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Ask Slashdot: Server Room Toolbox? 416

jandersen writes "I am the system manager in charge of a smallish server room (~50 servers, most in racks), and I am going to buy a set of tools; but first I want to hear what other people think would be a good idea. Certainly a range of good quality screwdrivers — slotted, Phillips, Pozidriv, Torx. But what else? Tape measure? Spirit level (for aligning the racks)? Any meters or cable testers? A wood lathe? I can probably get away with a budget of a few hundred GBP, but there ought to be some mileage in that."
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Ask Slashdot: Server Room Toolbox?

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  • A Netbook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:13AM (#42127145) Homepage

    Certain embedded NICs on laptops and notebooks have a cable diagnostic mode built into them, now... which with the addition of the fact that they are a full system, can perform more than hardware level diagnostics for networks.

    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:35AM (#42127273)

      Because sometimes you want to test the wires that are not connected to a server/workstation.

      Get a good hand-held time domain reflectometer. I prefer Fluke but I'm sure that others are just as good.

      This will not only tell you that the wires are correct, but if they are broken it will tell you how far away they are broken. VERY handy for hunting down problems.

      • Mod up! So many problems are caused by poor cables...always the first thing I try

        • by Browzer ( 17971 )

          in my case, poor/bad cables, especially the ones you buy, rather than ones you make, rank very low on things that actually happen. before I check the actual cable I do other things:

          1. see if nic led is on, both on router and computer
          2. ping the gateway
          3. see if there was traffic on the nic
          4. re-seat the cable, especially if plastic clip is missing - if that is the case I change the cable.
          5. if distance is short, replace cable

          had an interesting experience with a bad "connection". One summer the well pump, w

      • by gramty ( 1344605 )
        If you have a lot of spliced fibre runs then an Optical-TDR is golden, but not cheap. If you are using copper, then most modern switches have TDR functionality built in. On a Cisco switch the command 'test cable-diagnostics tdr interface ' will do the business.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:18AM (#42127179)

    All your good tools will be stolen, just buy the cheap stuff so noone wants to takem. Its better to have cheap tools then none at all. (Or you could nuy nice ones and lock them up and then pray you NEVER leave the tools box unlocked)

    • by DoctorFrog ( 556179 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @04:09AM (#42127451)

      Nah. Buy good tools, crap tools are an invitation to frustration.

      To avoid pilferage, paint them pink, and optionally add a little glitter as well.

      • But won't your heterosexual coworkers complain about discrimination then?
      • Re:Buy crap tools! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by slashdyke ( 873156 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:56AM (#42128069) Homepage
        Actually, buy the cheapest set of tools that you can find that copntains the bulk of what you will be needing. You will have a little of everything. Then as a tool is used it will wear out. Replace the worn one with a quality item, since you obviously use it. In five years when you need another tool that you have never used, you will have a brand new one still in its box. Carolyn
      • Re:Buy crap tools! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @07:13AM (#42128155) Homepage

        I agree - real tools are a lot better. A dedicated torx screwdriver is better than a bits version, but you should have a bits screwdriver too.

        And then limit the access to the tools so only a few trusted persons have them. Painting them pink or something is a good addition to make them stay at home.

        A cheap DMM (able to take DC/AC Volt/Amp/Ohm) and a simple TP cable tester will be good to have too. No need to get the high level equipment, cheap stuff is good enough.

        And a flashlight - there will always be that pesky hard to read text somewhere on a device that you can't read without the right light.

        • Re:Buy crap tools! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RatherBeAnonymous ( 1812866 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:09PM (#42130579)

          And a flashlight - there will always be that pesky hard to read text somewhere on a device that you can't read without the right light.

          I've taken to using my cell phone for this. No more holding the flashlight in my teeth why holding onto something sturdy with one hand and a pen and paper with the other while craning my neck and straining something. Now I just take a quick snapshot of serial numbers and read them off my phone.

  • Hammer (Score:5, Funny)

    by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:18AM (#42127181)
    Don't forget a good hammer for when all else fails.
    • Don't forget a good hammer for when all else fails.

      Didn't you learn ANYTHING from Zelda 2? "If all else fails, use fire!" The dude needs a flamethrower, not a hammer(or a handy fire spell).
    • Re:Hammer (Score:4, Informative)

      by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:40AM (#42128007)

      A hammer and spike. Seriously. When hard drives fail, you can easily destroy them and ensure that no one is going to dumpster dive and get your data.

