People tend to find programs that work really well for them in their day-to-day jobs and then find themselves using those programs over and over again. I’m no different. In my job as a network engineer for a Value Added Reseller (VAR), I have quite a few programs installed on my laptop at any one time. However, there are three that always find themselves getting installed first whenever I upgrade, or I find myself installing them when I’m remotely connected to a server and need to do some work. The best thing about these three programs? They’re totally free.
If you work with Cisco/HP/Juniper/Brocade/etc devices that have a console port, odds are good you have a console cable or three in your backpack. You also have some sort of terminal program on your laptop. A lot of engineers I know used Hyperterm in Windows XP. I loathe Hyperterm. A crippled version of a retail product that’s confusing and hard to use. When I started at my current employer, my mentor introduced me to TeraTerm. It’s a wonderful little program that can be used to telnet, SSH, or console to a device. There are a ton of programs out there that can do the same, such as PuTTY or SecureCRT. No matter how many times I use them I keep coming back to TeraTerm. One reason is the Serial connection drop down box. On my laptop, every time I plug in a USB-to-Serial converter, it is assigned a different COM port depending on which port I plugged it into. With PuTTY, I have to remember when COM port is associated with a particular USB port. With TeraTerm, I just choose from a drop down box. Simple. Another nice option is the ability to log all your console output to a text file. If you’ve every had to type show tech-support on a router, you know the flood of info that comes rushing at you with no way to stop or pause and copy it to a file for TAC. With TeraTerm, you just set the logging option, pick a file name, type your command, and sit back while it takes care of the copying for you. It’s also great if you want to capture a configuration after you’re finished for archival just in case you need it again.
TeraTerm has had some development issues in the past, but since 2004 it has been maintained by it’s own development team for free at Sourceforge. Get it HERE. You may also be interested in PuTTY or SecureCRT, but please note that SecureCRT isn’t free.
If you work with Cisco/HP/Juniper/Brocade/etc devices, you’ve found yourself in need of a TFTP server at some point in time. TFTP is the most popular way to upload/download software and configurations to and from these devices. It’s a quick protocol with little overhead, since it relies on UDP packets to deliver information. Many vendors have a TFTP server, whether it be Solarwinds, 3COM’s old TFTP server, or even Klever’s PumpKIN TFTP server. I find myself coming back to TFTPD32 because it’s more than just a server. It’s also a TFTP client, which is handy if you want to try and pull down a file to make sure it’s being shared correctly. It’s a tiny DHCP server if you are plugged directly into a device such as an access point and you need to give it a quick address to get to the web configuration. It’s a Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) server if you have a device that needs to sync to an NTP server, such as CUCM during setup. Lastly, it has a syslog server if you need to redirect syslog output during a debug or troubleshooting session. TFTPD32 also supports the transfer of files over 32MB in size, which has left some of the older TFTP servers in the dust, as most modern firmware images are well above 32MB. There’s even a 64-bit version for those who have made the switch to the new generation of operating systems. If you just need something simple to transfer files to and from your routers, you can’t go wrong with TFTPD32.
TFTPD32 is free and available HERE. You may also be interested in alternatives from Solarwinds or Klever’s PumpKIN. Note that Solarwinds requires registration. I don’t recommend using the old 3COM TFTP server any longer, as it isn’t capable of 32MB image transfers and is generally considered dead software.
Working with CUCM lately as much as I have been, I’m finding myself growing more reliant on using FTP instead of TFTP. CUCM seems to want to use FTP (or SFTP) for almost everything, whether it be configuration backups or upload of new COP files. I’ve used Xlight FTP server (the free version) for a while, but when I needed an SFTP option, the licensing options for Xlight seemed somewhat steep. After some searching, I came across freeFTPd. It’s very simple to setup and configure both FTP and SFTP, along with users and virtual directories. You can also set it to listen on all your laptop’s interfaces, so if you find yourself with a slow Ethernet connection you can always flip over to the wireless interface. I highly recommend installing freeFTPd if you use CUCM today or you might find yourself working on it in the future. You’ll thank me later.
You can also use Xlight’s FTP server or Filezilla. Note that Xlight is a 30-day trial of the standard edition, but after those 30 days it becomes the limited personal edition. You might also check the license terms in case you want to use it professionally.
Discussing favorite programs is a lot like arguing who the best Doctor is. Everyone has their opinions and beliefs about why a particular program works the best, or they’ve been burned by a program in the past and have forsworn it for all eternity. I find these programs easy to use, easy to install if they aren’t on the machine I’m using, and since they are mostly open source, free of any sticky licensing issues that might cause problems down the road. Feel free to suggest any programs you find useful in the comments so that others might try them out too. Note that because I’m a Windows user, all of these programs run on Windows, either XP or Windows 7. If you’re interested in a Mac version of this list, please feel free to send me a MacBook Pro and I’ll whip one up for you. I’m keeping the MacBook, though.