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Chapter 21. Troubleshooting Your Network > Starting the Attack on a New Problem

Starting the Attack on a New Problem

When a new problem crops up, it helps to attack it in systematic way. The following steps should get you off in the right direction:

  • When a new problem is reported, make an entry in your trouble log right away. For a home or small office, this could be a simple spiral-bound notebook kept by the computer; in a large corporation, it could be a database application shared by the entire company. In any case, it's good to get in the habit of starting the documentation process from the outset of the problem.

  • When trying to solve a network problem, first find out what the specific symptoms are. Most users describe problems in terms of what they can't do or what isn't happening. But, “I can't get to the file server” doesn't give you much to work with. It helps to know what is happening. If you ask, “What happens when you try to get to the server?” and the answer is “Nothing, the screen is completely black and all the lights are out in my building,” you're going to take a different tack than if they said, “It says my password has expired.”

  • The first thing to determine is where the problem lies; in fact, you should ask, “Is there really a problem at all?” Sometimes users are inadequately trained in the applications they use. Is the user perhaps trying to locate files (or other services) on the wrong server?

  • If there is a problem, obtain accurate descriptions of the actual symptoms, of what is happening. Good questions to ask are along the lines of Can the user access some servers, but not others? Can other users on the same segment make connections while another user cannot? If the latter, then maybe the user has a computer that is misconfigured. If nobody can access a network resource, the problem is likely at the point the resource is shared, in an individual server or workstation. If one person can access the resource, you know the problem lies somewhere between the server and the user who can't.

  • If something that worked before suddenly stops working, it could be that some piece of hardware has failed, but it's just as likely that that something was changed. Have security settings or user account changes been made in a server? Have there recently been changes made in the wiring closet that patches together network segments? Have router settings been changed recently? Has the particular user recently updated to a newer network adapter that is not properly configured? Is this a new user who may have incorrect settings for the network or applications?



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