      I'm assuming that a .45 is out of the question, due to the GBP reference. But it would be pretty sweet to be able to expense one as "data security device." Even if you don't want a gun, being able to expense one would for a server room would be worth it alone. If equipment is made by Foxcon, can you justify a hunting rifle in GB?

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @02:45PM (#42132853) Journal

      No, I'm rather serious!

      When you have a board that is flaky, that works "most of the time" and fails intermittently, 10 seconds in a microwave is a wonderful way to make sure that the part fails as expected without causing any of the visible damage that might get your RMA rejected.

      Few things suck worse than sending in an RMA and getting the same item back. (I've verified that this was happening by putting a few very discreet marks on the edges of the card with a permanent marker)

      No, it doesn't have nearly the satisfaction of a hammer, but you can still cackle inwardly while you count to 10...

  • In fact, you should have it on you at all times when you're working, or at least within easy reach (because they're kinda heavy).
    • by gagol ( 583737 )
      If a leatherman strapped to your belt feel heavy, you seriously need to work out. Been a huge fan of their tools for over 2 decades now.
      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        A Leatherman (or similar) is a good back-up but can never really do the work of a real tool. Especially if you have a day when you change items in computer racks you will certainly want to have the real thing.

    • not in the UK! carrying a leatherman on your belt is an offence under the 1996 offencive weapons act and these cannot be carried in public. Hard to believe but there are now mandatory sentences in place for carrying a knife (even a leatherman or swiss army knife). I was arrested because I had one in my car toolkit since a car is considered a "public place". Never been in trouble with the police before, it was a random stop & search (which they can do here).

    • by rikkards ( 98006 )

      I find leathermans are handy if you don't have the tools. They are very much jacks of all trades, masters of none. Unless he works on a huge campus the tools are in a building over, I think the leatherman would be redundant.

    • I tried, but there was this whole problem with the chainsaw, and the blood, and....

      Oh, wait. Leatherman, not Leatherface.

      Never mind.

  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:24AM (#42127201)
    The dust thrown out by the wood lathe is a good idea for ensuring a constant turnover of hardware in your server room, but I find that dust that is conductive works even better, so I'd recommend an angle grinder over a wood lathe.
    • recommend an angle grinder over a wood lathe.

      A contractor actually did cut aluminum with a saw in our computer room and got aluminum shards over everything.

  • You need (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vadim Makarov ( 529622 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:24AM (#42127205) Homepage
    Mechanical tools: screwdrivers, wrench kit, pliers, cutters (plier style), cutters (x-acto), hammer, metal file (to round an odd sharp corner), tape measure, heavy-duty duct tape, lots of plastic cable ties. I also needed a drill to install an odd rack shelf, so throw one with some drilling bits if your budget allows. I don't know what cables you use, but tools to fix cabling may come in handy (multimeter, soldering iron and solder, shrinkable tubes, special tool to terminate cables, etc.). If you have fiber optics, get a good push-action connector cleaner.
  • by nicomede ( 1228020 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:26AM (#42127213)
    always prove useful. And some ammo.
    • by zippo01 ( 688802 )
      What good is ammo without a gun? Ew Ew new idea, Crowbar Gun! A looters best friend.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:30AM (#42127233) Journal
    Or as we call it, a "beer storage array".
  • by AdeBaumann ( 126557 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:31AM (#42127237) Homepage

    Don't forget:

    - a rubber hammer (for failing hard drives without visible traces)
    - a cattle prod (for failing "visitors" without visible traces)
    - a sledgehammer (for failing anything if you don't mind visible traces)
    - thermite (to get rid of visible traces)

    • By my calculations you need only the last two :)

      • The only problem is that thermite not only gets rid of the visible traces of any artificially induced failure, but also of the to-be-failed object itself... Hardy to get a warranty replacement for a heap of ashes...
    • by rvw ( 755107 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @04:27AM (#42127535)

      Don't forget:

      - a rubber hammer (for failing hard drives without visible traces)
      - a cattle prod (for failing "visitors" without visible traces)
      - a sledgehammer (for failing anything if you don't mind visible traces)
      - thermite (to get rid of visible traces)

      Take some network cables home, put them in a box with a bunch of mice, and use those cables to explain network failing whenever you screwed up elsewhere.

