Why every sysadmin needs a network tester

System administrators rarely lead quiet lives, and it would not be unusual for a typical day to be filled with a series of minor crises that have to be resolved in double-quick time. Many problems center on the network. These could include network congestion, equipment failure and users who can’t connect to the network. Besides this, there will also be the ongoing need to modify the network to keep up with new hires, office reorganization and network traffic growth.

Many of these problems can be resolved without leaving the office by using one of the numerous utilities that are available. However, when there’s a hard fault or physical changes are required, there is only one way to get the work done and that is in the field. It’s here that a digital network tester speeds things up with its ability to quickly identify and locate faults.

Network Issues

Common issues include network configuration, network protocol, slow networks and hardware problems.

Poor network response is a common complaint, and this directly affects team performance and could lead to customer dissatisfaction. Reasons include insufficient bandwidth, high bit error rates caused by faulty hardware and network configurations difficulties. A frequent cause of poor network performance is a tendency to add additional switches without addressing underlying capacity constraints.

Network mapping is often neglected, making it difficult to trace what is actually happening in the network. DNS and DHCP issues may affect network connectivity. All these glitches are exacerbated by physical problems, such as faulty cabling, that inhibits or blocks traffic.

Using a Digital Network Tester

Although a great deal can be accomplished from the system administrator’s computer, many

network problems can only be solved by going into the field and physically identifying the reason for the problem. While this applies to physical faults, the identification of configuration and other faults means that it’s still necessary to access the network to trace the problem.

This is where network testers such as those manufactured by T3 Innovation speed up fault finding. For example, using the Net Prowler™, an administrator can map the network, identify IP and MAC addresses and establish what network protocols are in use. The Net Prowler can also detect and identify VLANs.

The Net Chaser™ takes this capability a bit further with its ability to measure the link speed and identify ping delay with the Traceroute function. Other useful features include the ability to discover network devices using both CDP and LLDP protocols.

The simplest digital cable tester, the Cable Prowler™, can detect and accurately measure the distance to cable faults. The unit has the ability to recognize open circuits, shorts, split pairs and reverse connections. Additionally, it can identify and report status of Power over Ethernet. This capability is shared with the other two testers, along with the ability to do a link light test to identify the correct location of a switch port. All testers contain a user-configurable tone generator that, together with an optional tone detector, can be used to trace cable cores.

All testers have the ability to define cable names, identify and save test data and download this information to a PC.

The Essential Tool for System Administrators

A digital cable tester is an essential tool for the system administrator’s armory. Depending upon

the model, digital cable testers can perform virtually all the diagnostic tests that a PC can, and then some more. Additionally, the ability to precisely identify the location and type of cable fault, to trace cables and identify to which port they are connected, simplifies the task of resolving network and hardware faults.