When I worked as a network administrator for a large company, I always dreaded Monday mornings. Unless I had been working all weekend, there would almost always be an unwelcome network surprise waiting for me. Usually I would show up two hours before anyone else so that I would have time to make sure everything was working properly. Although this method allowed me to find and fix several problems that the rest of the employees never found out about, the real problems would often manifest themselves once everyone got to the office. I’m not talking about critical failures, but rather things like slow performance or individual users who couldn’t connect to certain network resources.
Today, however, there are tools that take most of the work out of this type of troubleshooting. One such tool is the OneTouch Series II from Fluke Networks. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the OneTouch Series II and show you how it can make your life easier.
The OneTouch Series II is a hardware-based network monitoring, reporting, and diagnostic tool. The tool is a PDA-style unit featuring a large monochrome LCD screen (see Figure A). The OneTouch Series II contains an RJ-45 port for interfacing with networks and an RS-232C port you can use to attach the unit to HP printers. You access the user interface via a touch-screen display similar to that used by PDA devices. An included rechargeable NiMH battery powers the unit.
|Although the unit is modeled after a PDA, at almost 9 x 5 inches and nearly two pounds, it is much larger than one.|
The unit is designed to diagnose network problems immediately, while still being easy to use. It can confirm connectivity to servers, routers, and switches. The unit can test NIC cards and cables, as well as measure utilization, collisions, and errors on a 10-Mbps or a 100-Mbps Ethernet segment. When testing switches, the unit uses SNMP to discover the switch and to determine the switch’s MAC address, IP address, SNMP name, active ports, link speed, etc. As a cable tester, the unit can spot crossed wires, shorts, breaks, split pairs, and even cable lengths. Of course, the unit also does all the standard tests that you would expect, such as locating duplicate IP addresses or a failed network component.
My two favorite features
There are two models of the OneTouch Series II: the 10/100 and the 10/100 Pro. Here are the features found in the 10/100:
- Auto Test
- Cable Testing
- IP Ping
- TCP/IP Discovery
- Switch Discovery
- Remote Web Monitoring
- Active Discovery of VoIP Endpoints, Servers, and Gateways
The 10/100 Pro model offers all of the same features as the 10/100 model, plus these:
- Remote Control Via Web Browser
- Device To Switch Port Mapping
- Config Master
- Key Device Ping
- VoIP Protocol Port Configuration
- 500 Node Station List
My last network administration job involved supporting dozens of hospitals and nursing homes located all over the country. Most of these facilities were in small towns located far away from the central office. Several times a week, I would have to drive hundreds of miles to troubleshoot some minor network glitch.
If I had that job to do over again, I would ship the OneTouch Series II 10/100 Pro to each facility. Then it would be possible to instruct the person who called me to plug the unit into the network. Once the OneTouch Series II 10/100 Pro was plugged in, I could access it by remote control via the Internet. Then it would be possible to accurately troubleshoot a network problem that’s hundreds of miles away and save time in the process.
While the remote monitoring feature is my favorite, the performance testing feature is a close second. The OneTouch Series II is smart enough to translate the data it collects in a way that a novice network engineer can understand. For example, on an Ethernet network, you can’t usually look at the number of collisions, errors, or broadcasts and say, “that number is too high.” The “too high” label is relative based on your total traffic flow. For example, if you’re getting 100 collisions a minute on a five-user network, then you’ve probably got a serious problem. On the other hand, if you get 100 collisions a minute on a 5,000-user network, then you’re a miracle worker. The OneTouch Series II gives you performance information based on all the critical Ethernet statistics rather than just looking at one or two core statistics.
Additionally, these statistics are compiled over a period of time rather than just taking a brief snapshot of network traffic patterns. After all, if the device were to take a quick snapshot of the traffic patterns, then it’s possible that the snapshot might have occurred during an unusually high traffic spike, thus not accurately reflecting the network’s true usage.
Add-on software available
Fluke Networks makes an add-on software package that allows you to monitor and document your network’s performance over a period of time ranging from 20 minutes to 24 hours. The software includes the following reports:
- IP Inventory
- NetBIOS Inventory
- Top Talkers
- Protocol Mix
- Ethernet Collision Summary
- Ethernet Error Summary
- Ethernet Network Usage
You can download a 14-day trial version of this software at the Fluke Networks Web site.
Troubleshooting at its easiest
With all that the OneTouch Series II offers, Monday-morning stress should become a thing of the past. Thanks in particular to the remote monitoring and performance testing features, this troubleshooting tool can make short work of your network’s weekend surprises.