    • by DamageLabs ( 980310 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:21AM (#42127749) Homepage

      You forgot the essential cable...

      No toolbox is complete without the etherkiller.

      • by Narnie ( 1349029 )

        Etherkiller, is that a power cord with the female end wired to a RJ45? I was wondering why my predecessor made that cable.

    • by rikkards ( 98006 )

      I know you are being funny but we actually have a sledge hammer in our server room we call the degaussinator. We have tempest severs and just in case the hordes decide to invade our office we can pull the drives and at least slow them down from getting data. Which there is nothing there that would be interesting to say the least.

  • by Brianwa ( 692565 ) <[brian-wa] [at] []> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:31AM (#42127241)

    Utility knife for opening boxes and stuff.

    A cheapo multimeter. You're working with electronics, having one of these is a requirement even though many people in IT try to get by without them.

    Perhaps a soldering iron and solder sucker. Hopefully you'll never need them but weird shit happens.

    A set of precision screwdrivers is sometimes needed for taking stuff apart, and can be pushed into extra duty as pin extractors or whatever else.

    A dedicated Ethernet tester can be pretty handy too. And get a crimper for these if you don't have one already.

  • Pencil and Notepad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:31AM (#42127243) Homepage
    Cause in a real emergency they ALWAYS work. And are fast.
    • I find a decent scientific calculator comes in handy a LOT when quickly calculating required bandwidth, volume (servers/square foot), cable lengths, etc.
      • by rvw ( 755107 )

        Ergo: you need a decent smartphone to take pictures, make notes, and make sure to install some apps that calculate whatever needs calculating. Yeah and network tools of course.

  • Some suggestions (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:34AM (#42127265)

    A toner that works on live network cables
    a cable qualifier
    a fluke nettool or equivalent
    A set of loopbacks
    a set of console cables
    a buttset
    A cage nut tool
    2 sets of screwdrivers, including torx, hex, etc.
    telescoping magnet (part retriever)
    Box cutter
    work gloves
    ear plugs
    a jacket
    a jackrapid if your patch panels are modular
    a crashcart
    power screwdriver
    a cordless drill
    a rack lift
    velcro spools
    a stockpile of cage nuts and (matching) bolts

    The first few on that list will break the bank.
    Most of the time, all I really need is a screwdriver with bitset, a leatherman wave with bitset, a cagenut tool, a flashlight, and a console cable.

  • A few LED torches

    A tool for checking power outlets to see if there is any power

    Maybe a breakout box

    How about a hand held vacuum cleaner?

    • Those no-touch AC testers (that beep near 120V lines) are very handy when tracking down power problems. No need for the huge claw ones, the $10 Canadian Tire ones work just fine.
  • They cost a little (if you look around you can find a decent one under $75), but I'd highly recommend a Greenlee like this kit: []

    The first time you find yourself needing one it will pay for itself in the labor saved. No matter how anal someone might be with labeling cables, you will always find a need for something like this.

  • A new hundred? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:43AM (#42127319) Homepage

    It all depends on how big your server room is, how actively it changes equipment, and a number of other things.

    For a few hundred (anything), you're not really looking at much of a tool set. There are some 'bare minimums', and 200-300 will be eaten up in very short order. Here's a list of what I consider to be bare essentials:

    * A multi-set of philips, flathead, etc. screwdriver bits. Make that two sets, they're cheap. Pick up an extra multipack of #2 and #3 Philips driver bits for another couple bucks. Forget independent screwdrivers, that's just wasteful, and you'll never find the one you want because it's awkward to keep them all together and sort through them. In all likelihood, you'll need #3 and #2 philips only, as more and more systems come toolless; this would be for rack equipment.
    * A manual torque driver is a must (batteries can fail) - don't be that guy who over-tightens everything and it's impossible to get crap out of a rack without shearing screw heads and stripping bits. You can pick up some pretty decent ones for $10-15. I like the ones with the recessed rear caps which have a cylinder full of different bits.
    * A good multitool. MUST MUST MUST. SOG are awesome, I love my PowerAssist. I have done emergency recabling jobs with nothing more than a Spartan Swiss Army Knife. Currently, I'm liking my Gerber Balance (and I keep extra bits in my pocket, just in case). This is your tool; it goes in your pocket, and it's your last line of defense against not being able to fix something because someone ran off with the tool you need.
    * A good flashlight. I'm not talking about a $120 surefire, a cheap $10 Trustfire from DX or the like will do just fine. It just can't be crap. (Personally, this is something I always keep on my person anyway.)
    * cable tie offs, velcro, cat6 jack heads, spare power and ethernet cables,, etc. - you'll want a supply, because you will probably need them.
    * RJ punch down tool (to crimp onto your cat6) - the alternative is to buy all pre-cut lengths, and this makes a mess in short order while wasting a fair amount of money.
    * A network continuity testing tool, preferably one that'll allow you to test things thoroughly and not just give you a 'good' light.
    * A hardware ethernet tap. You can get a good one for $15 or so.
    * compact cordless Makita torque/impact driver, preverably the one with the pivoting head. I have spent a lot of time rebuilding etc. racks, and you never know when you'll need

