Our increased dependence on complex information systems, with ever-growing numbers of network endpoints, makes the role of IT first responders a critical one. More work is being demanded of fewer, often less-skilled, network and PC technicians. The sprawl of their networks across metros, regions, and even the globe adds to the difficulties of keeping systems running.
This reliance on the connected world demands that frontline personnel keep networks running, whether troubleshooting an end user’s problem, setting up new cubicles, or deploying new technology, such as VoIP, IP surveillance or Wi-Fi access points. Continuous advances in networking technologies, from healthcare to government, energy to education, depend on the ability to share and grow ever bigger ideas more and more quickly.
Here are 7 ways individuals and organizations can improve how they manage their networks:
- Document Connection Path
- Prove it’s Not the Network
- Demystify Your Switch and Cable Configuration
- Observe Your Team in Real Time
- Manage Your Test Equipment
- Document Job Completion
- Slash Dispatch Costs
Fortunately, the same disruptive computing technologies of mobility and the cloud are now also being used to provide new testing capabilities for IT personnel, with a range of tools to provide complete end-to-end network connectivity testing and automated reporting. These tools support organizations of any size as well as users of varying skill level by providing the right tool for the job.
Document the connection path.
Did that drop have PoE last time? What VLAN was this phone on? Is this wall jack connected to the same switch port? Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Documentation of these types of network connectivity results is important and will prove to be a big time saver during troubleshooting. By giving technicians reference to past test results when network connectivity was stable, it will substantially help to understand why the connection doesn’t work now. I know right now you are saying to yourself, “Yeah, a nice thing to have but I don’t have the time to constantly be doing documentation on my network connectivity.” I know, I know, but just realize that it doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think and these days, documentation can be completely automated. So don’t despair, there is a better way.
Prove it’s not the network by sharing your test results.
Every day over 100 billion emails are sent, speaking to the pervasiveness of the technology and how engrained it is into workflows. Emails are documents in their own sense as they are how problems are escalated and vendors are engaged. Equally pervasive is the network always is being blamed for every problem, even when the WAN, data center, application, or servers are at fault. It becomes the responsibility of the network staff to prove it’s not the network.
Test results from our selection of field and handheld network testers, be it wired or Wi-Fi, can aid this with the capability of cloud collaboration within seconds of the completing the testing. Receipt of the test results on your mobile device indicates network health, in that the tester was able to link, get an IP address, perform a DNS lookup, and connect to the cloud server. Simply forward the email to the PC or server group with any additional information, such as the trouble ticket number, to show that the network and drop are working just fine.
Demystify your switch and cable plant.
Years of ad-hoc moves, adds, and changes to the network often yield spaghetti cabling in the wiring closet. This haphazard patching makes it difficult to know what is connected where. As specific port provisioning is pushed to access switches, it becomes even more important to know what endpoints are plugged in where.
Our solutions of tools are designed with a variety of methods for annotating and organizing your switch and cable setup. You can comment on test results or annotate the test result by replying to emailed test results with details about where the wall jack is located or even a photo, such as the serial number of the AP you just installed. The important thing to realize is that this information associates to the test result and gets directly associated to the switch slot port, allowing users to build a map of layer 2 switch port to physical end point and LAN.
Watch your team completing moves, adds, and changes in real time.
GPS tracking has revolutionized the service industry, as companies are now able to observe which trucks are where and for how long. This fleet automation saves time and energy by allowing supervisors to keep track of people and productivity. In the IT world, you may have sent your PC technicians to move 20 workers between floors, but have no way to view the progress, let alone the correctness of the job.
Because these days there are tools that can have test results posted automatically to the cloud with zero-touch reporting, supervisors can see the tests as they come in and progress can be tracked via their email inbox or directly on the cloud environment. Managers can watch the work being done, and know who is doing what, when, and for how long, as well as the outcome of the work. No checking in is needed from your technicians as you monitor test activity in real time.
It is also possible to assign different email recipients for each handheld tester, and there is no limit to how many email addresses you can assign. Because multiple recipients can be assigned per tester, individual technicians are typically set up to receive their personal testing device’s results, while the supervisor gets emails from all of the testers. Rules can even be used to automatically file test results, eliminating the overhead of managing and sorting results that one might need to provide a printed report for, just find the folder and print to .pdf or .csv. Updates can be viewed in real-time, so all organizational test activity can be monitored from a web portal.
Manage all your testers with a single configuration. Easily gather base-line information.
Imagine the server team at your organization just rolled out a new SharePoint server in the data center. It would be fantastic if all the testers could validate connectivity and availability to it for the next few weeks, but dragging all the testers back to a managing PC, tethering to the USB, and updating the test profiles to include the new server, is effort-intensive and time-consuming.
Document job completion with professional reports.
Nothing wows a client or management like a professional report. But creating a report of major upgrade projects or bulk moves is difficult without centralized and standardized test results and a report generation package. Generating documentation is a daunting and unpleasant task, undertaken begrudgingly during overtime, once all other work is done.
One click reports are great to create a PDF report of all the work performed, which you can hand off to a manager or customer. Create customized cover pages for each client including company logo and subtitles. The various report include analytics summary pages across both wired and Wi-Fi environments. Even include pictures of finished installations and configurations. As a managed IT provider, attach it to your invoice as proof positive that the work was completed, or just forward it to your boss at the end of a job. If a more specific format or control is needed, test results can be exported to a CSV file so you can develop your own report.
Avoid dispatch costs.
Much of IT is distributed across sites, branches, buildings and districts. When there is a problem at one of these sites, a first responder is dispatched to troubleshoot. Recent reports put the cost of “rolling a truck” at over $150 when considering lost labor during travel time and vehicle fuel, depreciation, insurance, and maintenance.