White Paper: Troubleshoot Corporate Networks | NETSCOUT
White Paper
White Paper

The Importance of Effectively Troubleshooting Corporate Networks

Introduction

Relentless digitization means corporate networks have only increased in importance. Workers rely on uninterrupted, high performance networks that guarantee them access to the information and tools they require to do their jobs.

Increasingly, this includes remote workers who expect an office-like experience even when they’re on the road, working from home, or connecting from across the world. It’s no longer sufficient to download e-mails once per hour while working on locally-saved documents. Remote workers need to access databases and other online information sources, work with company apps like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, as well as collaborate with colleagues and partners as if they were in the next room.

All of this means the network, always the backbone of any organization, has become paramount. Keeping it up and running, and performing to its maximum capacity, is crucial.

When networks go down, some or all of the people in an organization simply can’t do their jobs. The longer a network stays down, the more the losses mount up. So IT professionals that can troubleshoot networks fast and effectively are in high demand.

For end users, getting back up and running is all that matters. Whether that happens because of a workaround or because the IT team found and corrected the root cause of the problem is immaterial to the end user. They simply want to access their tools and information so they can stay productive.

For IT departments, addressing root causes is more important, because it reduces the likelihood of further network outages. However, doing so can take time and can, in some instances, require input from third-party providers.

In early 2017, NETSCOUT® surveyed more than 450 IT professionals, mostly in the network and help desk roles, to find out how they approach troubleshooting, what barriers they encounter during troubleshooting, and how they believe troubleshooting could be improved. This whitepaper explores their responses and offers some insight into how the right troubleshooting tools can vastly improve the speed and efficacy of troubleshooting efforts.

How Organizations Approach Troubleshooting Today

Troubleshooting is challenging and the best method isn’t always clear. Technicians often use the few tools they’re familiar with to solve every problem, but that approach won’t always work. For example, a technician that knows the physical level may attempt to solve a problem with cable testers and meters, while a technician with a radio frequency communications background may prefer a spectrum analyzer. Effective troubleshooting requires that technicians have the proper tools and a broad base of experience.

The survey found that technicians look for a root cause 53 per cent of the time, find a workaround to get users functional again 30 per cent of the time, and escalate to next-level team or third party to solve the problem 22 per cent of the time.

While end users only care that the network gets back up and running, it’s important to find the root cause, determine the domain of the problem and exonerate the network.

The NETSCOUT OneTouch AT network assistant helps technicians validate and troubleshoot Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks. It combines infrastructure, network service, and end-to-end path performance testing in a single, versatile tool with centralized management through the Link-Live cloud portal. It also addresses VoIP problems in real-time with inline call monitoring, logging, and scoring.

Validating the Fix When the Root Cause Can’t Be Found

83 per cent of respondents are satisfied with their ability to troubleshoot the root cause of issues, however the root cause can’t be identified in about half of network issues.

Discovering the root cause means technicians can fix the issue and reduce the risk of it recurring. However, it can be time consuming and expensive to identify the root cause in some cases. In these cases, it’s advisable to validate the fix by ensuring the user sees a difference in performance after the problem has been fixed.

Technicians should check that the application can be reached by making sure a complete transaction can occur. If a link was slow, they should run a series of ping tests over time and check back to make sure all the response times are good. Taking a little extra care after the fix is made can help prevent the problem from occurring again.

Even though most of the technicians surveyed were satisfied with their ability to troubleshoot root causes, they admitted that a quarter of trouble tickets were escalated. While 61 per cent of tickets are resolved in two hours or faster when escalation isn’t required, it can take more than four hours to resolve issues when tickets are escalated.

It’s important to document the details of any fix so technicians can use this information to save time if a similar problem occurs in the future. Good documentation can eliminate the need to escalate future problems, dramatically reducing the time it takes to resolve them. Documentation should include screen shots, notes, spreadsheets, and anything else that could be useful for other technicians.

Barriers to Effective Troubleshooting

Two thirds of respondents said their current troubleshooting approach is fine while the rest said a better approach is needed, and 83 per cent said they encountered remote troubleshooting issues.

Effective troubleshooting starts with the right tools but selecting those can be challenging. The best approach is one that follows a logical sequence of steps such as:

  • analyze the network as a whole.
  • zero in on the root source of the problem and make one adjustment or change one part to eliminate the problem.
  • don’t focus on completely understanding the problem until after the network is functioning properly.
  • provide feedback and training to the user, as it could eliminate user-generated problems in the future.

If the issue is intermittent, most IT professionals turn to packet capture to diagnose the problem. This is made easier with the OneTouch AT, which reduces project risk and troubleshooting time through a collaborative workflow between the field team and the network owner with one-touch reporting, inline packet capture, and web remote control. It lets engineers pre-define multiple AutoTest profiles, which reduces problem-solving time dramatically. It can reduce validation test time from hours to minutes, which lets even less-experienced technicians deliver exceptional results.

