September 19, 2011, 4:01 PM — You might imagine that the best place to go for improving your Microsoft server-side experience is to the mothership itself. In many cases, you would be right. But the truth is there are a meaningful number of open source tools that go above and beyond what Microsoft has to offer in support of Windows Server, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint. Many of these alternatives provide -- for free -- more powerful capabilities than what you'd get with third-party retail products.
Microsoft itself has acknowledged this fact, facilitating the availability of open source tools for Microsoft admins through its CodePlex site. Microsoft, too, can be relied on for a few clear winners when it comes to free tools.
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All in all, it's never been a better time to experiment with open source tools in your Microsoft environment. From networking troubleshooting to security to performance analysis, we've compiled a list of the top open source tools for your Windows-based systems. Don't see a favorite? Feel free to highlight it in the comments below.
Essential open source Windows admin tool No. 1: Wireshark
Network troubleshooting is a real art, one that requires solid training and years of hands-on experience. But a tool like Wireshark helps ease traffic analysis, thanks to many powerful features. Just one look at this free software-based protocol analyzer's color-coding features and you'll see how its superior usability makes Wireshark a worthwhile tool for any Microsoft shop.
Essential open source Windows admin tool No. 2: AMANDA
Admins looking to ease the pain of backing up Windows-based systems should check out AMANDA, aka Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver. AMANDA provides the ability for an administrator to set up a single master backup server that can support both Windows desktops and servers over the network to a variety of media, including tape drives, disks, or optical media.