Ultimate Guide to Network Troubleshooting

5 min

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Network troubleshooting is a logical process that offers a framework for solving problems. When problems occur in networks, you first need to understand why. But you can’t just make educated guesses. You need structure to tackle these challenges. 

Network troubleshooting encompasses four major activities: measurement/assessment, cause identification, resolution, and verification/documentation. These stages may overlap.

  1. Measurement/Assessment: In this stage, you work to gauge the scope of the problem. By gathering information and describing the issue, you can make more accurate fixes.
  2. Cause Identification: Here, you build on your measurements to discover root causes. Analyze your data to devise the most likely answer, and test your theories to ensure you’re on the right track.
  3. Resolution: Apply your findings to come up with actionable steps. Plan out what resources you’ll need, any potential business impacts, and how you’ll know your solution works. Then, execute the plan, maintaining a tight feedback loop to ensure things go smoothly.
  4. Verification and Documentation: Lastly, confirm that what you did worked. Did you solve the issue without creating others? This is also the time to document your process and outcomes. 

These steps look different for every organization. They can also evolve from issue to issue. That’s why it’s helpful to establish a consistent foundation. Set-and-forget, automatable network monitoring tools make it easier to adjust to each problem.

When should you troubleshoot? It’s not just for fixing obvious hacks – it also helps with:

  • Slow speeds: Troubleshooting is the obvious answer if your users are complaining.
  • Connectivity issues: Poor connectivity can indicate many issues, like Wi-Fi interference or physical connector degradation. It can also happen when devices like routers suffer firmware problems.
  • Unexpected resource usage: Excessive CPU or RAM usage may mean your systems are busy doing something they shouldn’t be. These issues could herald security threats, hung processes, or poorly optimized software.
  • Slow namespace resolution: Slow DNS lookups may indicate problems with your DNS servers. The answer could be as simple as reconfiguring how routers use DNS, but it might also require hunting down slow links.
  • IP conflicts: Duplicate IP addresses compromise network reliability. While these problems often come down to simple mistakes, they may indicate inappropriate use of resources.
  • VPN/VLAN misconfiguration: Improper VPN or VLAN configurations can prevent connections and may also represent security hazards.

How can you troubleshoot quickly and accurately? Try these pointers:

Be MethodicalMaintain Updated Threat Awareness
Eliminating potential culprits one by one is a smart way to troubleshoot. Remember: always double-check in order to avoid side effects. Isolating possible causes helps you make sense of what’s happening.It’s easier to understand what’s wrong with context. Good documentation speeds diagnosis. It also ensures you don’t have to start from scratch for each new problem.
Document EverythingNever Stop Learning
Knowing where your vulnerabilities lie makes them easier to remedy. Awareness is critical to using vendor hardware and software safely.
Continuous improvement is the only way to keep up with new challenges. It also boosts your response speed.

It’s up to you which troubleshooting tools you prefer, but there are some universally recognized helpers to know:

Network Diagnostics Tools 

Using the command line may be the fastest way to troubleshoot certain issues:

  • Ping: Ping sends a datagram packet to the host you specify, making it convenient for quick connectivity checks.
  • Traceroute: Knowing how data travels between destinations is helpful. This utility can offer details on problems like packet loss.
  • Nmap: Use this handy utility to scan your entire network. It’s a good way to learn about open ports, services, and connections.
  • Nslookup: This tool helps you discover DNS name resolution problems and associate IP addresses with hosts.
  • Netstat: Know where you stand and what services are running. Use this utility to reveal active connection statuses.

Network performance and monitoring tools and applications

These generic types of applications may deserve a space in your arsenal:

  • Packet sniffer: Sniffer apps give you a top-down view of a network, helping contextualize trends.
  • tcpdump: Use this utility to send queries to network interfaces and expose information about packets.
  • iperf3: A benchmark tool for measuring network bandwidth.
  • Wi-Fi analyzer: These analyzers help you find signal interference and discover devices, making them essential for on-site troubleshooting.
  • Graylog: For log data aggregation, analysis, and management. 

Hardware Tools

Some problems require physical investigation or repair. These steps are much easier with the right tools:

  • Light meter/optical power meters: These devices are essential for measuring signal strength in fiber optic systems.
  • Time-domain reflectometer (TDR): TDRs send electrical pulses along cables and measure what gets bounced back, which can cause signal quality issues. Ideally, there would be no reflection. Some forms of TRDs are for optical networks – be sure you’re using the right ones.
  • Cable/line testers: Line testers make it easy to confirm that cables are transmitting signals properly. You’ll want them nearby when you suspect cable faults.
  • Oscilloscope and spectrum/logic/signal analyzer: Signal analyzers and similar tools give you a detailed understanding of electrical performance. They’re vital if you’re responsible for hardware repairs.
  • Multimeter: Similar to the previous item, multimeters are vital for uncovering voltage, current, and resistance problems. They’re also more appropriate out in the field.
  • Wiring tools: Crimpers, punch-down tools, wire strippers, wire cutters, and other basic electrical hand tools should always be on your workbench.

You’ve got the tools and the motivation, but how do you refine your troubleshooting skills? Diving in and solving real problems is a good start, but once again, structure has benefits.

Pursuing professional training is an excellent step. Getting certified in networking-related gives you a better feel for what to expect. Certifications also instill best practices you can rely on in a jam.

Training works best in combination with real-world experience, but you need the right expertise. This means seeking employers who employ diversified networking technology and rigorous troubleshooting standards if you’re a professional. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect work experience. For instance, finding a position at a non-profit, educational institution, small business, or other “unconventional” IT workplace might help you learn to take the unexpected in stride.

Organizational leaders who want to get better at network troubleshooting need to practice. For example, you’ll make huge gains by regularly simulating problems and responses. Even the best troubleshooting plan might have hidden faults – put your practices to the test before you’re in the hot seat.

A network monitoring tool like Domotz can significantly enhance your ability to troubleshoot issues quickly and effectively. 

Domotz network troubleshooting feature offers comprehensive visibility into your network’s health, enabling you to identify and resolve performance and configuration issues swiftly. Its advanced features include monitoring DHCP requests, detecting IP address conflicts, analyzing bufferbloat, and more, all of which are crucial for maintaining a stable and efficient network​.

network troubleshooting

Additionally, Domotz provides a suite of tools designed to optimize IT operations. Its infrastructure monitoring, management, and security features allow you to monitor everything from server performance to network security events.

The platform’s ability to automate and customize alerts means that potential problems can be addressed before they escalate, thus minimizing downtime and improving productivity​​.

By leveraging Domotz’s capabilities, IT professionals can not only detect and resolve issues faster but also gain actionable insights that help in preemptive management, ensuring smoother operations and enhanced security across the network​​.

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