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Switch your analyzers.

Network administrators need to stretch their budgets as far as they can. Economic constraints often leave enterprises without thorough coverage by network protocol analyzers. Most organizations that use network analyzers to test, monitor, and analyze LAN and WAN traffic make do with deploying analyzers only at strategic network segments, dispatching a technician to the wiring closet to manually change connections whenever a problem occurs in an unconnected segment. Manual intervention slows response time, leaves networks down for longer than necessary, and requires human resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.

Many companies are now conquering this problem with a physical-layer switching system that allows network administrators to switch back and forth between different L,AN segments or WAN links electronically. The switch box typically sits in the wiring closet next to the analyzer, and connections can be changed straight from a PC via software or firmware embedded in the switch box itself. This makes it possible to share analyzer equipment across multiple network segments or circuit lines without manual switching.

Prudential Securities is using the Stakit electronic switching system from NHC Communications. "We used to have to do the switching manually, and that meant calling someone and telling them to leave whatever they were doing to struggle with the cables. When you consider how many hours that took and how much more coverage we have now, the benefits are clear," says Ragab Moheisen, assistant vice president of the company.

With a cross-connect switch like Stakit, the network manager can control analyzers on the fly, either locally through a PC serial port or remotely via modem. As soon as a problem is reported, the test equipment can be switched to the troubled segment and monitored from the network console.

Similarly, a network manager conducting routine tests can "aim" an analyzer at multiple test points in the network and switch among them at will without waiting for a technician to change connections.

Ironically, electronic switches tend to increase sales of network analyzers. "Once network managers see the benefit of an analyzer, they want to be able to monitor multiple segments simultaneously for maximum network visibility, so they buy more analyzers," says David Nezry, switching product manager for NHC Communications. "The switches play a key role in this process. It's not practical to put an analyzer on every segment of the network, but switches make it possible to do almost the same thing."

Circle 271 for more information from NHC Communications
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Title Annotation:Product Information; Prudential Securities using NHC Communications' Stakit network switch
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:408
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