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Be Careful When Using Free Network Troubleshooting Tools

freeDuring a presentation at this year’s Interop conference, an analyst provided a long list of free or affordable network troubleshooting solutions that budget-conscious organizations can implement into their networks.

Here’s our two cents on the topic:

It’s true that there is no shortage of free or cheap solutions on the market that you can use to gain more visibility into how your network is performing. We wanted to add an important caveat, though: Such commercial tools—like Wireshark, Nmap and SmokePing—are specialty solutions designed for specific drill-downs, and limited uses.

They can be effective at providing detailed information about individual processes occurring in your network. A tool like Wireshark, for instance, is great for analyzing data packets and letting you know when they are being dropped. What Wireshark won’t tell you, however, is the exact location and root cause of the issue.

Utilizing multiple, free or affordable network troubleshooting solutions is a bit like taking a random set of tools, opening the hood of your car and going to work. Sure, you can test your battery, adjust your belt or look for leaks in your vehicle’s cooling system without bringing your car to a mechanic. Ultimately, though, you’ll be guessing as to why your battery is perpetually low, your belts are squealing or your hoses are leaking.

Performing this type of guess-and-check-style network troubleshooting in the data center is not only risky, but also time consuming. What’s more, it requires using many different disparate programs which can be more trouble than they are worth.

So, what’s the better approach to network troubleshooting for the budget-conscious organization?

As it turns out, the answer to this question—PathSolutions’ TotalView— was running silently in the background on Interop’s core network, InteropNet, during the aforementioned presentation on free solutions. TotalView, a real-time network troubleshooting platform, was instrumental in helping the network operations center keep InteropNet up and running throughout the duration of the conference—from setup until closing.

The beauty of TotalView is that it provides a fully automated approach to network troubleshooting. After an ultra-fast setup (you can be up and running in just 12 minutes) TotalView will begin scanning your network and providing performance feedback across all areas of the network, including into your QoS queue configurations on SIP trunks.

Plus, TotalView will report the exact cause and location of a network error in plain English, so network operators can get to work solving the issue rather than spending all their time looking for it.

Just think how difficult it would have been to keep InteropNet up and running using multiple, free network troubleshooting tools. We’ll tell you this much: We’d still be in the NOC trying to hunt down problems even though the conference is long over!

That being said, if you’re going to implement any free solutions make sure you are doing so to gain more insight about specific problems—and not to perform the bulk of your network troubleshooting responsibilities.

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