Given the need to maximize its limited IT resources, John Heidelberg, network administrator, was on the lookout for a device to speed network testing.
With multiple facilities and different network segments, frequently found himself running between buildings – or worse, across town between the two campuses – to trace connections. “It’s a real pain when you have to check a connection, map the link back to the router, unplug it, go back and then test again,” he said. “And with some of the networking between buildings carried out wirelessly, troubleshooting can be really tedious."
In the past, Heidelberg would lug around a laptop and run individual tests to try to identify network issues. While this process worked, it was anything but fast. “When someone calls and complains that they can’t connect to the server, you have your work cut out for you. Where are they? Where’s the server? What segment is it on? Is this a link issue or a protocol problem? Are they getting a DHCP address? Is DNS resolving? It all just takes a lot of time to work through,” he noted.To speed up the process, Heidelberg began using the new LinkRunner AT Network Auto-Tester from Fluke Networks (www.flukenetworks.com). It performs a suite of six essential Ethernet tests in less than 10 seconds. Its one-button AutoTest feature instantly provides vital information about the continuity of a connection, the link/speed/duplex of a connection, name and IP addresses (including IPv6) of the nearest switches, DHCP and DNS server availability and performance, Power over Ethernet (PoE) performance, and key resource connectivity through TCP port open or ping.
“Not only is the LinkRunner AT fast, but it’s also incredibly thorough with the essential Ethernet connectivity tests I need,” Heidelberg commented. “And that not only helps in troubleshooting, it also gives me a high level of confidence in the results. If the unit says the connection is okay, I know it’s okay."
Jensen has also benefited from the LinkRunner AT’s push-button ease of use. “In fact, I can even get someone who is not an expert to pick up the device and run a test when I’m not in the office—something that would be impossible before,” Heidelberg said.
Heidelberg has used the device to test and diagnose a broad range of issues, from IPv6 and PoE to wire mapping and protocol verification. “For example, we haven’t rolled out IPv6 yet, but I’d put in some preliminary addresses to learn the process, and when I tested them with the LinkRunner AT I found out that I don’t yet know what I’m doing. I can see it’s going to be a tremendous help down the line."
Similarly, the PoE testing and loading can save Jensen time and headaches in the future. “A while back we had an intermittent issue with a system going down, which we eventually traced to a bad PoE supply. It took a long time to diagnose, and the LinkRunner AT would have been a lifesaver. I’ve now gone through and used the device to verify all of our inline PoE adapters are working properly,” Heidelberg said.
Protocol, DHCP and DNS verification, and even link testing, are equally easy. Heidelberg has used the LinkRunner AT to quickly trace a bad 10/100 switch port, test protocol routing across firewalls, identify DHCP and DNS problems with various PCs and more, all incredibly quickly.
With the LinkRunner AT, Jensen International now has a powerful tool to speed network testing, saving the company time and getting systems quickly back up and running. “Considering the level of complexity around all of the network layers and protocols, I’m not surprised that it’s taken this long for manufacturers to get everything packed into one simple device,” Heidelberg said. “But I sure am glad Fluke Networks finally accomplished it."
>> Renee Robbins Bassett, firstname.lastname@example.org, is Managing Editor for Automation World.