Network+ Exam Tutorial: Becoming A Master Troubleshooter

by : Chris Bryant

Passing your Network+ exam is the first step on the way to becoming a master network troubleshooter, and that's where you need to be.  The average network admin spends 90% of their time troubleshooting and 10% installing hardware and software, so you better be good at troubleshooting!

In my experience, there are two kinds of network troubleshooters in the world:

Those who take a structured approach

Those who hope to get lucky

The sad part is that I'm not really kidding.  You've got good troubleshooters that take much the same structured approach every time they troubleshoot, and you've got "point-and-clickers" who start looking around feverishly and just hope to get lucky.

Don't be a "point-and-clicker".  :)  So what's this structured approach I've been talking about?

First, ask yourself and any appropriate personnel...

"What exactly are the problems?"   When an end user calls for support, they tend to be very general about the issue.  What is the issue?  What are the symptoms of the problem?  Get this info and you're 90% of the way home.   If you don't know what the problem is, you can't troubleshoot it!

Second, identify the area that's affected by the problem.  Let's say this is a typical email problem where a user reports that they can't get their mail.  Is that person the only one with the problem?  If so, start troubleshooting with their workstation.  Is everyone on the network having the problem?  Start with the server.

Next, ask my favorite question... "What has changed since this stopped working?"  We all know the answer to that one, right?  "It was like that when I got here!"  But something had to change, and it's our job to figure out what.

Determining the cause of the problem is the next step, and this all depends on the previous step.  If you repair the change that was just made, that will probably resolve the issue.  If you see multiple changes that could have resulted in the problem, draw on your experience and decide what the most likely cause is.

The rest of the steps are simple, but the last one tends to get left off:

Put the solution into operation

Test the solution and note any possible side effects


Sorry to yell about that last one, but when you find something that works, write it down and share it with the group!  :)   This will save a lot of time the next time the same problem occurs.

You'll develop your own style of troubleshooting as you gain more experience, but the following is a good outline to follow for any network issue.  Just follow this path of questions:

Is this issue self-containedFree Articles, or the symptom of a larger problem?

What is the scope of the issue?

What has changed since this was working?

What is the most likely issue and fix?

Put the solution into action.

Test the solution.

Make sure the solution didn't cause more problems!

Document the solution and how you arrived at it.

Follow this order and your network will thank you – and so will your coworkers!