Sebastopol, CA--The best time to prepare for problems is before you
have them, advises Joseph D. Sloan, author of
Troubleshooting Tools (O'Reilly, US $39.95). As any network
administrator can confirm, the time for gathering information about
troubleshooting tools is not when you're faced with a solving a critical
problem, but before. Fortunately, there are an extraordinary number of tools
available for the purpose of troubleshooting, and more become available daily.
For the network administrator, the challenge then becomes how to sift
through the countless tools available to find those that will be most
Network Troubleshooting Tools helps administrators sort through the
thousands of tools used to debug TCP/IP networks and choose those that
are best for the job at hand. Rather than provide a general overview of
all troubleshooting tools, Sloan focuses on a single aspect of
troubleshooting which he considers essential to solving any problem:
collecting information. As Sloan explains, data collection does not
need to be overwhelming in spite of the countless tools available; a
small number of tools can be used effectively to solve most problems.
"The first step in diagnosing a network problem is to collect
information," Sloan says. "This includes collecting information from
your users as to the nature of the problems they are having, and it
includes collecting data from your network. Your success will depend,
in large part, on your efficiency in collecting this information and on
the quality of the information you collect." In
Troubleshooting Tools, Sloan centers on a core set of freely available
tools used for data collection, with pointers to additional tools that
may be needed in some circumstances.
The ability to prevent network problems and to solve them quickly when
they arise has become more critical for network administrators in
recent years. "As systems, both servers and networks, become more
complex, the likelihood of problems increases," says Sloan. "And as
problems become more common, we need to become more organized and
systematic in dealing with problems."
"In the past many networks (and the Internet in particular) were
largely toys or research tools. As networks evolve into essential
entities for businesses and institutions, producing reliable networks
and resolving problems rapidly becomes essential. I think
administrators are likely to see drastic increases in the amount of
pressure they face in resolving network problems quickly," Sloan adds.
"When you pick up your telephone, you expect it to work every time.
More and more, I expect to see the same sorts of expectations for data
networks that we have for the telephone network."
In addition to describing the best tools available for troubleshooting
network problems, Sloan provides a general review of troubleshooting
techniques, followed by troubleshooting from a broader administrative
context--using troubleshooting tools in an effective, productive,
Troubleshooting Tools outlines a systematic approach to network
troubleshooting, including how to document a network so administrators will
know how it behaves under normal conditions, and how to think about problems
when they arise, in order to solve them more effectively.
Network Troubleshooting Tools was written primarily for first-time
system administrators--individuals who have learned the basics of
TCP/IP, installed FreeBSD or Linux on a server, attached it to a
network, and now realize they have to keep it running. It will also
serve as a valuable resource to those who have inherited responsibility
for existing systems and networks set up by others.
By Joseph D. Sloan
ISBN 0-596-00186-X, 346 pages, $39.95 (US)