Getting enough information is a key barrier to effective troubleshooting. According to the survey:

  • 29 per cent say they need to start the investigation from scratch because not enough information is documented at the start.
  • 26 per cent say it’s difficult to get the information they need when the problem is at a remote location.
  • 30 per cent say front line tech personnel aren’t equipped to diagnose network problems.
  • 12 per cent say there’s no standard set of troubleshooting solutions across different teams.

Time is also a key barrier. The survey showed that wireless support/architects spend 25 per cent of their time troubleshooting network issues and 44 per cent of network-related time is spent on non-network related projects or issues.

How to Improve Troubleshooting: Overcoming Barriers of Information and Time

To reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve network issues, NETSCOUT has developed a three-step process: automated testing; troubleshooting; and collaboration.

Automated testing

Through automated testing, NETSCOUT OneTouch AT identifies the most common network problems in about one minute. This process, done manually, would normally take around an hour. Furthermore, automated testing is more thorough than a manual approach, which means it can find problems that technicians may not have even considered.

Troubleshooting

The technician can then move into the troubleshooting phase. They can continue to run tests to provide information on the network and quickly identify problems such as improper security, interference, bandwidth hogs, overloaded channels, unauthorized devices, and more.

Collaboration

Collaboration improves the process of working with others to resolve problems. The OneTouch AT includes features designed to expedite collaborative troubleshooting with the Link-Live Cloud Service. This captures everything with zero-touch reporting, so everyone has complete records of the work done, as well as results, at all times. This makes it possible to easily identify changes in the network, which means colleagues have all the information they need immediately, even if they’re coming in to help midway through the process.

OneTouch AT can also perform an inline packet capture in just a few screen touches. To gather the same amount of information manually would take 30 minutes or longer, and require special inline TAP hardware. And a web interface means remote users can participate in the troubleshooting process for increased effectiveness.

The resulting time savings make it possible to close tickets much faster, with a far more streamlined approach to escalation. This effectively overcomes the barriers of not enough information and not enough time.

Wi-Fi Health Checks

Wi-Fi networks are increasingly important as tools to improve the employee, customer, and guest experience. These networks experience constant changes with Internet of Things (IoT) and visitor devices connecting to the network, making it difficult to know exactly what’s on the network at any given time. This also makes it hard to see the network’s health from a channel assignment and placement perspective.

Technicians should conduct regular walk-throughs with the OneTouch AT to check Wi-Fi health. This includes roaming test to detect coverage blind spots, measuring channel and signal strength, health of multiple access points at key locations on site, and assessing the number of clients or access points on channels during peak hours to aid capacity and performance planning for the Wi-Fi network.

Conclusion

As digital transformation continues to increase business’s reliance on networks, effective troubleshooting will have the potential to increase a company’s competitiveness. Keeping high-performance networks up and running is crucial to unleashing the potential of both individual workers and the business as a whole. IT teams that can quickly identify issues, get to the root cause, and resolve them, will contribute significantly to the success of their business. Effective troubleshooting depends on having the right tools as well as taking the most efficient approach. With the right tools and approach in place, technicians can overcome the key barriers of time and information, and cut straight to the heart of any network issue.

About OneTouch AT

The OneTouch AT reduces the time network technicians spend validating and troubleshooting network performance problems. It provides all-in-one testing for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, network service and application performance. Multiple AutoTest profiles can be pre-defined by engineers so that field technicians can quickly validate a complete set of key parameters from the end user’s perspective and follow standardize troubleshooting procedures.

OneTouch AT delivers a superior ROI by reducing problem solving time with a three-step process:

  1. The AutoTest standardizes and reduces validation test time from hours to minutes, and empowers less skilled technicians to be productive.
  2. For tougher problems, OneTouch provides a complete set of troubleshooting tools for Gigabit, fiber optic and Wi-Fi networks, from cable/RF health to application performance testing.
  3. Reduce project risk and troubleshooting time through collaborative workflow between field team and network owner with one-touch reporting, inline packet capture, and web remote control.

OneTouch AT technology differentiators include:

  • user-programmable AutoTest for validating Wi-Fi and/or Ethernet network connectivity, health, and performance.
  • web and other application connectivity tests: breaks out DNS lookup, time to first byte, total time, and throughput.
  • network performance tests: end-to-end test cross-wired and Wi-Fi networks to another OneTouch, LinkRunner, or SW reflector.
  • inline mode: monitor, analyse, and capture traffic on copper or fiber links with programmable filtering and slicing.
  • inline visibility to VoIP, IPv6, TruePower™ PoE, and 802.11ac.
  • cloud-based test result storage: catches tough remote and intermittent problems with result logging and report sharing, and enhances collaboration with complete browser-based remote control.

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