Good Tools in Good Hands = Good Outcomes

A while back I wrote about the importance of the Good Guy On Other End (GGOOE) for those of us charged with keeping up far-flung network empires. Even when you have decent instrumentation and infinite powers of configuration, sometimes you need someone to move, touch, or add something. It sounds so simple, but even simple tasks asked of the wrong person can result in the failure of those tasks- and possibly the creation of more and bigger problems. Having someone you can trust (even if they aren’t a networking type) on site when you are two, two hundred, or two thousand miles away is huge.

Then of course came The Soon To Be Famous Cocktail Napkin that rocked the IT world to it’s foundation. With one graphic that looked like it could have been inked by a drunken child, I dared to tell the world that “sometimes problems that feel Wi-Fi-ish may not be”, and the cosmos rippled with hyper-galactic truth and acknowledgement, I tellya. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that epic, but a lot of people seemed to derive value from that simple drawing and the idea behind it.

Now fast forward to the point of this blog. I recently fielded a challenge from an esteemed colleague: “one of our VIPs who telecommutes is having a horrible time with his Wi-Fi at home, I need to get to the bottom of it”. My friend is really smart, but his core strengths are in other facets of IT. He had a tight window for a site visit, and I had a conflict during that window. He floated the idea of buying some sort of wireless tool for a couple of hundred bucks, but I was able to head that off.

We talked a bit deeper about what was going on- and it didn’t sound so “wireless” to me. Evidently there was some ISP issues in the past, and the VIP was using a managed laptop, so this could go in a few directions. Yet because Wi-Fi was involved- and when things got wonky, the VIP was using Wi-Fi- the specter of Wi-Fi problems still loomed. I took a few minutes to introduce him to a real tool- the NETSCOUT AirCheck G2, with emphasis on how to restart a monitoring session, let the channels all scan a couple of times, and then save the session. The idea was he’d visit the site, do his best to analyze anything possibly in play, and then return the AirCheck to me where I would analyze his captures.

So how did that go?

Again, he’s a smart guy. He was able to prove ISP service interruptions, probably related to crappy cable outside of the house. He also found a pretty significant problem with the YIP’s laptop. And… we were able to exonerate the wireless in this case through almost a dozen captures taken at different points in the home with the AirCheck. He gathered them, I analyzed them, and though THE EXPERT couldn’t be on site to prove that the wireless-feeling problems weren’t really wireless, the right tool in the right hands boiled all of the mystery off of the Wi-Fi side of the discussion. Plenty of signal at sufficient strength and quality inside the home, no real RF encroachment from outside. It also provided a baseline that we can refer to if the situation ever needs to be revisited.

It’s not easy handing off the expensive, beloved tools to someone else. But if you can get past that and you are handing the tools to the right GGOOE, it’s the next best thing to being there.

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