The tasks of a Linux system administrator include installing the operating system, upgrading and monitoring system performance by constantly reviewing essential software and functions. While everyone has their favorites, it is necessary to have a number of proven tools in place to help you manage your Linux systems as a system administrator.

Whether you're a seasoned system administrator or just starting out with exploring Linux, the following tools will give you hands-on solutions without a steep learning curve.

Zenmap is the GUI version of the official Nmap security scanner with multi-OS compatibility (Windows, Linux, BSD, macOS). Zenmap is a free download tool that allows a new user to easily understand Nmap while also providing a variety of advanced features for the more experienced user. Its open source architecture makes the tool a favorite of the majority of Linux system administrators.

Zenmap comes in handy when you need to identify problems related to the system network. While you won't need it regularly, Zenmap can save you the day of doing network scans and troubleshooting.

In addition, you can also use this tool for penetration testing and port scanning, which is an added benefit. It is possible to save profiles in Zenmap for future scanning needs.

Related: Get hands-on experience with port scanning with Nmap

It is a versatile system administration tool with an easy-to-use web-based interface for Linux and other Unix servers. A system administrator can configure and change various internals of a system. This includes hard disk quotas, users, configuration files or services, the Apache web server, the BIND DNS server and various databases such as PHP MySQL.

There are a variety of third-party extensions that you can add to increase the functionality of this tool in case it lacks certain required functionality.

Because of its user-friendly features, Cockpit is usually the preferred tool of every system administrator for regular server administration tasks. Beginners who still get their feet wet with Linux concepts would like the simple, lightweight, yet convincing functions of Cockpit, each of which is provided via an easy-to-use web GUI.

Cockpit helps with essential tasks such as starting or stopping services, journal checking and saving, multi-server setup and configuration management. While this tool is best for Red Hat OS, users can still run it on several other Linux server distributions such as Arch Linux, Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu, and more.

Related: Getting started with Cockpit, a web-based Linux server administration tool

Graphical Ping or Gping is a great server admin tool that can create a detailed visual diagram by pinging multiple hosts simultaneously over a pre-defined period of time. With numerous practical options, gping is proving to be an indispensable application for both beginners and advanced network administrators.

Setting up and configuring firewalls on Linux servers can be daunting, especially for beginners with less experience with the iptables Usefulness. Fortunately, Shorewall comes to the rescue with its user-centric solutions.

To achieve a high-level netfilter configuration, users can add an abstraction layer with this tool. Using TC, IP, iptables, and iptables-restore commands, Shorewall can read configuration files and then configure netfilter in the Linux kernel.

In addition, it can divide interfaces into multiple zones and assign a different access level to each zone. Since the tool enables administrators to work on several systems connected to the interface, they can quickly provide individual guidelines for different zones.

Nagios (formerly NetSaint) was introduced in 2002 and is a powerful open source tool that has come a long way. Over the years it has built an excellent reputation as one of the network staples in server monitoring.

Nagios works well when it monitors a specific environment made up of network devices and servers with different protocols. It also provides basic assistance with other monitoring tools such as Icinga, OP5, and Naemon. The application comes with extensive beginner documentation to get started with the basics of Nagios.

When it comes to database maintenance, no one can deny the usefulness of an old but reliable tool like phpMyAdmin. The reason for the sheer popularity of this tool is its portable architecture and easy-to-use features.

Since phpMyAdmin only needs a web browser to function, any system with a browser, such as smartphones, is sufficient to use this tool. Then even those who cannot write SQL queries can use phpMyAdmin to perform all the necessary functions related to database administration.

When a Linux system administrator is responsible for configuring, orchestrating, and managing a growing number of servers on a large corporate network, having the best tools for the job is critical. Puppet is a versatile yet complete tool that offers many modules and actions thanks to its user-friendly interface.

Puppet's installation is pretty straightforward; it gives you an overall picture of the Linux server. It includes all devices with different operating systems within the same network, which gives system administrators a deeper insight into the entire ecosystem.

If the administration of MySQL databases is the order of the day, but you somehow do not enjoy working with a web-based GUI, then Workbench should be the tool of your choice. Aside from having a beginner-friendly user interface and a simple installation process, you can do all MySQL tasks efficiently.

MySQL Workbench is packed with features like multiple MySQL connections, unlimited undo / redo, and visual modeling of schema and data. You can also automate scripts and expand functionality using various plugins.

However, one disadvantage of this tool is that you cannot fully use it without a thorough knowledge of SQL, which is not a requirement for phpMyAdmin.

There are many app monitoring options that a network administrator can use to perform basic tasks such as port scanning and network mapping. Nmap has become the standard among its competitors because its versatile features make the tool extremely useful for real-world situations.

Most network administrators choose Nmap as their default network discovery and vulnerability detection tool. Nmap specializes in scanning available hosts and compiling a comprehensive list of accessible services for the end users.

It becomes easier to find open ports and take appropriate steps to reduce security risks. However, Nmap is not novice-friendly and only experienced users will be able to understand the output appropriately.

There's no denying that Linux is growing in popularity with both enthusiasts and regular users. Main credit goes to open source design and a robust community of talented programmers / developers who burned the midnight oil to bring a brand new tool to end users.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are numerous other devices with the same or even better functionalities. Nevertheless, these tools make your life easier by providing you with some groundbreaking functionalities for your daily work.

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About the author

Wini Bhalla
(15 articles published)

Wini is a Delhi-based writer with 2 years of writing experience. While writing, she was associated with digital marketing agencies and technical firms. She has written content on programming languages, cloud technology, AWS, machine learning, and much more. In her free time, she enjoys painting, spending time with her family and traveling to the mountains whenever possible.

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