REVIEW - Network Troubleshooting Tools - Help for Network Administrators


Network Troubleshooting Tools

Help for Network Administrators


Joseph D Sloan


O'Reilly (2001)




Mark Easterbrook


December 2004



This is an essential reference for anyone who has to diagnose and resolve problems with IP networks. Although the target audience is individuals new to network administration, it contains a wealth of information for anyone working with IP networks. The focus of the book is networks as seen by software at the hosts connected to those networks, and this it covers comprehensively, but it does not attempt to cover the core network infrastructure such as cabling and routers (nor the software running on routers) except for what can be seen and inferred at the edge of the network.

Each subject area is tackled by describing the technical detail including: the principles of good network design, examples of what can go wrong and how to look for and identify problems, and the tools needed to diagnose and fix them. Both *nix (Solaris, RedHat Linux and FreeBSD are explicitly covered) and Windows (95 to 2000, but not XP) based tools are covered in a pragmatic way, recognising that both have their place and should be in the toolbox of the network trouble-shooter, but the emphasis of the book is definitely Unix.

The subject areas covered include host and network addressing, network characteristics, low-level packet analysis, automatic and dynamic network configuration, device and performance monitoring, and application-level tools, as well as chapters focusing on network management and troubleshooting strategies. Finally, there are two appendices for software sources and resources and references.

In a fast changing industry, detailed technical information often becomes dated quickly, but apart from the appendix, this book is likely to remain relevant and topical until the widespread introduction of IPv6 networking.2nd review by Alan Lenton

This is a useful book for those who are not full fledged system administration professionals, but who have to administer small networks as part of another job, such as programming.

One of the key problems when something goes wrong on a network is knowing where and how to start looking for the problem. This book is a good place to start. Apart from anything else, it tells you which tools are useful for dealing with which sort of problems. Always a big help when you are dealing with something that is not part of your primary work.

One of the things I did like about the book was the way it did not neglect the boring but important hardware level - including cabling problems, which in my experience are all too often overlooked. From there the book moves on through the different levels of the network including device driver problems, TCP and UP packets, software connectivity and application level programs.

The best way to read this book is to scan it through from cover to cover, so that you have an idea of where to look in it when something goes wrong. However, a good case could also be made for installing, and using, at least some of the measurement tools at an early stage. As the author correctly points out, unless you know how your network normally behaves, you are not like to spot trouble early enough to nip it in the bud.

The only caveat I have is to warn readers that none of the tools are dealt with in depth, because that is not the purpose of the book. However, the tools are covered in sufficient depth to get you up and running with each tool.

Definitely a useful book.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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