Often the fix is the easy part of IT support, getting to the cause of the problem quickly is the key to being an effective IT engineer. In this post, I have listed some of my personal favourite tools and tips that can help to save time when supporting clients.
Use the power of the dollar to access any files across your domain network
When needing to move files from machine to machine, rather than messing around with USB disks or predefined network shares, use the PC name, followed by the driver letter, followed by the dollar symbol $ and then the folder you want to browse.
For example: \\PCNAME\c$\Users\Beth\Desktop
Scan your clients internal network using Netscan
When working with network devices, I like to scan my clients network to ensure I have the full picture. What I particular like about SoftPerfect Network Scanner, is its ability to work out the devices manufacturer using the MAC address. Useful tool to have deployed on every clients server that can save you time locating PCs, Servers and Routers etc.
Command Prompt Favourites
Most time you’ll be hitting CMD to do a few network pings, but here are some other useful commands
- ipconfig /all – Display all IP configuration for your local network cards
- Net Session – When on server or PC, show connected users over the network. Ideal way to see if people have logged off when needing to reboot that server at 5pm.
- nslookup – Look up hostname only using the IP address, good for checking DNS configuration.
- Net Server Stat – How long has that server been running for?
- Tracert – Traceroute command displays how traffic is routed through your network
Safe Mode your way out of a problem
Since the days of Windows NT 4, booting into safe mode is one the most common ways to get around viruses, malware, corrupt drivers and Windows updates going haywire. Something I found out recently, was how to do this in Windows 10.
Enable Remote Desktop over the network
Not always straight forward to complete, but has helped me a number of times when a user can’t login and we don’t have our preferred remote support software pre-installed. Only works in domain server environments.
Security Audits with NMAP
This is an open source network scanning tool that allows you to discover hosts and identify services running on them. Excellent tool for working with firewall configurations, security audits and checking internet facing services. Works on all platforms, Apple, Linux and Windows.
This is a two-fold time saving tip, coming up with yet another password for your client, and two hopefully a fun but secure one that they will remember.
- http://makeagoodpassword.com – Fun password phase generator
- http://www.dinopass.com – Fun password generator aimed at kids, we always add an extra capital, numbers or symbols.
Whenever I’m configuring a new PC or server, I like to download and install some of the basics that will more than likely be used by our support team or the end user. Ninite not only downloads a wide range of freeware and open source applications, it also installs them automatically. A business edition is also available, which can integrate with Active Directory.
Remote Monitoring & Management
When we started the company we looked at RMM solutions but didn’t implement any for a number of reasons. We changed that a number of years and wish we’d done it sooner. RMM provide a wealth of information about your client’s devices, that you should arm yourself when supporting them.
Website Testing Tools
When tackling issues with domain names, external DNS, email problems and connectivity issues with Exchange clients, I have used the following sites:-
- https://testconnectivity.microsoft.com – For Exchange and Office 365 issues
- http://mxtoolbox.com – DNS tests, MX Records, Analysing email headers
- https://dnschecker.org – When you made changes to DNS, have they propagated across the internet?
- http://multirbl.valli.org – Checking if clients domains have been blacklisted
- http://www.dnsinspect.com – Quick DNS health report
Email Sending issues (SMTP)
This is one I find engineers can lose a lot of time with troubleshooting. With businesses moving to cloud based email such as Office 365, this can often cause issues with scan to email feature of your office printer or other 3rd party applications that are traditionally sent email via an onsite Exchange server. Yeah you can use Telnet to test SMTP connections, but a tool SMTP Prober is just a lot quicker for taking things back to basics.
What are you favourite tools and tips for saving time on your helpdesk?