    A very nice to have: compact cordless Makita torque/impact driver, preverably the one with the pivoting head. I have spent a lot of time rebuilding etc. racks, and you never know when you'll need it. IMO a 'must have' but only because I've redone entirely too many racks manually.

    This list can balloon quickly, depending on how reliant you are on vendors, and how

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're describing my old kit almost to a T. The only things I'd add/adjust are:

      * Screwdrivers: Kits sometimes aren't enough. You want long reach and short reach in common sizes. It's often helpful to have 'bent head' screwdrivers as well.
      * USB DVD+RW drive. Critical to have.
      * USB thumb drives.
      * Labeller. Even a cheap Dymo will do wonders.
      * USB-to-serial port adapter. There's unfortunately still a lot of gear that requires a serial port to talk to. Make sure you can get it working with your laptop/n

      • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        ... did we per chance work at the same place? :P I joyously found most of that stuff at my previous employer's facility when I got there, as well as thousands of dollars in additional "we might use this once" type tools. The above list is what I'd call the essentials. (I don't like labellers, personally - they're time consuming and things change too quickly to justify their use on anything but the racked equipment itself.)

        Another useful thing is a pair of walkie talkies. When you're trying to find cable fai

    • I think I understood most of this, but SOG? I had a quick search, and it seems to be either Society Of Genealogist, Surrey Ornithological Group or a manufacturer of organic toilets; I assume that it must be the latter - that would be for those occasions where you can't leave what you are doing, but you really, really have to go?

    • I would add a two more screwdrivers, both Phillips #2: One long shank, one stubby. There is always one screw just too far away, one in a space just too short for your multi-head.
    • by cawpin ( 875453 )
      For the flashlights, if you have a Costco nearby, they have 3 packs for $20 that have Cree head units. They are fantastic little lights and have low, high and strobe (in case you want to mess with somebody). I've bought 2 packs of them.

      They are in a flat blister pack about 14"x14" with a big red "200 Lumens" in the upper left. The brand name is TechLite Lumen Master.

      Here's the exact package on Amazon. []
  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:49AM (#42127349)

    Definitely get a sonic screwdriver. Most shops don't carry them, and the ones that do are always out of stock whenever I ask for one, but I've seen them used before and they can do anything.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:54AM (#42127379)

    Seriously. Hang a thermometer a foot or two (okay, 30 or 60 centimeters) from the center of the ceiling. Keep an eye on the little guy. Compare it to the thermostat's reading. The "real air" temperature in the room can often be much different than the temperature on the where the thermostat is attached, _especially_ if it's an exterior wall that's being pummeled by sunshine or winds.

    I've seen places where the temperature fluctuated so wildly as day and night cycled that it screwed with the equipment, Every time you have a failure document what kind, the thermostat temp and the thermometer temp. If you spot a pattern you might consider calling in the HVAC guys for a recommendation.

  • by Vrallis ( 33290 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:55AM (#42127389) Homepage

    Trying not to duplicate stuff above..

    - A cordless drill kept charged in the server room can definitely speed up SHTF moments. Keep a good set of miscellaneous screwdriver bits and drill bits with it.
    - Vice grips. It never fails that you find a screw, bolt or nut that are too stripped. Get a regular pair and a needle-nose pair. I even have a miniature one that is great for tight spaces.
    - For when the above fail, an E-Z-Out bit set or reverse drill set for when you finish breaking the head off the screw/bolt.
    - If you deal with serial at all (yes, it still exists in many modern datacenters), you may want to get a BlackBox sniffer setup, a good BOB (break out box), etc.
    - You want at minimum a basic RJ-45 UTP tester, preferably a large multi-type cable tester. A big expensive unit like a Fluke Netmeter may be great to have, but it will take a long time to pay off when there are other ways to troubleshoot issues like that.
    - If you ever work with 66 or 110 blocks with any regularity, get yourself a good spring-loaded punch, usually a Paladin. If you don't get one with a pick, get a basic set of picks as well to keep with it.
    - Small prybars. The first time you go to change batteries in a UPS and find out the old ones have swollen badly you'll be glad you had them. A pair of very large flat head screwdrivers can substitute, but be prepared to break them.

