Things a network technician should carry with them on the job
This is a list of things I have found very handy to keep in my truck, which
might NOT be top on a tech's mind when it comes to repairing networks.
Yes, I don't work out of a car, I use a full-sized van, although I found
a cargo mini-van worked well, except I wanted more seating... I don't
drive the van because it is stylish (I'd much rather be using my convertible,
if possible), I need the space. I wish to point out my business is
not built around hardware repair work, but rather network trouble shooting,
although if the server is broken, it NEEDS to get fixed. Someone
in the repair business should probably have other things, but this might
be an interesting guide.
Cheap Power strips (It is amazing the number of times a job gets
delayed because there aren't enough outlets handy)
NE2000 clone network cards -- they are slow, but reliable. Everyone's
network software works with an NE-2000 compatable card, can't say that
about anything else. Great way to find out if a problem is due to
software or infrastructure. I also carry some 3C503 cards, primarily
because I got them, although I once found a computer which would not accept
any of the three different types of NE2000 clone cards I stuffed in it,
but worked fine with the 3C503. Bizzare.
(update) PCI network cards. I'd *love* to have the $$$ on
hand to keep a stock of 3C905 cards, but I don't. I normally stock
a few low-end 10/100BASE-T(X) cards, typically with a RealTek chip set.
I've had pretty good luck with them, and they cost me less than $20 each.
IDE drive cables
Internal SCSI cables (wide and narrow)
External SCSI cables (this gets expensive: 25 to Telco (big) 50 pin; big
50 to big 50; HD (sometimes called SCSI-2) 50 to HD 50; HD 50 to big 50,
and anything else you can imagine needing. AND, this hasn't even
started on the Wide SCSI!!)
Wide SCSI cables. You thought the narrow cables were getting expensive??
Cheap VGA video cards. Hate to see a dead server because of a video
Twisted Pair network cable and ends (make sure you have both solid and
RG-58 Coax (Plenum), and ends (Update: I haven't touched
coax at a client in over a year. I've since DOUBLED my billing rates
for coax, with the explaination that if $250/hr. causes people to go elsewhere,
GREAT. I'm basicly out of the coax business, and anyone still using
it shouldn't be expecting quick repairs anymore, so I will forgive anyone
who doesn't wish to carry the stuff.)
More RG-58 coax ends (I've identifed at least three different sizes of
RG-58 cable ends. I've found a fourth size of RG-58 cable, but I
haven't found the ends...Most coax problems are at the ends, it is best
if you can replace the ends without replacing the entire string of cable.)
Cheap CD-ROM drives. I've been finding "slow" IDE drives for around
$35 ea, and occiationally I've found SCSI drives for as little as $15 each.
Have one on hand for "emergency" repairs.
Friends have reminded me of the wonderous things I have made out of popsicle
sticks and a glue gun, and complained that they are not on this list.
O.k., have a large pile of popsicle sticks and a glue gun.
99% Isopropyl alcohol. Wonderful stuff for cleaning. Also useful
to flush water out of computers and other devices that water should not
have got into. 99% is hard to find. 70% is most common, but
has 30% water, so I don't recommend it. 91% is much better, but you
will have to check out a well-stocked drug store for it. A small
but complete drug store near me has 99%, don't know how common it is elsewhere.
Cotton Swabs. Typically used with above alcohol
Cheap 10BASE-T hubs. I typically carry a 16 port, an 8 port and a
4-5 port hub. The big one is for emergency replacements. The
smaller ones are for unexpected expansion (I *thought* there was a spare
jack here!). Soon, I'll have to start carrying 100/10BASE-T dual
Tools I haven't found useful:
End crimping tools, both Coax and Twisted Pair
Simple cable tester (I've found I can identify virtually all cable failures
with a simple continuity tester for twisted pair and a digital ohmmeter
for coax. This is assuming the wiring is installed properly in the
Good screw drivers.
Torx wrenches, including T-8, T-10 and T-15 sizes (T-8 very hard to find,
but is critical for repairing Compaq servers, and thus, an important tool
for a network tech to have on hand. It is also a good reason to NEVER
use a Compaq server, but many people don't know this, and do it anyway,
and you gotta fix it when it breaks.)
Vise-grips, both "regular" and "needle nose". (useful when you can't
find that tiny T-8 Torx wrench).
Hammer, mostly as a conversation piece ("Whadya use that for?" "Frustration").
Power drill (the temptation here would be a cordless, but I always find
my batteries dead when I need them, so I carry both a cordless and a corded
drill), with LONG drill bit and masonary bits, in addition to a general
purpose drill bit set, and a hole-saw (get that parallel cable end through
Drywall screws...amazing what you can build and mount with those things...
Like duct tape, only more permanent.
Flashlight. I've found a six-cell Mag light curiously usefull, really
gets the bills paid rapidly.
Fish tape (used for fishing wire through walls, conduit, and dropped ceilings)
Straightened clothes hanger (used for fishing wire through holes)
Electrical tape (normally used only for attaching wire to clothes hanger!)
A ladder (used rarely, and takes up lots of room, but boy is it a life
(and neck) saver when needed. I use one of those cool folding ladders.
Expensive and heavy, but fits well in the van, and gives lots of flexibility.
A computer useable as both a network server and workstation, kept in very
operational condition (this is critical... the idea is in a "Dead Network",
usually a new install or a first time on site situation, you can figure
out quickly if it is the server that is down or the workstations are inoperative.
I have used a "lunchbox" computer for this to great effect, but it has
to be READY to go, you must be sure that *it* works, even if nothing else
in the building does. It is also nice if it could be an emergency
server for your customer should a very bad thing happen to their server.
Jumper cables. Has nothing to do with computer repair, but boy do
you look good when you jump start a client's (or prospective clients!)
car...or your own if you leave the lights on on the truck (boy did I look
stupid getting a jump from the client...)
Business cards...give to the people after you jump start their car 8-)
Wheeled cart. Since I don't move lots of stuff often, I keep a folding
luggage carrier in the car rather than a full dolly.
Computer Opinion Page
Cable Scanner: Now, I don't install cabling when I can help it, just
in emergencies or very small jobs no one else will take. I have found
cheap ($70-$100) cable continuity checkers do great for twisted pair, assuming
you have the right idea when it comes to making the cable, and a digital
ohm meter does great for coax. IF you are doing significant cable
installations, or are telling people you are doing "Catagory 5" cable installs
you BETTER have a Catagory 5 cable scanner to PROVE you are doing what
you say you are. I don't do this, so I don't feel the need.
Diagnostic software: The best diagnostics are stored between the ears...no
disk will make up for the brain. Besides, usually if the machine
can boot the diagnostic program, it runs it fine.
Packet sniffer/analyzer: Most of the people who use these have no
idea what they are even looking at. In 15 years of networking, I
have learned something I didn't know through other means exactly ONCE..and
that time, it would have told me nothing more than the wiring was working
perfectly, the problem was elsewhere (it turned out to be a defective network
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