Top 10 Networking Tools every Network Engineer must have;

With the internet being the largest network in the world, there are basically two types of networks (Wired and Wireless Networks) that allow us to connect to the Internet. Wireless Networks use Wi-Fi routers to connect computers and other devices to the internet wirelessly whereas Wired Networks uses switches, hubs, patch panels, and ethernet cables to connect computers and other devices to the internet. However, creating and installing a wired network requires a lot of hardware that needs to be maintained and this can only be done by using networking tools and stated below are the most common tools every Networks Engineer uses to do this job.

1.0 Cable Stripper;

A cable stripper is used to terminate networking cables. As a field network technician/engineer, you’ll have to create/terminate your own network cables and this is how this tool is used to create terminated networking cables; Cut the length of the cable you need. Remove the plastic shielding on the ends of the cable and this is done by using a cable stripper by inserting the ends of the cable into the hole of the stripper then with a squeeze, twist and a pull, the shielding is removed.

2.0 Wire Crimper;

A wire crimper crimps RJ45 connectors to twisted pair cables. After a cable has been stripped by the wire stripper, arrange the cable wires according to your desired configuration and insert them into an RJ45 connector them insert it into a crimper, give it a squeeze and the cable is done.

3.0 Cable Tester;

A cable tester is used to verify continuity and if the wires are arranged correctly. After the cable has been terminated at both ends with RJ45 connectors, we then need to test the cable and this is done by using a cable tester. This is done by inserting both ends of the cable into the tester and then it will cycle through all the pins and the cable to make sure that the cable is properly wired and connected.

4.0 Tone Generator;

A tone generator is a tool that is used for tracing cables from one end to the other. For-instance, let’s say you want to isolate a given networking cable that is located in a different part of the building running from the wall LAN socket and find the other end connected to the patch panel with lots of cables connected to it.

In this case, it would very difficult to find the other end of the cable and this where the tone generator comes in and all you need to do is to just connect the tone generator tool at one end of the network cable you want to isolate and then it will generate a tone through the cable all the way to the other end and then with a probe you just have to jump from cable to cable on the patch panel until you find the cable and once the probe detects the tone coming from the cable, it will generate a sound indicating that it has found the cable you are tracing.

5.0 Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR);

A Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) is an electronic tool that is used to test cables such as twisted pair and coaxial cables. This is done by transmitting a signal through the cable and then the signal is reflected back to the TDR. The TDR then analyzes the reflected signal and from there it’s able to pin point if there were any problems and these problems could be brought about by loose connectors, shorts, cramps, bands and so on.

6.0 Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR);

The OTDR performs the same function as the TDR but the only difference between the two is that the OTDR is primarily used to test fiber optic cables and because fiber optic cables use light to transmit data, an OTDR transmits light through the cable instead of transmitting a signal and the light that is transmitted and reflected back is used to detect any problems with the cable.

7.0 Lighter Meter;

A Light meter is an electronic tool that is also used to test fiber optic cables but it’s a simpler tool as compared to an OTDR. So while an OTDR does more sophisticated tests, a light meter just measures how much light is going through a fiber optic cable. So you would have a light source device at one end and it will send light through the cable to the other end where a light meter will measure how much of the light is coming through.

8.0 Loopback Adapter (RJ45);

An RJ45 Ethernet loopback adapter is a handy little tool that is used to perform a loopback test to see if there were any problems with the network ports or connection issues and it does this by performing a loopback test. To perform a loopback test, the wires in a network cable are arranged in a certain way into an RJ45 connector where the transmitted signal is looped back into the same connector. So in a loopback adapter’s RJ45 connector, a wire from pin 1 is connected to pin 3 and another wire from pin 2 is connected to pin 6 so basically it causes the output signals to be returned or looped back into the input signals to form a complete circuit. You can buy a premade loopback adapter tool or what a lot of network technicians would do is to make one themselves.

Let’s say you want to check a wall jack and the network cable connected to it to make sure that they are working and connected correctly to the switch. So all you have to do is to plug the loopback adapter into the wall jack and if a corresponding port on the switch lights up when you plug it in, then that indicates a good connection and you can rest assured that the wall jack, the cable and the switch are communicating and working correctly but if the port doesn’t light up on the switch, then that indicates a network connection problem such as a bad cable related to faulty wiring, it could also be a bad wall jack or it could be a problem with the switch. So a loopback adapter is a quick and easy way to test network connections.

9.0 Punch Down Tool;

A punch down tool is a tool that resembles a screw driver and it’s used to connect or to punch down wires into a punch down block. A punch down block is used with telephone equipment where wires are installed. These blocks make it easy to connect wires because you don’t have to strip the outer shielding of the cable first. The wires are just inserted using a punch down tool and then they are punched down into the block and as the wires are punched down, the tool will automatically cut off any excess wires.

10. Multimeter;

A Multimeter is a device that is either analog or digital and it’s used to test electrical circuits. It’s a very popular tool that is used for many different trades including networking. It’s used to measure voltages in network devices, check for voltage in power outlets and it can also check for continuity in network cables.

11. Butt Set – Bonus Tool;

A Butt set a device that resembles a telephone and it’s used by a lot of telephone technicians to test and monitor telephone lines. A technician will hook up the device and as its name implies, butt into a line to hear a conversation to determine if there were any problems and these problems include noise, or if there is something as simple as a dial tone.


 

 

Tum Kurtzman
Author: Tum Kurtzman

Computer Engineer, Ugandan Life Hacker, Tech Blogger, YouTuber, Founder & Lead Engineer at SONALABS.ORG... Tum completed his BSc. in Computer Engineering from Makerere University and you can reach him via e-mail at tum@sonalabs.org.

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