ISP offers diagnostic toolbox
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Aug 08, 2002
A nonprofit Wisconsin Internet service provider is providing its members
with free self-diagnostic applications aimed at straightening out network
WiscNet (www.wiscnet.net), a decade-old Internet
cooperative, began providing the Java-based "toolbox" this spring to its
more than 500 members, which are mostly K-12 and higher education institutions,
local governments, libraries, hospitals and several other groups.
"I think the whole impetus for the toolbox was largely to continue sort
of the cooperative/educational philosophy of WiscNet," said Craig Stephenson,
the organization's new services manager. "It's just something that enables
our technical contact at the site to, among other things, perform self-directed
"Like any network, there are times where things will fail, but that
really wasn't the impetus for rolling this out," he added. "It really was
to provide a common set of tools to a largely varied, as far as technical
experience," group of people.
Kika Barr, WiscNet's technical services manager, said the software tools
"level the playing field" among people who are or act as such as teachers
information technology managers at each of the member sites. Although
she couldn't quantify the reduced number of calls to her technical support
staff, she said service is much more efficient. "One call that took 20 minutes,
today might take only less than half of the time," she said.
To stock their diagnostic toolbox, WiscNet members can download VisualRoute,
developed by Visualware Inc.; WiscNet-developed RouterTool; and DesktopStreaming,
developed by Expertcity Inc.
VisualRoute, which analyzes Internet connectivity and performance problems,
provides members with an easy mechanism for pinpointing where a network
breakdown may be occurring, Stephenson said. Whether via a table or graphically
displayed on a map, members can see whether the source of the problem is
within their system, within WiscNet, or outside the network. Learning how
to use the tool takes about 20 minutes and is easy, he said.
A technician would use RouterTool to determine problems with a site's
router when the WiscNet's support staff cannot get access, Stephenson said.
However, the tool is difficult to learn, and WiscNet is looking to make
it more user-friendly, he said.
The DesktopStreaming product enables a WiscNet technical support person
to gain remote access to a member's desktop with permission. Stephenson
said it also is effective in teaching members how to use applications.
So far, about 380 members have downloaded the toolbox, he said, adding
that he expected increased use before the school year starts in September.
WiscNet provides service to about 370 school districts in the state nearly
90 percent as well as to most two- and four-year colleges, including
the University of Wisconsin system.