The presence of wireless devices in the home as well as the office has become common place, and although these products are marketed to be simple, they are actually very complex, and problems often arise during installation and routine use. The nature of wireless networking is such that many of the problems are environmental, requiring that those troubleshooting the problem have access to the exact location where the problem is occurring. Since this is typically unrealistic, the companies who make these products have a very difficult time providing technical support to a wide range of people who know little to nothing about networking protocols.
Let’s take a look at a common scenario.
It’s your birthday and you just received an access point extender – OK, we know you’re a geek, so are we. This $90 piece of equipment will allow you to surf the web on your tablet in the bedroom. Currently, with your primary AP you only receive one bar and web pages take too long to load. The AP extender was meant to change all that. Sadly it did not.
You call technical support, and work your way through at least 3 levels of support, until after three hours, it is finally decided that the device is faulty, and that you need to return it. Whether it is really faulty or not, or whether the support organization just decided they had reached the maximum amount of time to spend on a $90 device, is irrelevant. The bottom line is that it took a lot of your time, and the manufacturer’s time, and now it will take more of your time as you have to return the unit. And you may not even buy the same brand again, which means the manufacturer just lost quite a bit of money on this particular transaction.
In any product support organization there are multiple levels of support, which are called “tiers”, and each level has an increasing amount of expertise. Although there can be any number of tiers, the person in the final tier is a network engineer or protocol analyst who is armed with a variety of tools, like protocol analyzers, to help solve the most granular and challenging problems.
This top tier protocol analyst is a fairly rare breed, and is an expensive resource for a support organization. For this reason, there are typically only a few of these guys and gals at the top tier, and because of this there are a number of people working on the tiers below. Typically the people in tier 1 have a basic knowledge of the product and access to a database of problems and questions to help solve each problem. As they are helping you, they are also transcribing your problem in case it needs to be escalated to the next tier. Subsequently you make your way up the tiers with each different tier providing a little more technical understanding than the last.
The process, as shown through the scenario above, can be very time consuming and quite frustrating, especially if you have some knowledge yourself. This does not have to be the case, and is not the case when all the tiers are provided with the right set of network and monitoring tools.
At WildPackets, we help each tier in the support organization with a vast array of high quality troubleshooting tools. Our family of tools consists of three products, and when they are spread throughout a support organization, they provide the maximum level of support.
As a packet analysis company, we believe the first step in troubleshooting a network problem is capturing traffic on that network. Traditionally, the tool that was used to capture the traffic, and the tool that was used to analyze the traffic were the same. But of course, as described above, it is only the top tier people who have these tools and the knowledge to use them effectively.
With our family of products, we have changed all of that and now offer different products that separate the functions of data capture and analysis. The family of products includes:
- The OmniPeek Remote Assistant
- The Compass Latency Monitor
- The OmniPeek Enterprise Network Analyzer
The OmniPeek Remote Assistant (ORA) is a simple, easy-to-use tool that captures wired and wireless traffic on multiple channels and aggregates that traffic into a single secure file. This file can then be attached to a support case file and escalated to the next level for analysis. In order for the lower support tiers to capture traffic, or even the customers themselves to capture traffic, the ORA can be distributed quickly, whenever and wherever it is necessary.
The Compass Latency Monitor is a network visualization tool that provides high-level views of the network traffic with easy-to-use, interactive graphs. Compass makes it easy to load trace files, and display the network traffic over time. The analysis features of Compass make it possible to solve certain problems, and in the case where more in depth packet analysis is necessary, it provides information and filtering of data to the next tier.
OmniPeek Enterprise is our award winning network analyzer. It includes all of the functionality provided by the ORA and Compass, and other high-level network analysis features, as well as the ability to decode individual packets.
When support organizations have all these tools in place, it saves time and money, provides faster results to their clients and allows companies to work with a single vendor for all of their network analysis tool needs.