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5 Essential IT Tools That Make Your Job Easier

Mar04
As with many professional and management-like jobs, being an IT manager is about learning to live with how your Ideal Day differs from your Usual Day.

Your Ideal Day involves a lot of thoughtful discussions with peers and experts about IT tools that allow you to achieve a stable and resilient ecosystem. You spend a bit of time exploring some interesting new options in the field, maybe toy around with test deployments on your own schedule. You spend the last part of your day planning for the next. Your cellphone rings once, because your spouse wants you to know that they’re leaving work early.

Your Usual Day? It’s like your Ideal Day, but inverted. You turn your phone off after your third coffee of the morning because it’s running out of juice. You arrive at work feeling like you’re about to get jumped in an alley by thugs named Email Attachment, Anti-Virus, and the big heavy, VPN. The dev server on which you planned to try out that new file software remains untouched for yet another day, and most of your discussions involve apologizing for things being the way they are.

The trick: find ways to cut down Usual Day problems as fast as possible, so you can warp over into your Ideal Day timeline whenever possible. Easier said than done. But after consulting with a few IT managers, and having acted as a de facto IT manager for my family and friends, I’ve rounded up these five IT tools that can help you get your Ideal Day back. Give them a try – your dev server will thank you.

Just Beam It: “I need to get this file to them, but …”

The “but” is usually an email attachment size limit, or an attachment that someone doesn’t see, or a virus scanner that won’t let a .zip or .exe file through. You could walk them through learning to use Dropbox or Google Drive on your Apps installation, or…

Just Beam It. It’s a one-time, web-based file transfer tool. Go to JustBeamIt.com and click on the parachute to choose the file. Users get a link they can copy and send to the person who needs the file. The link only works once, and (this is important) stops working if the sender closes their Just Beam It page. So there is more than one layer of prevention against letting the file out in the open, and the only software they need is a web browser (or Android phone).

Basecamp: “I just want something simple to manage files and discussions”

Companies of a certain size tend to buy IT tools that have all of the features anyone might possibly need. But too many features and options can be worse for the people who just need to get something done.

Basecamp can help. Many teams inside larger companies use Basecamp to manage their own tasks, projects, discussions and clients, despite the larger company preferring enterprise-level tools with charts and diagrams. You’d be far from the first. Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried spoke on The Talk Show recently about how Basecamp thrives in the shadows of big firms.

Join.me: “Our teleconference software doesn’t work after I <did X to my computer>”

A remote team is only as strong as the person who can’t connect because they upgraded their MacBook to a new version that isn’t supported – the saying goes something like that, right?

When your CisLotuCitriMessage suite fails on you, a good compromise between “is really easy to set up” and “looks somewhat professional” is join.me. It’s made by the team behind LogMeIn, but is scaled back quite a ways from that all-in-one setup. It’s a tiny download for Windows or Mac, and then you simply share out the meeting code to the people who need to be in it.

Unable to install anything on a computer that’s being problematic? Try AnyMeeting or MeetingBurner. AnyMeeting, in particular, doesn’t require anything other than an up-to-date browser (though Internet Explorer might be tricky), while MeetingBurner wants the latest versions of Flash and Java.

GroupMe: “I need Jim, but I don’t have his cellphone number”

It’s pretty easy to sympathize with lost numbers, because it seems like no contact manager is actually good at its job. And sending a group MMS and maintaining who is who is no picnic, either.

Point the teams and committees and other folks who need to stay in contact as a whole to GroupMe. To explain it simply, you give it the names and numbers of people who want to talk to each other, and it creates a single phone number they can all text to then text everyone. It adds names, handles pictures, and because it’s a designated phone number, people can assign it a distinct ringtone or vibrate pattern so they know it’s their team calling.

Pixlr: “I need to resize this image, but it says my Photoshop license is invalid”

The built-in tools for Windows (Paint) and Mac (Preview) can do way more than you think, but they’re not quite as user-friendly as you might hope. Meanwhile, every time I have shown someone Pixlr Express or its slightly beefier cousin, Pixlr Editor, they have simply wondered why it doesn’t exist for the desktop.

Upload an image from your computer, or give it the link to an image online, and you can quickly crop, color-balance, resize, and otherwise lightly manipulate an image for your needs. After clicking “Save,” Pixlr doesn’t try to get you to sign up for its online vault or anything like that—it just gives you a download of that fixed-up photo. Many, many online image editors have come and went, but this one is backed by the folks who make the established Autodesk 3D design tool, so it’s likely got some staying power.

Have a few IT tools that have helped you out of a bind? Share them with us in the comments below!