are alive and, if they're not, take a variety of actions that you can choose. At a specified interval, it will check your servers to see if they're still running. You can also check the servers manually at any time.
You can also tell the program to take a variety of actions when it identifies a problem server, including sending an e-mail, rebooting the machine, starting a service, playing a sound or running a command. It can also play a sound or run a command when the server is running.
Be aware that it can be a bit confusing setting up the program to monitor a server. If you're going to monitor a server via TCP/IP, when you add a new server to monitor, make sure to click the Options tab and type in the TCP port you want to monitor. If you don't, you'll get an error message.