Do more. Do more and do it better. Do more and do it better and faster. And do all that more securely.
When JumpCloud CEO Rajat Bhargava first published this list back in March 2020, he had no idea how much the need for specialized tools would change in the next few days/weeks/months. And now it’s 2 years later and, oh Toto, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. We’re living and working in a complicated time that requires complex and powerful tools in order to effectively support a remote or hybrid workforce.
The folks who do the tech work have big tools for the most part; tools that manage IAM, IDP, SSO, MDM, and all the other acronyms. And those big tools are great for the big jobs. You know what they say about a hammer — if that’s all you have, everything is a nail. But sometimes you just need a special tool for a special job, sometimes you need that P5 pentalobe screwdriver. Likewise, in IT administration we sometimes need a one-off tool. And when it’s a one-off, you want it to be free. Or at least cheap. Or so spectacular that it’s worth a little more cheddar.
With the right tools, you may still have a lot of work on your plate — but with much less stress.
Most of the tools in my list are multi-platform or platform agnostic. Some of my tried and true selections are Mac-only because that’s the world I lived in. Over in our community we’ll be taking nominations for other amazing apps that help you work smarter, not harder.
“GitHub is a code hosting platform for version control and collaboration. It lets you and others work together on projects from anywhere.” Repositories can contain code, pictures, files, folders…pretty much anything your project might need.
Projects can be downloaded, or pulled, and those pulled projects can be modified and reuploaded, creating branches of the original project. Completed projects can be offered for public download by the originator. GitHub is a must-have tool for IT professionals who write apps, scripts, and workflows.
Vim is a powerful code editor that’s like vi on ‘roids (my favorite “extra” is unlimited undos). It comes natively on Mac and Linux. While Windows doesn’t have it installed by default, the vim supporting organization does have an executable file available for download.
When What’sApp was bought by Facebook, users scrambled to find a secure messaging app. Signal caught the attention of security-seeking users fairly quickly.
Signal uses end-to-end encryption, encoding the sender’s messages. This encryption means that if all conversant parties are using Signal, nobody outside of your conversation can view your messages – not Signal, not your phone company, not the government. Additionally, Signal collects nearly zero data on its customers.
Slack is a free (or freemium) collaboration and communication tool. Create channels (chat rooms, if you will), send private messages, and share files with your cohort. Depending on the level of service, you can have one-to-many audio or video conversations (called huddles). With all levels your data is encrypted in transit and at rest, but more advanced security features are available in paid versions.
File and Folders
While not free, DeltaWalker might be my favorite tool of all time. Probably because I’m a data hoarder. DW will compare files and/or folders and then will sync them to your preference. If you or your clients tend to make copies of files and leave them strewn about the computers or servers, you need this tool. If you’re migrating files to a new location (say, from an on-prem server to a cloud service), you need this tool. It runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux and has proved its worth to me and to my clients countless times.
BBEdit is a free-forever text editing tool (really it’s more of a freemium model). With this you can write (think documentation), edit HTML, manipulate source code, and a host of other features. It has powerful text transformations and lets you search and replace across multiple documents at once. My favorite feature is the ability to compare two text files. It has spell check and it has a command to zap gremlins. There’s actually nothing in this app that isn’t amazing, really. It is only available for Mac.
For folks who still use FTP, the open source FileZilla supports FTP, SFTP, and FTPS. For more advanced features, they offer FileZilla Pro for a small fee (under $20). The Pro version allows transfer to Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Box, Dropbox, Google Cloud, Google Drive, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint, OpenStack Swift and WebDAV.
Wireshark is the creme de la creme of network analyzers. Beginning with a general overview of your network, you can drill down to see more detailed information in order to discover the root cause of network problems. Packet sniffing is a breeze with this comprehensive tool. For IT Admins who find themselves having to defend encryption and SSO, a quick demonstration using Wireshark’s packet sniffing will show your user how easy it is to discover their unencrypted password. There are good reasons that ethical hackers use Wireshark when working with target networks. Wireshark can make you a company hero.
PuTTY is a free SSH and telnet client for Windows. PuTTy offers command-line SCP and SFTP clients, enabling you to transfer files securely. And it offers the ability to automate processes remotely using its command line utility Plink.
Netspot is a Professional WiFi site survey, network planning, and troubleshooting app for macOS, Windows, and Android. To quote their site: “[Netspot] collects every detail about surrounding Wi-Fi networks and presents wireless data as an interactive table. It lets you troubleshoot and improve your network’s coverage, capacity, performance, APs configurations, signal level, interference, noise, etc.” They have free and paid versions. If you find you need more than the free version offers, Netspot is a very reasonably-priced tool for all that it does.
At just $14.99, iStumbler is gold for checking out your wifi network. It provides information about nearby Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth devices, Bonjour services and their locations. It boasts a spectrum analyzer, geo-locator, detailed logging, and a terrific UI. Made for Mac only,
NMap is an open source tool used to discover which hosts and services are being used on a network. Nmap provides a number of features for probing computer networks, including host discovery, service discovery, and operating system detection.
pfSense is an open source firewall that has a free and paid-for option. The software is supported on many gateway appliances as well as in the cloud. It’s based on FreeBSD and has a web interface and is as full-featured as most commercial firewalls and more powerful than many.
If you don’t have compression software built into your OS, 7zip is a free and open source compression software that is fully featured. It supports all the common formats, uses AES-256 encryption, has a stunning compression ratio, and is localized to 87 languages. P7zip is the port for Linux.
https://sitereport.netcraft.com/ – Find out the infrastructure and technologies that a company is using for their website.
https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ – not sure why you can’t reach a site? This tool lets you know if it’s everyone or just you.
https://mxtoolbox.com/ – I may be partial to this site because, well, I am @alwaysdns. This site will help you discover if your MX records are set up correctly, if you’re blacklisted and with whom and why, and other various things a good DNS tech needs to know.
What’s Your Favorite IT Tool?
Thank you for taking the time to read this list. We hope it saves you time in the long run. Let us know which tools we got right and which ones we missed on Facebook, Twitter, or the JumpCloud Lounge on Slack.
For more expert advice on maintaining IT control in an era of increasingly decentralized business, scope out our free IT Admin Toolkit!