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4 Steps to Help You Streamline Network Performance Troubleshooting

By Jay Botelho, Director of Engineering at LiveAction

Today's networks continue to increase in complexity as additional technologies like SD-WAN and cloud services are layered throughout. As a result, there are new, complicated demands being put on infrastructure that make modern networking extremely difficult and tedious to troubleshoot. In fact, research finds that 42% of network operations (NetOps) teams report spending too much time troubleshooting.

As organizations increase their reliance on networks for day-to-day operations, performance and connectivity problems for end-users can put a real strain on resources and productivity, while adding to the ever-increasing backlog of troubleshooting work NetOps teams are managing. But as an end user, you have the power to help reduce the prevalence of needless trouble-tickets with some simple steps for self-diagnosis. Next time you can't connect or have poor performance on the network, consider trying these four practical tips before formally elevating the issue to IT.

Step 1: Reboot

Often times when there is a network issue, people jump to conclusions and think the problem is more serious than it actually is. Before you go down the rabbit hole of possibilities or simply write it off as too complex to resolve without support, first consider some of the simpler solutions that can quickly resolve the problem. Sometimes a problem might arise and have nothing to do with the network itself, but instead originate from certain applications on a computer or a third-party service that are continuously pinging a network. Try to self-troubleshoot the issue by rebooting. Turning off the computer will force all applications to restart, typically in a "clean" state, and is the easiest first step for troubleshooting any end-user or device problem. It is truly amazing how often this works, and even if it's obvious to you, it's very surprising how often this is overlooked as a first step given the tremendous stability of current hardware and software. If the issue persists after you've powered the device back on, and you can isolate the problem to a specific application, uninstalling and reinstalling the application will often return the application to a default and functioning state.

Step 2: Hardware Inspection

The next step on your self-troubleshooting journey is a manual hardware check. This step applies mostly to desktops and laptops, and not handheld devices. Carefully inspect the cables on your device to make sure they are properly connected. You should also assess your LED link lights to ensure they indicate that the network interface card (NIC) is actively connected to the network. If not, then it's possible that the NIC has been disabled or is not connected. Many laptops have function keys that control both wired and wireless connectivity, and these can easily be pushed accidently. If the network adapters are properly configured, then it's possible that the NIC is faulty and needs to be replaced. If you're relying on a wireless network connection, disable and enable it to check if you're properly connected.

From there, if the issue still hasn't been resolved, it might be a sign that your equipment has either outlived its lifespan and needs to be replaced, or is no longer compatible with today's complex networks. If the device is outdated, then an IT consultant should advise on next steps.

Step 3: IP Configuration

One of the most common network connectivity issues comes from incorrect network configuration. This typically results when a computer or device is configured to use a network that's not actually available. In wireless, this happens when a device automatically connects to a network other than the one you expect, or one with security that is preventing you from accessing the Internet. For wired devices, the most common misconfiguration occurs when a device is set to use a static IP address vs. getting the address dynamically (this can also happen with wireless devices). In just about all cases today you want your device to obtain an IP address automatically.

You can do this by accessing your network connections and properties settings, selecting either IPv4 or IPv6, and choosing the setting to obtain a DNS server address and IP addresses automatically. To ensure you have started receiving a correct IP address, type "ipconfig" into a command or terminal window and check for the text under WLAN adapter or Ethernet adapter. If the IP address displayed starts with "169," then it is safe to conclude that your device is not receiving a valid IP address from the router, since a "169" address is a typical default address assigned when your OS cannot find any other networks for your device. To troubleshoot the problem, open a command or terminal window and type the following commands:

Ipconfig /release   

Ipconfig /renew

In cases where these commands do not fix the problem, but plugging the computer directly into the modem fixes it, then you can assume the issue is being caused by a wired or wireless router between your computer and the modem, and not by your device or your service provider.

Step 4: Ping and Trace

If your IP address doesn't start with "169," this means you most likely have a valid IP address, especially if you have some access to the network and the Internet. But if you're still experiencing poor network performance, the problem is most likely between your local router and the Internet. It could be an overall problem with your service provider, or it could be localized to a specific hosted application or web service you're trying to access. There are numerous tools online that allow you to ping and trace the network route to resolve this issue. Luckily with the help of the Internet, every user has access to several online tools to test for network speed and connectivity. Simply Google "free ping and trace tools" or "free network speed test" and you will find a number of very helpful tools. Although these tools may not solve your problem, they can at least confirm the issue and provide useful information for your NetOps team when you go to get help.

When to Get Help

In some cases, the above steps will allow you to resolve issues without adding yet another trouble ticket for the NetOps team to investigate. That said, the increasing complexity of today's network environments means that you might encounter more serious issues that require serious networking tools. If you've followed these self-troubleshooting steps and are still unable to pinpoint and resolve the issue, it's time to call in the big guns and get your IT department involved.

Luckily, many NetOps teams today are equipped with advanced network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD) platforms that are designed to address both common and complex issues across all network domains - physical or virtual, wired or wireless, etc. Critical to smooth business operations, network functions like voice, video and enterprise applications are often the top priority for NetOps teams to enable and support. With the type of holistic visibility advanced network monitoring and troubleshooting solutions can provide, IT professionals can quickly pinpoint and resolve the source of issues, such as over-utilization, IP and DNS errors, network discovery and mapping errors and bandwidth hogs. Some can even proactively identify issues before they impact end users like yourself.

Become an Honorary IT Pro

While these advanced NPMD solutions can go a long way toward helping NetOps teams monitor, optimize and more quickly troubleshoot todays today's complex networks, you have the power to help curtail the endless stream of trouble tickets. The next time you have an IT issue, fight the urge to call in support and try out these four self-troubleshooting steps first. Whether or not you're able to resolve the problem independently, your NetOps team will thank you for it!

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About the Author

Jay Botelho is the Director of Engineering at LiveAction.

 

Published Wednesday, October 09, 2019 7:38 AM by David Marshall
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