Get Your PING ON

I am declaring war on all network technicians and engineers. I am doing this because they are ruining my life, and the lives of children…THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

As always I was coming home from a day of asking, W*frack, and I sat down to watch a few old episodes of …Kitchen Nightmares.  The shear speed and effectiveness of Chef Ramsay’s methods always inspires me. I always tell people, when introducing them to Kitchen Nightmares, that Ramsay has a formula for great restaurants.

  1. Keep the menu small and focused
  2. Use locally produced products to maintain freshness
  3. Care about everything you make

That is a quick summary, but #3 has an additional bullet point which I would like all network specialists (that now encompasses the terms technician and engineer, see what I did there?) to pay attention to:

3. Care about everything you make
a. TASTE YOUR FOOD

It is a pretty simple concept. Do not let other people eat what you have made, unless you have tasted it first. Network specialists- test your network, as you build it, section by section. I have not seen a single case in the last five years where a network installation was properly tested without supervision from a third-party. Not a single case. Considering the reliance we have on networks in education, you would think that in every contract their would be a paragraph that reads:

For every 100 milliseconds of speed we lose, you lose $5.00 to us, paid in cash weekly. 

In 95% of cases, a percentage I can only support through my anger and conjecture, the network specialist will blame the telecommunications company and say, “Oh ATT&W needs to fix the problem and also maybe you need more bandwidth.”

Of course we need more BANDWIDTH! Everyone does. More bandwidth is awesome, but I am not 10 years old. I was alive during the Apple II, AOL, and Napster. I was doing more online with a 128 kpbs ISDN line than with the two 20 mpbs lines that I have now. I don’t think it is the bandwidth, I think it is everything else.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. or Ms. Network Specialist I can prove it is your fault. You served me the food, and unfortunately for you I have the tools I need to inspect it.

Advanced network testing with tools like Backtrack Linux, is something most people cannot do. Simple network testing is something everyone can do. All you need to know are 4 letters, p i n g.

When you ping a network, a website, or network device you see how long it takes for the information to travel. Based on decades of science you can find the average ping time over a given distance. For example the average ping time for 100 km distance is about .67 milliseconds. So if you ran a ping between your campus and www.moodle.org, and the speed was .700 – 1.000, then probably everything is fine.

If you ping the DHCP server, active directory server, or even your co-workers laptop in your building and the speed is .600- then you need to explode in anger. Sure there could be 100 km of cable between you and your server, but if someone installed 100 km of cable for a 100 meter job, then you still get to scream at the alleged network specialist.

So what do you need to actually take the idea of using ping and turn that idea into evidence?

    • On Windows  you need to be able to open the terminal/command line and on Mac the Network Utility. You also need to know the IP of your default gateway.OS X find the Default Gateway- Scroll Down to the Second Part

      OS X Instructions to Ping

      Window 7 Ping Instructions with Default Gateway Instructions

      When you ping copy the results or take a screenshot. You are not only looking for the speed in milliseconds, but how much it varies. For example, if you get 67, 70, 20, 20, 10, 80, 60, 60, then there is an issue with stability. The speed, even if it is slow, should be fairly consistent.

    • You need the IP Address of a few devices on your network, these are easy to obtain so do not panic.The best way to do this is to ask your network manger for the IP addresses of your: DHCP server, Active Directory Server, Core Switch, and a Switch in your section of the building. If they are not cooperative- find a co-worker, get on their computer and find their IP using the instructions above. Instead of the default gateway, you just need their IP address. Write down the IPs of people in different sections of campus. Note if they are on WIFI or the wired LAN because these speeds will vary.

      Again it is very important to copy your results or take a screenshot.

    • You need to know the external line speed. You may have more than one line so find out.This is fairly straight forward. If you are paying for a 20 mbps line you should expect the test below to be between 15 mbps – 20 mpbs.
    • You need to test the external speed with a simple program like Speedtest.Run speed test two or three times. Look at the speed and the GRAPH. The graph should not have many peaks or valleys. A stable connection should be a straight line.

      Take a screenshot of the results, and try to include the graph.

    • Finally, ping an external site. Any site will do, but do not pick one that is filtered or blocked in your location. Moodle.org is a good one. In the ping command you enter: http://www.moodle.org.Compare the external numbers to the internal numbers. If you can put these side-by-side it will help to facilitate a conversation.

What is the actual point of all this? The point is not for you to understand all the data, or even make a judgement. The point is for you to walk into a room full of network specialists, put data in front of them, and ask them what it means. In fact, I would not even tell them what the internal ip addresses are. I would ask them to look at the results and tell me what they see. Then I would explain the data as I collected it.

It is difficult to argue with data, especially data that they failed to collect. This is equivalent to blind folding a chef, feeding the chef their own food, and asking them to critique it. A bit evil, but very effective.

I believe in being involved in helping with problems, and not just complaining. There is always something a regular person can do in a specialists field, if they choose to act. There is no magic with technology. Technology is based-on rules that were either followed, loosely followed, or not followed at all.

In the span of this post you have the information you need to bring people into a discussion and lead it, without having to be an expert. It is time to level the playing field with the network specialists. It is time to get your ping on.

Tony DePrato

http://www.tonydeprato.com

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About Tony DePrato

about.me/tonydeprato
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