    Not counting ridiculously expensive stuff like Fluke Netmeters, Sunset xDSL kit, and other specialized gear, my basic sysadmin-oriented toolbag is probably around $1500 USD. Unfortunately in my current environment we have no tools around so I have to bring in all my personal gear for it. Very annoying.

  • labeler (Score:5, Insightful)

    by georgewad ( 154339 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:57AM (#42127399) Homepage

    label everything

    • by andrewbaldwin ( 442273 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:37AM (#42128001)

      Cannot recommend this highly enough. Label both ends of every cable and the back of every power plug -- then you'll know what to expect when you pull it out.

      Second only to this - two ring bound folders and a hole punch. Seriously.

      Then you document cable layouts, server details (serial numbers, IP/MAC addresses, configuration details, software licences....) in your favourite tool and take a print out. File the printouts - one in the server room and one elsewhere. It may seem old tech but it will save your skin when you lose connectivity/database/application... -- by all means keep a copy on your own PC/Tablet and or a DVD backup but do keep paper copies -- spoken from experience

      Of course this requires discipline to track changes and keep the records up to date but it will save you much more time in the long run than the occasional trip to the shops to buy a specific screwdriver bit.

      Finally, I agree with a lockable cabinet -- tools can evaporate faster than a puddle on a hot summers day ;-)

      • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        Cannot recommend this highly enough. Label both ends of every cable and the back of every power plug -- then you'll know what to expect when you pull it out.

        NO NO NO NO!

        I have seen more outages caused by this approach than I want to even think about. Once is bad, but when I've seen people make the assumption that something is correctly labeled and pull it multiple times, I stop trusting it. It only takes one lazy or tired person to mess this up for a long time to come.

        A better approach I have found is to label bundles of 5 and vary the cables (ethernet) in the bundle by color. Bundle the bundles in a discreet fashion so you can tell which bundle is which, and l

        • To each his own....

          I've seen the alternative approach - back in the days of dumb terminals (remember them?) patched through to a VAX cluster.
          The solution the support team [not me!] adopted was to pull out a patch cable - wait for the help call - be very polite and say "I'll try to fix it for you - whereabouts are you?" , label the cable and then plug it back in -- often with a pathetically grateful user at the other end phoning back their thanks. Simple, but effective (yet not terribly professional).

          As for

  • Aside from a punchdown tool for terminating cables to racks, I think you would do well with electricians tools. Good scissors, wire strippers, electrical tape, a small and large pair of dykes, cable toner and possibly electrical toner (handy even if you don't think you'll be doing electrical work yourself because sometimes you may need to track down what breaker an outlet is on because it's either improperly labelled, or unlabelled). A non-contact thermometer might be good too for measuring exhaust temper

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @04:08AM (#42127449)
    Something to use as a serial terminal is still useful at times. I use a real one, an odd IBM thing where the screen and electronics is a frail and fragile thing that flexes alarmingly when you plug in a cable but the keyboard is an early model M than could be almost be used to bang in nails (seems more solid that the PS/2 versions).
    Old laptops with a real serial port also work very well, netbooks with USB to serial are a less reliable second but more portable. A serial to TCP/IP converter moves things into a state where just about any networked PC, tablet or phone can be your serial terminal.
  • If it's a set for you personally, the Jensen technicians's kit [] is a good start. I have one of their larger kits, and have used it regularly for years. If it's for a room, get a standard wheeled toolchest.

