Handling Toolbox Drama with NetAlly

As network/systems engineers and admins, the natural approach to something new is to start with training and understanding a new technology, job, project, or task.  This is a valid approach, but many times is only half the battle.  For practically any role, you not only need to understand the job and technology, but you also need to be able to leverage potentially many different tools to accomplish your mission on a daily basis.  Sometimes you may not have all the right tools in the toolbox to assist you in what you need to accomplish, and need to justify the expense to the organization to add those tools.  Other times, you may have so many different resources at your disposal that you need to determine what you really need at the ready to pack for the task at hand.  Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll explore this toolbox drama, some best practices to troubleshooting, and how NetAlly can help.

Troubleshooting/Testing Best Practices

A core competency of NetAlly’s physical testing equipment and software platforms is to help engineers and admins effectively test wired/wireless implementations and troubleshoot issues, starting at “Layer 1”.  This goes hand in hand with using the OSI Model as a way to approach troubleshooting and testing.  Following the OSI model gives a starting point when troubleshooting an issue.  It can help you efficiently apply a similar methodology framework consistently so that you can achieve similar results each time without falling into traps of glossing over a simple fix and making something more difficult than necessary.  Here are the categories of the OSI model:

  • 7 – Application
  • 6 – Presentation
  • 5 – Session
  • 4 – Transport
  • 3 – Network
  • 2 – Data Link
  • 1 – Physical

From a best practice standpoint, it makes sense to start troubleshooting and testing at the bottom of the OSI model, with the physical layer, and working your way upward.  This gives you not only a good, repeatable starting point, but also keeps you from missing common physical layer issues, such as cabling and radio frequency problems (coverage and/or interference issues).  NetAlly lives in the Physical Layer with their wired and wireless testing products, with an AutoTest and other diagnostics that aid your troubleshooting to Layer 7.

NetAlly’s Tools of the Trade

NetAlly offers a wealth of both hardware and software testing tools to help you implement and troubleshoot wired and wireless networks.  From testing newly installed copper cabling, to troubleshooting a reported wireless coverage issue, NetAlly has you covered.

The wired test and analysis tools include:

  • LinkRunner® 10G – Advanced Ethernet Tester
    • Testing of 1 Gbps, Multi-Gig, and 10 Gbps copper and fiber Ethernet implementations.
    • Layer 1-7 AutoTest to easily find network issues within any part of the stack.
    • Monitor for issues over time up to 24 hours to help catch those intermittent problems.
    • Validate up to 90W PoE implementations.
  • LinkRunner® G2 – Smart Network Tester
    • Enhanced AutoTest diagnostics for copper and fiber Ethernet networks.
    • Validate up to 90W PoE implementations.
    • Discover nearest switch information with CDP/LLDP/EDP.
  • LinkSprinter® Pocket Network Tester
    • Fast and easy network connectivity tests for copper Ethernet links.
    • Discover nearest switch information with CDP/LLDP/EDP.
    • Validate 802.3af and 802.3at PoE implementations.
  • LinkRunner® AT – Network AutoTester
    • Fast and easy network connectivity tests for copper and fiber Ethernet links.
    • Discover nearest switch information with CDP/LLDP/EDP.
    • Validate 802.3af and 802.3at PoE implementations.

The wireless test and analysis tools include:

  • AirCheck™ G2 – Wi-Fi Tester
    • One-button AutoTest to quickly provide a pass/fail score of Wi-Fi quality.
    • Visualize available Wi-Fi networks.
    • View valuable information such as utilization, noise level, throughput, potential rogue devices, and interferes.
    • Test the different Wi-Fi standards.
  • AirMapper™ Site Survey
    • Create visual heat maps for Wi-Fi analysis.
    • See SNR, noise, and interference measurements right on the handheld display of your NetAlly product.

For one tool to rule them all, NetAlly offers a wired and wireless testing option with the:

  • EtherScope® nXG – Portable Network Expert
    • Testing options for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth/BLE deployments.
    • Ethernet testing available up to 10 Gbps.

On top of all of these solutions, NetAlly also provides the Link-Live™ Collaboration, Reporting, and Analysis Platform to pull in all of the results and data from your network testing gear for further analysis. Link-Live™ provides the following features and benefits:

  • Free cloud platform enabling collaboration on validation and testing projects.
  • Generate Wi-Fi heatmaps on the NetAlly physical testing equipment and upload them to Link-Live™.
  • Easy report generation.

Tool Proliferation and Efficiencies

As you can see, NetAlly provides many different tools for many different scenarios and use cases.  Sometimes it can be difficult to determine which tools make it into the tool bag (and yes, NetAlly has their own tool bags as well) for a specific task, incident, or project.  I feel like you need to strike a nice balance between “prepared for absolutely anything possible” and “I had to make seven trips back and forth because I never had the right gear for the job”.  I will not say that this is an easy feat, especially if you are in a hurry because something important is broken.  Again, you want to be reasonably prepared for what may come your way, but you also want to make sure you are comfortable as well.  I used to struggle with this.  There was one point that I was carrying around switch stack cables and a spare wireless access point in my bag wherever I went.  With all the other gear I had in there, I’m not sure I want to know how much that bag weighed at its peak.  Did I ever actually need either of those in a pinch?  No, I don’t think so.  This all being said, don’t fret.  Knowing what you need and selecting the right gear for the specific situation will come with time and practice.  You’ll start thinking about what-ifs and caveats while you’re getting ready for a task.  Just remember to continue to learn from what goes well, and sometimes even more importantly, what doesn’t go well.

Tool-ing Up

It is definitely important to not only have the proper tools of the trade, but also know how to use them.  For NetAlly’s suite of tools, they have your back with product videos and webinars right there on their website.  Also, refer to this report understanding the tools and trends for smarter network management.

Published by Tim Bertino

Systems Architect passionate about solutions and design.

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