Some seemingly simple network connectivity questions asked by end users (such as “Why won’t my e-mail work?” or “Why can’t I find my network folder?”) can be difficult to troubleshoot.

TechRepublic’s support guru, Ted Laun, has developed a network access troubleshooting decision tree that you can download for a step-by-step guide to pinpointing the cause of these types of network problems. You can also use the decision tree to help others understand just how complicated the process can be.

Beginning the chase
Resolving a network connectivity issue presents many possibilities for the help desk. (Use the decision tree to help pinpoint the e-mail problem presented, or modify the decision tree to help address other network issues by substituting a proper server name for the e-mail server used in the example.)

If the network is up and running for everyone else, then the connectivity issue is most likely localized to the end user.

While every network is unique, here are some common questions that a support tech should ask:

  • Does that machine have a static or dynamic IP address?
  • Could the network interface card (NIC) have lost its IP address?
  • Did the user log on properly?
  • Is the driver for the NIC corrupt?
  • Is the NIC bad?
  • Could the network cable be disconnected or damaged?
  • Is it a software problem?

Some of these questions can be answered over the telephone if you have a cooperative end user who isn’t afraid to follow a few directions. If the problem remains unresolved, however, you will have to make a trip to the desktop and check it out.

Following a logical path
The quickest way to discover the root of a network connectivity issue is through a process of elimination. There are a number of possibilities when you get the end user’s complaint, but you can zero in on the cause after eliminating some possibilities and all processes related to those eliminated possibilities.

If this is strictly a network connectivity issue, the process is simplified. If it is a question of access to the network via a program like an e-mail client, then you need to eliminate the software as a culprit. (For software issues, see “Download our software support decision tree to keep your help desk on track.”)

If software is not the problem, then the process of tracking down a user’s connectivity issues begins with determining if the user is supposed to have a dynamic or static IP address. The answer to this very basic question eliminates an entire branch of inquiry.

Before visiting the desktop, you can usually talk the user through a series of tests that are designed to ensure they have a unique and functioning IP address. After that, if the problem still exists, then it is time to grab a spare network cable and the appropriate NIC drivers and take a little trip to the end user.

Once there, you will take a look at the link light on the NIC. The answer to that question eliminates another set of possibilities dealing with the actual physical connection of the card.

The troubleshooting process then resolves itself to the question of the NIC drivers and eventually to the integrity of the NIC.

While all of this may seem like it is taking only a few minutes, the experienced help desk person knows they are using pretty sophisticated analysis and testing to resolve the issue.

With our download, you can show end users the complexity involved in solving their problem.

Help your help desk with this analysis tool

Download our network access troubleshooting decision tree for a step-by-step plan you can use to diagnose a trouble spot on your LAN.