No pressure or anything, but it's up to small business IT pros (and sometimes just the most-technically proficient employees) to make sure that their company runs smoothly 24/7. And considering Spiceworks' massive community—6 million IT pros and counting—there's a good chance they're using the company's free help desk, network monitoring, and inventory and asset management software.
[More great tools: 15 (Mostly) Free Small Biz Networking Tools & Services]
Since its founding more 10 years ago, Spiceworks has made a name for itself by helping administrators to keep their IT environments, and by extension their workforces, performing efficiently and productively. Free software helps draw them in but, as Peter Tsai, IT content marketing manager for Spiceworks, said in a recent interview with Small Business Computing, IT pros stay for its active community. Millions of experts take to the company's discussion forums to trade tips, to dole out advice, and to share their hands-on experiences with the latest and greatest hardware and software offerings.
New Network Monitoring Tools for Small Business IT
Inspired by this community, and their computer networking needs in particular, Spiceworks decided to roll out a new batch of free network monitoring tools. It's part of Spiceworks' mission to create a "one-stop cloud-based software shop" for administrators who wear many hats at their organizations, said Tsai.
Often, the server specialist also lends a hand with networking issues and assists with keeping hackers at bay. Of course, there's always an end-user or two who needs rescuing after they've been locked out of their system, or kids who mistook Mom's laptop for a tossable toy.
The trouble is that "the best tools are scattered all around the Internet," said Tsai, not to mention the learning curve required to become proficient with each of them. So Spiceworks set out to create an ecosystem of free, lightweight software with the ease-of-use and familiarity of its existing offerings. The newest offerings include a smattering of network monitoring tools that improve visibility into small business networks and help stave off threats.
Blacklist Check and IP Reputation
Wondering why your emails don't seem to get through to your customers?
Using the Open Threat Exchange service from AlienVault, Spiceworks' Blacklist Check and IP Reputation can reveal if a company's email servers have been mistakenly added to list of known spammers. IT pros can also plug in suspicious IP addresses that keep popping up in their firewall logs to determine if they're a threat.
Forewarned is forearmed, and with Spiceworks' Blacklist Check and IP Reputation, IT pros can put a quick end to hackers before they gain a foothold on their networks.
This tool lifts the veil on unknown IP addresses. It allows administrators to make informed decisions about how to handle access attempts from unfamiliar locales by displaying the service provider's domain, owner of the address, city of origin, and other information pertaining to an IP address.
"IP Lookup comes in handy for helping you troubleshoot firewall notifications about an intrusion attempt from an unknown IP address. Run the address through the tool and get more information about it quickly," Tim Gittos, a senior software engineer at Spiceworks, explained in a blog post. "You can also use it to make sure that an IP in your VPN log is coming from where you'd expect. Or maybe you want to purchase a domain and need information about who owns it."
Port Scanner and Tester
Hackers use automated tools to test an organization's defenses. One such tool, a port scanner, constantly looks for a way into a company's network. The Spiceworks Port Scanner and Tester turns the tables.
The tool scans 20 common TCP ports, alerting administrators to ports that may be open to the Internet, offering a tempting target for hackers. "You should try to hack yourselves before hackers do," Tsai advised.
Building a reliable and secure network requires planning. With the new Subnet Calculator, IT pros can divide their networks into smaller subnets. You can also use it to resize an existing network or to expertly manage network consolidation projects.
Moreover, subnets help small businesses segment their networks and contain the damage of a breach or other data security mishap. Creating subnets for different departments, like sales and finance, prevents a breach in one department from affecting sensitive data in another.
Configuring subnets used to involve "tricky math"—a turn-off for many overworked small business administrators. The new tool helps even complete novices quickly visualize their desired network setups with ease. "A lot of small businesses need to subnet their networks," Tsai said. The Spiceworks Subnet Calculator allows them to do just that.
[Protect your business: 5 Cybersecurity Tips That Can Save Your Small Business]
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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