Besides the ever increasing assortment of software tools which every IT technician depends on such as desktop, server and mobile applications and utilities of one kind or another, there are of course the physical tools from the simplest screwdriver to the latest electronic gadgetry which we all need to get the job done. Here I will cover a selection of those in my technicians tool kit without which I never leave the office…
First of all the old faithful, manual tools, the most important and most frequently used of which is of course the ubiquitous Phillips screwdriver. Needless to say I have a wide selection of sizes for this and of course the plain old flat head screwdriver which still comes in useful frequently. Being inherently lazy and this being the 21st century, of course I have an electric screwdriver with a rechargeable battery but naturally the battery has a habit of going flat at the worst time and spares are heavy so the old manual tools are always needed in the toolkit.
Also with the manual tools are needle nose pliers in a few sizes, wire cutters, cable crimp/cut/strip tools and because I am always dropping screws into the bowels of expensive servers and racks, I also have a magnetic pickup tool and even a little mirror and handy torch so I can see what is going on down there in those dark corners. A few bags of spare screws in varying sizes and types is also always nearby since people tend to “lose” those things (or more likely pilfered to use somewhere else).
Dust is the enemy and so a can of compressed air is always close to hand along with alcohol wipes to clean off any gunk which finds its way into places it does not belong.
Cables, cables, you can never have too many cables! Spare network cables, power cables, USB cables, SATA cables etc etc. Nothing worse than being in a datacenter off in some distant location installing a load of new servers only to find you don’t have a network cable for one of them! Along with a bunch of spares I of course have a few for my own use so I can connect my netbook or other device to the network or whatever else needs connecting to something while I work.
Speaking of connecting things, I also never leave home without a few flash drives containing essential utilities for testing, recovery, security, and reinstalling the OS if ever needed, as well as loads of documentation for everything I’ve ever had to work on (and ever might!). I always also have a few OS disks with me at all times – some on CD/DVD (along with a USB DVD drive) and some on the flash drives.
With regard to testing, there’s a good few gadgets around for this – cable testers, multimeter and more which can save a lot of head scratching when things just aren’t working the way you know they should but there’s nothing that can be seen with the old Mark I Eyeball!
Despite carrying almost every tech document ever produced since the Jurassic age, there are still times when I need to google something or check a doc online, so of course I need internet access. Usually there is somewhere around to plugin a network cable or a wifi access point I can use but there are times when neither is available so for those rare occasions I carry a 3G USB stick modem which can be plugged into various devices as needed, as well as having built-in 3G already on some devices such as a Netbook or iPad Mini Retina which is even better and of course a suitable data plan from my ISP. This 3G net access is a real lifesaver at times! For the really intrepid tech (with money to burn) there are also satellite modems such as those from Iridium which come in handy when you’re fixing a PC on top of Everest or somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic ocean! I somehow just about get by without one of those fancy gadgets though.
Carrying all this hardware requires a good solid toolbox or bag (or in my case both) with plenty of compartments to keep everything organized and easy to find. There’s no shortage to choose from so pick whatever appeals. Personally I have a big heavy duty plastic toolbox with a small fold-up trolly to wheel it around, plus I have a grab-bag containing the absolute essentials needed for an emergency job which is a lot easier to lug around.
What are your favorite manual tools of the trade? What do you never leave home without?