Do your network's cables and connections give you headaches? If so, the handheld NetTool and LinkRunner testers from Fluke belong in your network-management toolbox.
Fluke offers four versions of the NetTool Series II Inline Network Tester, from the top-of-the-line NetTool Series II Pro VoIP to the entry-level NetTool 10/100. The Pro versions contain more network diagnostic tests, and the VoIP versions can test office phone connections. The Pro VoIP tester that Fluke sent us was especially handy for verifying and troubleshooting our VoIP links.
Connecting a NetTool tester between a device and its network cable gives you an excellent view of traffic running to and from that device. For instance, the NetTool tester shows which protocols are in use along with frame counts and error counts, and the tester gives you a precise and detailed condition report on the cable, including its length and internal wiring integrity. The unit's alerts show up as highlighted warning and error messages.
In our lab's VoIP environment, the NetTool tester divulged key boot events, such as DHCP address acquisition, DNS-lookup of call servers and gateways, downloading of operating files and call server registration. NetTool's VoIP Log showed call control events, QoS configuration, call-quality metrics, RTP configuration (including IP addresses and ports used), virtual LAN priority, DiffServ, codec and quality metrics, such as jitter and dropped packets.
The NetTool quantifies Power over Ethernet and, via digital signaling, helps locate specific cables on an active network. The handheld unit's small but well-designed display of MAC and IP addresses, subnets and services offered by active servers, routers and printers makes it a quick, portable tool for spotting available network resources. The NetTool Pro and VoIP models' reporting capabilities consist of uploading data to a PC for further manipulation in, say, a spreadsheet program.
The much simpler LinkRunner Network Multimeter (which costs US$395) is a cable tester that can verify a cable's condition as well as show the speed, duplex setting and service type for an in-use cable. It can ping nodes, and the LinkRunner can help you identify which cables go where for documentation purposes.