    Those are just basic mechanical tools. Test equipment has been covered by others. A few specialized items you might want:

    • A label maker.
    • Heat gun and heat-shrink tubing. Good for shrink wrapping labels onto cables.
    • Cable tie tensioner, cable ties, and tags for use with cable ties.
    • Power outlet test
  • by rvw ( 755107 )

    Document everything in your personal wiki. I prefer JSPWiki because of all the plugins and the markup, but that needs Tomcat and may not be the choice of most people. The best alternative is Dokuwiki, which needs no database and has user handling, so standard login features, compared to Mediawiki. Make pictures, make notes, put it in your wiki, and keep it for later use. You don't necessarily need to share it with other people. I keep a personal one for everything I want to remember that is not relevant for

  • 1) Quality number 1, 2 and 3 Philips screwdrivers. QUALITY ones. Not cheap junk. Magnetic tipped.
    2) Multi Tool. I like the Gerber Suspension. Cheap ($30 USD) and effective
    3) Screwdriver kit with every known bit. DO NOT USE as your every day. See #1
    4) Spend $30 on an LED flashlight
    5) Air! You need air. $100 cheapo compressor with a 2 gallon tank is enough, but get 5 gallons if you can.
    6) Zip Ties, ROLLS of velcro, electrical tape.
    7) Soldering kit. A cheap Weller stick will do. You'll need it at times. Not ve

  • where to begin? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:00AM (#42127677)

    I'll just go with what's in my Stanley blue steel cantilever toolbox (the plastic ones are absolute shite and don't like being stood on):

    Stanley 99E retractable boxcutter w/5 spare blades
    1 snipe nose plier/multitool
    1 8" adjustable wrench
    2 6" mole grips
    2 sets Worx drill/driver bits (comes in a little box. 10 different HSS drill heads, 20 driver heads including Torx, Pozi, Philips, slotted and square and 1 1/4" socket adapter, and 1 extender)
    1 set (usually comes in 20's) 1/4" Whitworth bi-Hex sockets in metric and imperial and 2 Neiko 1/4" ratcheting arms: one 6" and 1 10".
    2 1/4" Gator Grips: 1 1" and 1 1/2" for those stripped heads
    1 14oz claw hammer
    1 Bondhus combination balldriver L-wrench set
    1 bag case thumbscrews
    1 bag chassis screws
    1 set (32 pc) precision screwdrivers (better if you can get hold of the case hardened ones, they don't chew up if you hit a particularly hard screw)
    1 Challenge 18V cordless drill/driver w/spare battery
    1 butane blowtorch
    1 can lithium grease
    1 Cree LED anglepoise (yeah the arm is custom)
    1 13-amp plug with earth pin connected to a wrist strap and two alligator clips
    1 QTech PCI diagnostic card - and that just blew the budget on its own
    1 QTech diagnostic CD/DVD/FD set
    1 copy Knoppix LiveCD
    1 CF-IDE module with Knoppix installed on a 16GB card, and several spare cards for recovery
    1 bus powered USB DVD burner
    1 80GB USB hard drive (custom cased low-drain job... Hitachi if I remember right)

  • People always strip the hell out of them by using the wrong one and you end up with a box of five really marginal screwdrivers that are only good for damaging screw heads.

    Instead, buy a couple of magnetic handles with interchangeable bits, and then a big box of #2 bits: [] . Keep some #1s around for working on laptops and some #3s if you have big rack screws, but in a server room most things are #2.

    THEN THROW THEM AWAY when you round them off. They're cheap and you have a whole box

  • Tools (like socks in washing basket) disappear - indeed they may be in a locked cupboard, that only you have the key for, but they will still disappear.

    The chances of the tools disappearing are directly proportional to the usage that you urgently need at that particular moment.

    Also, don't use electric screwdrivers to do up any screws on servers or computers - and especially don't use them on "thumb" screws.

  • A side arm. Highly visible. Make it obvious that you don't want to be messed with.

    I'm definitely on the anti-gun side of the fence in that debate, but I do think some people do need to carry weapons and a sysadmin is one of those.

    You'd be surprised what tools people will give you if you ask nicely, while at the same time having your hand hovering over your gun. Sort of like the hitchhikers towel theory but using intimidation rather than sympathy.

  • Put it between the two routers[*] which are having a problem and actually see what the packets are.

    (Of course you still need the skills to read the packets, but that is not a hardware issue :-)

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:46AM (#42127841)

    Sorry for not answering to everybody individually, but there has already been loads of good ideas. Some of them I already have or thought of, but there are many that I hadn't thought of.

