Essential Tools + Services

I have come across many (many) tools in my travels. Some have proven indispensible, while others have been replaced over time but still hold a place in my heart. Here’s a hitlist of some of the technology I use, both personally and professionally.

Consultation

know | Future
Boston
Jorge Abellas-Martin provides invaluable, CIO-level consultation for the SMB market. In the four+ years I’ve worked him, Jorge has stepped up my I.T. game immeasurably. Plus he’s a cool guy.
know-future.com
Mann Consulting
San Francisco
Mann Consulting is the equivalent of Tech Superpowers for the Bay Area – very professional and responsive, Mann has been a key partner in helping me support a SF branch office over the years.
mann.com
Tech Superpowers
Boston
Tech Superpowers specializes in Mac-based hardware support, assisting with sales and repairs. However, don’t overlook their ability to provide consultation in a wide variety of areas ranging from video production to phone systems. TSP is always the place I start when I need to undertake a project a bit out of my comfort zone.
techsuperpowers.com

DNS-Related Services

DuckDNS There are many free, dynamic IP name resolution services out there but DuckDNS is my favorite. Simple, reliable and they have a bathtub duck for a logo. What more could you ask for? Not recommended for mission-critical services but great for home and some small business use.
duckdns.org
OpenDNS Your ISP provide will typically supply you with access to their DNS servers in order to handle name resolution – don’t use ’em. Instead, set up your office’s DNS/DHCP services to refer to OpenDNS for any external domain name resolution. It’s faster than most ISPs (according to my own testing using namebench, see below) and their website offers some great analytical and filtering tools. And it’s free. Win.
opendns.com

Firewalls

IPCop IPCop is an open source firewall system, requiring nothing more than an old PC and a few network cards. Unbelievably powerful (and extensible – be sure to check out the Update Accelerator add-on) with features including DHCP service, VPN, wireless network and DMZ support.
ipcop.org
Meraki Meraki is a relative newcomer to the firewall game, offering in-house hardware that is managed exclusively via web UI. Excellent interface, solid services and seamless interoperability with many of their other services (see Meraki Systems Manager below).
meraki.com
SonicWALL Sonicwall is the go-to company for any SMB looking for a commercial firewall solution. Affordable, powerful devices with fantastic customer support, SonicWALL is the place to go when you decide that your firewall is not a part of your infrastructure you can afford to support yourself.
sonicwall.com

Hosting Providers

InMotion Hosting When I vowed to exorcise GoDaddy from my life, my choice was InMotion. Fast servers (they even moved my entry level hosting account to SSD-based systems a year or so ago – I swear I could tell a difference!), great customer service and IMAP e-mail (with unlimited storage capacity) for no extra fee. These guys are great.
inmotionhosting.com
Rackspace While they can be expensive, they’re worth every penny – when your hosted services (web site, e-mail, etc.) go down then you need someone who will respond immediately and Rackspace gets top marks from me on that count. Their support has even helped me troubleshoot software I’ve installed on our server. Yeah, they’re that good.
rackspace.com

Internet Service Provider

Comcast I know – I can’t quite believe I’m saying this myself, but the truth of the matter is, when I was paying XO Communications through the teeth for (bonded) T1 lines with unacceptable service, I took a leap and ordered Comcast’s business class cable modem service. It has been rock solid, providing high bandwidth for a fraction of the cost.
business.comcast.com

Miscellaneous Applications

Angry IP Scanner A simple but effective tool to scan your local network for any-and-all devices. Available on all OSes.
angryip.org
namebench DNS lookup times are an often-overlooked factor in Internet performance. This free tool from Google helps you test the responsiveness of various DNS servers, helping you to choose the best available. Available on all OSes.
code.google.com/p/namebench
NetSpot I love this utility – NetSpot is a great tool that helps you map out the signal strength of your office’s wifi network. Just load in images of your office layout, provide a basic scale and then walk around and let it measure signal strength throughout your workspace. Generates a multilayer heat map that is great for helping to identify trouble spots. Mac-only.
netspotapp.com

Web-Based Software & Services

BuddyPress This free, highly-expandable plug-in for WordPress transforms your blog system into a fully-functioning Facebookclone, ideal for a shake-n-bake company intranet.
buddypress.org
dotProject Open source software replacement for Microsoft Projectthat provides a whole host of project management tools. Like most project management tools, the trick to this is not the physical implementation of the software but careful consideration of your organization’s process.
dotproject.net
Filechucker Filechucker is a great, inexpensive alternative to file delivery services like YouSendIt. Highly configurable and appropriate for client-side use, I recommend you host the system w/ Filechucker in-house so that files sent by your staff upload almost instantly. Developer is also very responsive; a big plus.
encodable.com/filechucker
Meraki Systems Manager Meraki, the “new kid on the block” in the firewall space (see above), offers this free service. Install the client o each of your machines and then let Meraki track the status and location of your system at all times. Granted: most thiefs these days know better than to boot up a system and allow it to be tracked, so the likelihood of you catching them using Systems Manager is pretty low, but this tool is still slick and very useful.
meraki.cisco.com/products/systems-manager
ownCloud This open source system (also w/ a corporate offering) gives you the ability to roll your own, branded Dropbox system. Features include LDAP/Active Directory-based authentication, the ability to access external storage, contact management and lots more. A great value-add to any organization.
owncloud.org
Spiceworks Pretty much feature-rich, free I.T. support tool you could ask for. Trouble ticket management, network scanning, inventory management, purchase ordering management… Spiceworks covers so many bases for the SMB space that it’s not even a contest.
spiceworks.com
SugarCRM Open source contact relationship management replacement for criminally-expensive Salesforce.
sugarcrm.com

WiFi

Ruckus I’ve screwed around with trying to use residential products (notably the Linksys WRT54G and Apple Airport Express) to provide WiFi to my offices but, at the end of the day, wireless access has become such a critical part of the daily workflow that you can’t afford the unreliability. Ruckus provides superior systems that solve the problem. Period.
ruckuswireless.com

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