Our increased dependence on complex information systems and ever-growing numbers of network endpoints, make the role of IT first responders a critical one. More work is being demanded of fewer, often less skilled, network and PC technicians. The sprawl of their networks across metros, regions, and even the globe adds to the difficulties of keeping systems running. This reliance on the connected world demands that frontline personnel keep networks running, whether troubleshooting an end user's problem, setting up new cubicles, or deploying new technology, such as VoIP, IP surveillance or Wi-Fi. Continuous advances in networking technologies—from health care to government, energy to education—depend on the ability to share and grow ever bigger ideas more and more quickly.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Create a Permanent Record
- Prove it's Not the Network
- Demystify your Switch and Cable Configuration
- Watch Your Team in Real Time
- Manage All Your Testers
- Document Job Completion
- Avoid Dispatch Costs
Fortunately, the same disruptive computing technologies of mobility and cloud are now also being used to provide new testing capabilities for IT personnel, such as those found in Link-Solutions by NETSCOUT Systems. Comprised of hand-held test and cloud based reporting tools, Link-Solutions provides complete end-to-end network connectivity testing and automated reporting to Link-Live Cloud Service. Link-Solutions supports organizations of any size, and with varying skill levels of users, by providing the right tool for the job.
Did that drop have PoE last time? What VLAN was this phone on? Is this wall jack connected to the same switch port? Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Previous test solutions required the technician to remember to press the save button, manage test result space limitations, and eventually, connect the hand-held tester to a PC and USB tether to retrieve the results using a windows application.
With Link-Solutions, everything is always captured with zero-touch reporting to the included Link-Live Cloud Service, providing you with complete records of your work and results, at all times. This comprehensive, searchable database allows you to easily identify changes in the network. There is no space limit, no time limit, and no need to retrieve and transfer data from testing devices to storage at the end of the day. LinkSprinter and LinkRunner AT automatically upload their test results at the moment they happen. If you don't have connectivity at that drop, the testers can buffer up to 10 results, which are pushed to the Link-Live Cloud Service when connectivity returns. Technicians no longer have to be the keepers and transporters of test data, or even remember to press save. Instead, they can double their productivity and finish jobs that used to take weeks, in days.
We're all familiar with the network being blamed for every lag or disconnect, even when the WAN, data center, application, or servers are actually at fault. It becomes the responsibility of the network staff to prove it's not the network, using tools meant for networking professionals not for the people blaming the network inaccurately.
What if proving that the network is working properly was as simple as forwarding an email?
Every LinkSprinter and LinkRunner AT test result is delivered to your inbox within seconds of the AutoTest completing. Just receiving the test results in your inbox or on your mobile device indicates that the network is functioning successfully—the tester was able to link, get an IP address, perform a DNS lookup, and connect to the Link-Live Cloud Service. Simply forward the email to the PC or server group to show that the network and drop are working just fine.
Years of ad-hoc moves, adds, and changes to the network often yield spaghetti cabling in the wiring closet. This haphazard patching makes it difficult to know what is connected where. As specific port provisioning is pushed to access switches, it becomes even more important to know which endpoints are plugged in where.
We designed Link-Solutions with a variety of methods for annotating and organizing your switch and cable setup. You can comment on test results in the Link-Live Cloud Service, on your phone using the LinkSprinter Mobile UI, on a LinkRunner AT network tester, or by replying to emailed test results. This annotation may be as simple as a wall plate number, but it is associated to the test result and the switch slot port and VLAN, which allows users to build a map of layer 2 switch port to physical end point. Then, the ability to search the test results database makes it easy to determine the switch/slot/port given a wall plate number or vice versa. You can even attach photographs of a wall plate, the connected device, or the physical location.
Click here to see how Valparaiso University tested and annotated all their dorm rooms with a LinkSprinter and student labor. With Link-Solutions, the project timeline was cut from the usual month-long process to just one week.
GPS tracking has revolutionized the service industry, as companies are now able to observe which trucks are where and for how long. This fleet automation saves time and energy by allowing supervisors to keep track of people and productivity. In the IT world, you may have sent your PC technicians to move 20 workers between floors, but have no way to view the progress, let alone the correctness of the job.Because test results are posted automatically to the cloud with zero-touch reporting, supervisors can see the tests as they come in and progress can be tracked via their email inbox or on the Link-Live Cloud Service. You can even assign different email recipients for each hand-held tester, and there is no limit to how many email addresses you can assign per tester. Typically, individual technicians are set up to receive their personal testing device's results, while the supervisor gets emails from all of the testers. Managers can watch the work being done, and know who is doing what, when, and for how long, as well as the outcome of the work. No checking in is needed from your technicians as you monitor test activity in real time.
Imagine the server team at your organization just rolled out a new SharePoint server in the data center. It would be fantastic if all the testers could validate connectivity and availability to it for the next few week, but dragging all the testers back to a managing PC, tethering to the USB, and updating the test profiles to include the new server, is effort-intensive and time-consuming.The Link-Live Cloud Service can maintain a single configuration for all of your LinkRunner ATs and LinkSprinters. After every network test, the handheld testers automatically check for a new configuration in the Link-Live Cloud Service, and then download, save, and use their new configuration on the very next test. Regardless of the geographic location of your sites, this feature allows you to change the test targets in use by front-line personnel, and to gather baseline connectivity and availability information across your enterprise. In addition to checking for configuration settings, the LinkSprinter checks for any firmware updates after each test, making it simple to keep the tester updated.
Nothing wows a client or management like a professional report. But creating a report on major upgrade projects or bulk moves is difficult without centralized and standardized test results and a report generation package. Generating documentation is typically a daunting and unpleasant task, undertaken begrudgingly, during overtime, once all other work is done.
However, in Link-Live Cloud Service, one click is all it takes to create a PDF report of all the work performed. The report includes an analytics summary page showing the time period and numbers of switches, VLANs, subnets and link speeds involved. Create customized cover pages for each client including their company logo and subtitles. Even include pictures of finished installations and configurations. As a managed IT provider, attach it to your invoice as proof positive that the work was completed, or just forward it to your boss at the end of a job. If a more specific format or control is needed, test results can be exported to a CSV file so you can develop your own report.
Much of IT is distributed across sites, branches, buildings and districts. When there is a problem at one of these sites, a first responder is dispatched to troubleshoot. Recent reports put the cost of "rolling a truck" at over $150 when considering lost labor during travel time and vehicle fuel, depreciation, insurance, and maintenance.
Link-Solutions helps control dispatch costs in two ways: First, our unintimidating and inexpensive testing devices can be used by non-IT staff at the remote site. A site administrator just needs to plug a LinkSprinter into an RJ-45 port at the point of trouble. The five, color-coded LEDs provide problem domain isolation in under 10 seconds, from validating PoE to DHCP to internet access. LinkSprinter empowers novices and non-technicians to perform basic network triage.
Second, because the test results are automatically pushed to the Link-Live Cloud Service, the centralized network engineer can see the details of the test. It might be that the wrong VLAN was provisioned or the user is simply plugged into the wrong switch. Or the network may be fine and the problem is in the PC. In these cases, you can altogether avoid the cost and time for a technician to travel to the site. With less travel, you get less overhead, and the affordable LinkSprinter may pay for itself on the first skipped trip.
For more information, visit us at www.enterprise.netscout.com.