    And I note that my budget of a few hundred GBP seems too low - I should have guessed, since /. is predominantly American. I work for an American company here in UK, and while we try to get by on a meagre budget, our colleagues in the States aren't as shy about the zeroes at the end of the numbers. Maybe we just need to upgrade our case hose :-)

    • by 1s44c ( 552956 )

      And I note that my budget of a few hundred GBP seems too low..

      Some of us have been getting by on shitty budgets for years. You don't need to buy expensive stuff, Cheap tools are fine as long as they are cheap good tools.

  • The etherkiller []. It will fix all your troubles. Forever.
  • by littleghoti ( 637230 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:44AM (#42128025) Journal
    Something I have not seen mentioned is a telescopic inspection mirror for viewing in tight spaces. Can come in very useful for seeing obstructed things. Helps if you can read text backwards.
  • -Get a labeling machine and a load of 9mm black on white tape and label the machines, their disks, and the cables.
    -Get a cable tester but nothing too fancy, the cheap ones work fine. A crimping tool and a reel of CAT6 is needed if you make your own cables.
    -Get torx and normal screwdrivers.
    -A small light is useful for getting light into dark corners, a big one is useful if you have to shove cabling under a raised floor or though a false ceiling.
    -Spare disks of the correct type are always useful as are spare

  • by jgreco ( 1542031 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @08:36AM (#42128519)

    We've got a toolbox worth a good bit more than $1000 sitting in our east coast data center (800 miles away) because if and when there's a problem and someone has to show up on site, it's always at an inconvenient hour like 3AM when no stores are open.

    Local maps with the locations of Graybar, ADI, etc., marked (dates the toolbox to "before smartphones" eh)
    A mini notebook
    Sharpie fine points in several colors

    Screwdrivers, nutdrivers - actual tools not bits, useful in many cases
    Mini MagLite and headlamp holder
    Utility knife (do not use for box cutting!)
    Xacto (do not use for box cutting!)
    6" Bit extension
    8" flexible bit extension
    Screwdriver bits of all sorts
    Pin extractors for connectors that can't be easily extracted without
    Metal nibbler tool
    Surgeon's Clamp
    Neon voltage tester
    Wire strippers
    Terminal crimping tool
    EZRJ45 Crimping tool
    Set of 3 pliers (multi sizes)
    Lock-jaw pliers
    9" #2 Phillips bits- Made by Senco for a rapid drywall screw installer, these combine with a power screwdriver as THE single most used tool we have.
    22" #2 Phillips bit - unobtanium but very useful for screwing stuff into rack rails you can barely get to
    Large needle nose pliers
    Curved long nose pliers
    Other similar "larger" pliers
    4" and 6" adjustable wrench
    Milwaukee Power Screwdriver #6546-1 and spare battery - completely mandatory tool to prevent wrist fatigue, can tighten screws with the greatest of finesse due to the variable clutch
    Victorinox Swiss Cybertool
    Dental tools (picks, scrapers, mirror)

    AC outlet wiring tester
    Telephone line tester
    Tone generator and probe
    PDI CT340 Computer Cable Tester
    Wire wrap tool and wire
    Pencils and a cheap sharpener
    Anti-static wrist strap
    OK Logic Probe #PRB-50
    Tool magnetizer - because the tips of all your screwdrivers should be very lightly magnetized, just enough to be able to touch a screw and lift it out of that awful corner
    Digital multimeter
    Soldering iron & solder
    Electrical tape
    Heat shrink tubing in multiple sizes
    66/110 Punch Tool
    US/Metric Hex Key Sets
    1/4" socket drive set and hex bit adaptor for them

    Tap and drill sets for common rack, computer sizes (6/32, 10/32, 10/24, etc)
    20' Tape measure
    Small Hammer
    Rubber mallet ("compliance tool")
    BIG flat, Phillips screwdrivers ("small pry bars")
    Box cutter - utility knife with large handle
    Torpedo level
    Small drill
    First aid kit
    Dual D-cell Maglite
    Test leads (alligator and hooks)

    A decent clamp-on ammeter
    A good labelmaker (harder to find than you might think)

    Cans of air, WD40, adhesive remover, alcohol wipes, contact cleaner
    2" Velcro One-Wrap in the cut-it-yerself roll. There are other options specifically made for tight wiring environments but this stuff is just overall a super-handy consumable.

