Basic Network Troubleshooting

This morning my ISP, which is normally very reliable, had a network issue. As part of managing a network I don’t ever throw my hands up and say “they have a problem and they’ll fix it.” I generally determine what the problem is at the same time. This way, I am confident that that problem is not something I did, while at the same time I am also able to report information back to the ISP that could be critical to repairing the problem. I have several guidelines that I go through as I work through a network issue:

  1. Start by identifying potential problems on your own computer and work toward the cloud. This means asking someone else on the same network if they are having problems. If they are not, it is something about your computer, and you should look into it rather than troubleshoot the network any further. There are a few cases where a network issue will affect one computer, but they are rare.
  2. Check your network connection. If you don’t have a wireless signal or your ethernet switch is crashed or shut off you won’t get far.
  3. Check the IP address of your local router. Generally these have a web interface and the IP address is the “Router” address in the “Network” ┬áSystem Preference. Use a web browser and see if it loads a webpage.
  4. Check the link to the ISP. Now that you have a link to the router, it should list whether the link is up or down. If it is active the problem is not on your network, and you should call the ISP to notify them of a problem and skip to step 6.
  5. If it is down, check the connections on the back of the router. DSL will have a phone connection, Cable will have a coax connection.  Make sure they are connected to the proper location on the wall.
  6. Check DNS. I generally know the IP address of some pingable addresses on the internet. For instance, I know that www.google.com is located at 209.85.225.104, so I can try entering “ping -c 10 209.85.225.104” into terminal.app (which can be found in your Utilities folder) and see what percent of the 10 ping packets are received. If it is 0% loss, the issue is DNS. If it is 100% loss, it is a routing issue.

For each level of issue, there are a few things to try:

  • Computer – reboot, make sure that DHCP is giving the computer an address.
  • Computer-Network Link – reboot switch, make sure configuration is what is to be expected
  • Router – reboot router, make sure configuration is what to be expected
  • Router-ISP Link – call ISP, wait
  • Premise wiring – reconnect wiring
  • DNS – configure computer/router to use an alternate DNS server, such as Google’s Public DNS (8.8.8.8 & 8.8.4.4)
  • Routing – Map out where you can get and where you cannot, using traceroute and ping

Naturally, network issues are one of the problems that Evolve cannot assist with using Screen Sharing session. We can assist over the phone, and work very closely with you and your ISP to determine and resolve the problem in a timely manner.

Remote Access (and storm pictures)

So, Iowa has been inundated with snow. In fact, I spoke to a person responsible for removing snow from the Evolve office parking lot, and he indicated to me that there was as much snow in the last two days as we had for the entirety of last year. His metric was the mountain of snow that he had just pushed. I realize that this is an imperfect metric, as 2008-2009’s snow pile had time to compress and melt. It’s still an impressive indication as to how much snow we did get.

Much of Iowa was closed, with travel not advised. The state was “open”, which was really an excuse to for state employees to use one of their required unpaid furlough days. Even the police and snow plows were getting stuck.

Evolve was still open.

One of the key aspects of modern IT management, is that most of the work can be done remotely. Over the course of two days, I’ve been working on servers and workstations as if it was business as usual. Having a snow day for these businesses was actually productive, as I could work for extended periods on issues without having to balance office productivity loss due to downtime. Remote access also allows me to deal with clients that are not located in Des Moines, Iowa, the Midwest, or even the USA, provided that there is sufficient bandwidth.

End users can also operate in a similar fashion, allowing themselves the ability to connect back to their office computer from their home, or vice versa. This allows them greater flexibility in how they work, as they can retrieve documents that they may have forgotten on their other computer, or access a program that is only located on that computer. A business can even have working snow days, where the employees telecommute.

Now, I do understand that there are issues that require my physical presence, which is why I usually recommend regular visits. However, these visits are often shorter and more spread out for users where I am able to remotely administrate their network.

All in all, giving Evolve remote access means that you receive faster service, as we’re more flexible in how we can service you.

Finally, here are a few pictures from around the Evolve office: