Top 5 Mistakes IT Pros make when Troubleshooting
There are several traps that are easy to fall into when troubleshooting network and application problems. Let’s look at these examples:
1. Making assumptions about the root cause of a problem.
We all have a tendency to make assumptions based on what we think we know or what maybe worked in the past.. However, this mistake can lead to unnecessary network changes, costly upgrades, or baseless improvements, hoping the problem will go away. Instead, before making these knee-jerk decisions, gather facts about the problem. Fully understand the who, why, where, what and how of the issue before changing a thing.
2. Upgrading the Problem Away
Upgrading from 1Gbps to 10Gbps should increase performance 10-fold, right? Not exactly, all too often when faced with network problems - especially ones involving slow performance – the temptation to increase WAN bandwidth or upgrade switches and routers. Are you just throwing bandwidth at the problem? Will it resolve the issue? Upgrading key systems is warranted from time to time, but be careful when upgrading a device as a troubleshooting step- it’s a costly decision.
3. Lack of wireless tools and experience
Wireless can be a challenge as more end user devices ditch the cable and go 100% Wi-Fi and the voice and video applications these devices demand, has increased the complexity of wireless environments. Even when these systems are implemented and maintained by seasoned RFexperts, clients can still experience poor performance, network disconnections, and other frustrating issues. Since the wireless environment is easily susceptible to performance problems, it is often the first to take the blame when a new event strikes. Many point the finger at the Wi-Fi simply because it is an area of the network not fully understood and there is a lack of tools to analyze. Rather than have a huge network blind spot, investment in both tools and training is needed to respond to problems in this domain.
4. Under-monitoring the Network
Problems are complex, intermittent, and manage to hide in the shadows of the system. It used to be that an up/down ping-based tool was all that was needed to monitor the network. This has drastically changed. Resolving today's issues requires monitoring systems that are both network and application aware, making use of SNMP, NetFlow, and packet capture to leave no visibility stone unturned. These systems need to watchdog applications 24/7/365 to ensure that intermittent problems are caught in the act, rather than missing the event when monitoring systems are looking the other way.
5. Using laptop hardware to capture packets
Packet capture and trace file interpretation is the gold standard for deep-dive detail when investigating a problem. This analysis method is critical for finding the root cause of the issue, rather than just exonerating the network and throwing the problem over the wall. When it comes to packet collection, a common mistake is misunderstanding the limits of the hardware being used to capture. Take Wireshark for example. This open-source tool is known and loved by engineers around the globe, and is the most downloaded networking tool available. However, most people use this tool on laptops or on untested hardware which cannot keep up with high-rate traffic streams. In fact, most standard laptops struggle to capture seamlessly at rates higher than 100Mbps! Know the limits of the hardware used to collect packets before capturing in the data center environment. Missing packets from trace files can easily increase the time to resolution of a nagging problem.
This is not an exhaustive list – but with a little bit of preparation and awareness of some common mistakes, IT Pros can reduce time to resolution, trim frustration, reduce costs or unnecessary expense, and avoid the headaches brought on when troubleshooting network problems.