    External DVD-RW drive and a pack of blanks
    External floppy disk drive and some disks (yes really, never know what stupid stuff a BIOS update for an odd system requires)
    USB thumb drives

  • by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @09:30AM (#42128903)

    "All of life’s problems can be solved with two things—duct tape and WD40. If it moves and it shouldn’t, you need duct tape. And if it doesn’t move and it should, you need WD40."

  • by ElizabethGreene ( 1185405 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:45PM (#42135039)

    In my work, I primarily use

    A sturdy cart with an LCD monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
    A label maker
    An electric rechargeable screwdriver and assortment of bits
    A rechargeable flashlight
    A magnetic pickup tool and/or a claw tool for dropped kit.
    A well-made phillips #2 and #3 manual screwdriver, for loosening screws that are too tight for the electric screwdriver.
    A large pair of channel lock pliers for loosening screws that have been rounded out.
    Needle nose pliers for removing stubborn cage nuts.
    A box cutter for opening boxes.
    Hearing protection.
    Wire cutters
    A 6 foot ladder.
    An inexpensive hand-cart for moving boxes.

    My preferences for manufacturers are Klein screwdrivers, Channel-Lock pliers and wire cutters, and Dymo labelers. I don't use the specialty made-for-cables labelers, as I can't justify the extra cost. For the crash cart, I like the composite plastic one made by rubbermaid.

    The Crash Cart:
    Get a power strip with a long power cord and mounting holes.
    Permanently mount the power strip to the cart.
    Secure the LCD Monitor stand to the cart to prevent tipping.
    Get long MtF extension cables for the LCD, Keyboard and mouse. Bundle them together in an umbilical and secure one end to the cart. Remove the screws from the server end of the umbilical. You want this cable to fall off if someone knocks the cart away from the servers.
    I used a stack of 4 Plastic Drawer Bins screwed to the cart bottom shelf to hold tools, USB sticks, labeler cartridges, spare cage nuts, a small stock of patch cables, and a CD case that held _copies_ of commonly used install medias.
    If you manage a number of servers without CD/DVD drives, permanently mount a USB DVD drive to the cart.
    Permanently mount the screwdriver and flashlight chargers to the cart.
    Find a comfortable stool or rolling chair at an appropriate height for the crash cart.

    Other notes:
    I occasionally use a tone and probe to trace wires. I would not buy one if I didn't already have it.
    I used a multimeter to check the wiring when we moved in and when we upgraded UPS. Haven't needed it since.
    An Ammeter (the clip on kind) will help you if you don't want to track your power budget properly^W in a spreadsheet.
    I used wrenches and a socket set to assemble our racks. Haven't needed them since.
    I used an impact drill to drill holes for concrete anchors to bolt down the 2 post racks. Haven't needed it since. The concrete floor was not level, and I used washers to shim the racks level.
    For full racks, level them with the adjustable feet before tightening everything up.
    If your racks lock, put a spare key outside the DC. You will forget/lose the primary key at an inopportune time.
    I painted the plywood where the other telecom kit mounts. It looks neater.
    You may be tempted to make your own Ethernet cables. Don't. The TCO is significantly higher vs. maintaining a stock of patch cables.
    Don't use zip-ties for cable management. Get a big roll of the velcro wire ties instead.
    Put a trash can, broom, and dustpan in the DC.
    Put a "no food or drink" sign in the DC.
    Put a rat poison bait station in the DC.
    Drywall dust is very very bad for servers and UPS. Don't remodel without protecting your boxes.
    If you don't have any monitoring infrastructure, setup a PC to monitor and record temperatures. Have it monitor a mains powered device so you'll get a page if the power goes out.
    A phone in the DC is nice _if_ you can be heard over the fans and HVAC.
    Tape off a parking place for the crash cart near an outlet so you don't forget to plug it in/charge the light and driver.
    If you have a raised floor, get a tile lifter. If you don't have budget, get a suction-cup-dent-puller from an auto parts store. Also, please don't leave the floor open and unattended.
    A quality cable tester exceeds your budget severalfold. If you suspect a bad cable, test by substitution. If the cable is confirmed bad, cut the ends off before you throw it away. Otherwise, someone (probably you) will grab it and use it again.

  • by Zaphod-AVA ( 471116 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @08:20PM (#42136717)

    The Cybertool series from Victorinox has been a great addition to my kit for years. Sometimes it does better than dedicated tools. Model 29 is small an light enough to have in your pocket for daily use. Much lighter than the Leatherman, it is more tuned for tech use than outdoors.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!