A network functions almost like a digital ecosystem: when a particular component fails, it could cause a cascading effect that will affect your business. This is why investing in network monitoring is a smart entrepreneurial practice – not only will you be able to prevent future malfunctions, you'll also be able to react to dilemmas in real-time. Depending on the size of your organization, frequent glitches can often balloon from minor annoyances to full-blown, catastrophic crises.
We've listed some of the most common networking problems that often plague system sysadmins. No matter how foolproof your system is, these reoccurring issues will pop up sooner or later. Familiarizing oneself with ordinary network issues is key to keeping a system healthy and running smoothly and efficiently.
1. Identical IP address conflicts
From time to time, two devices accidentally attempt to share the same IP address. If you've ever seen the demoralizing error prompt “Address already in use,” that means your ability to access the network will be severely limited unless you attend to this issue.
Usually, the glitch is caused by your router's default Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) setup – it's attempting to assign an IP address to your device but another, previously registered device could be occupying one of these static numbers. Fixing it requires turning off the DHCP client device that's conflicting with the network computer with the static IP address.
Afterwards, you must exclude the static IP address from the DHCP's scope to prevent further conflicts. Be aware that this error may show up again in the future, especially when you're introducing new computers or other devices into your network.
Consistent network monitoring by a sysadmin can help smooth out some of these creases whenever they appear.
2. DNS Issues
The Domain Name System (DNS) acts as a virtual phone book of the internet. It helps users access websites by translating domain names into IP addresses, thereby eliminating the need for people to memorize strings of numbers instead of website names.
Sometimes, however, garden-variety errors such as “IP address cannot be found” or “DNS name does not exist” will occasionally sprout on your computer while you're browsing the internet or trying to visit a website.
When this occurs, don't panic. One quick and easy way to access the site is to change web browsers. If this still doesn't work, you can also reconfigure your computer or workstation to use a custom DNS server and circumvent the original server issued by the DHCP.
3. Inability to connect to the internet
Probably the most aggravating – and most mysterious – networking problem, the inability to connect to the internet with your device or workstations can be caused by a number of varying factors. Resolving this conundrum requires a combination of old-fashioned elbow grease and some technical computer skills.
Firstly, start by excluding the obvious physical factors, such as faulty Ethernet cables, weak Wi-Fi signals, or an outdated network card. Ninety percent of the time, connection problems are caused by these elements.
Still, if the issue persists, open your firewall settings and see if they allow access from external networks. A bit of protection from outside sources is helpful, but not if it prevents you from accessing the internet for the information you need.
4. Problems connecting to external files or network printers
Running a large organization, such as a hospital, a food processing company, or a shipping conglomerate, requires the swift transfer of files from one user to another. As with any type of system, the larger and more complex a corporation's computing needs are, the more problems arise.
Troubles connecting with external drives as well as network printers cause a backlog in workload and data processing that could deal significant delays in service delivery.
The solution to this requires checking to see if a specific computer's required services are above board and running smoothly – services such as the NetBios Helper and TCP/IP.
If these are all okay, then perhaps the problem lies in the device's firewall. Often, newly-installed antivirus software can cause havoc in certain networks, especially if it creates its own firewall that conflicts with the original. After you've resolved these elements, then it's time to proceed to the final step: ensuring that all your devices are on the same subnet to avert duplicate static IP addresses.
5. Sluggish internet speed
Caused by poor connections that have deteriorated over time, slow internet speeds are usually related to bandwidth overloading, although there could be other factors that contribute to this, such as a solitary exhausted network port or router. Since this problem requires constant maintenance and testing, a sysadmin’s skills at detecting troublesome areas in both local and external networks will go a long way in solving connection troubles.
Online speed test services can help identify congested regions in your network and speed up the process of repairing these overloaded areas. Once you've isolated these sectors, reporting them to your sysadmin or to your internet service provider will prevent future slowdowns and keep the workflow chugging along at a rapid pace.
Need a hand with your networking system?
These are just a few of the issues that may occur during the regular running of your virtual servers, workstations, and devices. The importance of daily network monitoring and maintenance cannot be understated, and the best solution to most of these obstacles is proactive preparation.
Want to learn more about network monitoring? See our detailed comparison of the best tools here.
To find out why you absolutely must monitor your network, click here.