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Figuring out what's where, right when you need to, can be a real horror without the right tools. We've all been there and it's a pretty darn scary place to be. Not too long ago I was working with a company here in Austin and we started seeing unauthorized, virus, and spyware infected PCs showing up on the network. There were more than a few of them and we weren't sure exactly how they were getting in. Turns out someone had gotten an authorized wi-fi router onto the network and all of these machines were connecting through it. It took us quite a while to figure out they problem and a bit longer to locate the 802.11 enabled culprit as it was a large, flat, switched network and they didn't have any user and device tracking tools installed.

Another time, I worked with a company up North that did a lot of work security consulting and ethical hacking. One of their employees had taken his profession a little too far and had started hacking into internal servers and reading other peoples' e-mail. It was a large campus and we needed to locate the individual ASAP but we had no idea where they were - just what their IP address was.

While these may seem like pretty good horror stories the truth is that these cases were pretty mild and that these stories are way too common out there. Have your own user tracking horror stories? Share them with us here...

 

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As the father of a teenaged boy I can never seem to find the tools I need exactly when I need them. Sure, I commonly find ratchet drivers in the kitchen pantry, hammers while mowing the yard, and tape measures mixed in with the laundry but when something needs fixing I don't usually have the time to go searching all over the place for tools...

As a network engineer and systems administrator there are a set of tools that I always keep handy and that luckily my son can't easily misplace. Most of these tools are included within the SolarWinds Engineer's Toolset. My favorite tool is the IP Network Browser as it lets me quickly discover and assess a network and is a great launchpad for other tools.

What's in your toolbox? The folks here at SolarWinds want to know and are willing to give away some pretty cool prizes (iPads, Kindles, digital cameras, t-shirts) to find out. Fill out the form here to tell us your own Toolset story and start collecting some of those cool prizes...


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If you've never attended VMWorld I highly recommend it. I was fortunate enough to attend last year and I was blown away by the energy and passion of the vendors and attendees. VMWare's labs were some of the best I've ever seen at a tradeshow and the breakout sessions were phenomenal.

This year, VMWware has narrowed the choices for the breakout sessions and is leaving the final selection up to the community. SolarWinds is planning to present three sessions but we need your votes to make it happen. Here's how to vote:

 

Voting instructions:

1.      Go to http://www.vmworld.com/cfp.jspa.

2.      Create a VMworld log in.

3.      Once at the Session Voting page, use the Search Options and enter SolarWinds in Keywords.

4.      Click on the “Thumbs Up” symbol next to the Session ID and description.

5.      Thanks in advance for your support!!!

Please visit the VMWorld website and vote for the SolarWinds sessions if you'd like to hear our experts speak on virtualization and cloud topics. Details on the sessions are below.

Vote now. Vote often. Vote SolarWinds...


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Josh Stephens

Dirty IT Jobs

Posted by Josh Stephens May 11, 2011

This week Infoworld published an article on the "Dirtiest Jobs in IT". When Dan, the author of the article, called me to talk about the story I got really excited because I have some strong memories (notice that I didn't say fond memories) of some really dirty jobs I've done.

Most people think that being a network engineer or systems administrator is a desk job and that we never have to get our hands dirty. Admit it, how many times when you've been asked "What do you do for a living?" have you said "Oh, I work with computers." just to keep things simple? The truth is, sometimes this couldn't be farther from the truth. If you've ever had the pleasure or installing your own cable in a building, constructing and filling up your own racks, or trenching and burying your own fiber you know exactly what I'm talking about.

You can read what I had to say on the subject and a little bit about my experiences with dirty IT jobs towards the end of the article here. We'd love to hear from you about some of the dirty jobs in IT you've had to deal with. Please post your own dirty war stories as comments and let's reminisce a bit together...


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One of the most complex projects to work on as a network engineer or system administrator is the implementation of load balanced, redundant connectivity to application servers. There are many different best in class designs to choose from and deciding which technology to use is a hot topic among network architects. Several of the leading hardware vendors like Barracuda, Cisco, Citrix, F5, and Riverbed offer their own flavor of solution to help solve the ever present problem of "how do we improve our application response time?".

Once you've finished the network design, selected the hardware, and implemented the solution it's still sometimes hard to tell exactly how helpful these specialized appliances are being. Load balancers and application accelerators are great technologies but there is a lot of fine tuning that can be done within their configurations and without tools designed specifically for monitoring application performance before, thru, and after these devices, configuration optimization can feel a little bit like shooting in the dark.

Recently, we worked with Citrix to help solve this problem for users leveraging their NetScaler load balancers. Citrix has helped to develop and is standing behind a technology called "AppFlow" which is similar to the NetFlow used to analyze network traffic through routers and switches but designed specifically for monitoring application traffic thru load balancers and WAN accelerators. Here at SolarWinds we've recently announced a new free tool called the Real-time AppFlow Analyzer. This new tool, available for download on SolarWinds.com, makes analyzing application traffic passing through Citrix NetScaler Load Balancers easy.

Like other SolarWinds free tools, this is a non-expiring, fully functional application. The Real-time AppFlow Analyzer also analyzes NetFlow, Jflow, and sFlow so you can understand network traffic performance on the routers adjacent to your load balancers.


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It's hard to imagine life as we know it without wireless networking. Just about every company that has a network nowadays has extended it using 802.11 or some other wireless technology and that means that we as network engineers, systems administrators, and IT managers are responsible for building and maintaining these systems.

As you're probably aware, the Orion Network Performance Monitor includes wireless network monitoring and management capabilities. In the old days this was a paid add-on but as we saw that pretty much everyone with a network also needed the wireless component we decided to bundle it in.

While monitoring and managing your wireless are important - an area that is often overlooked is Wi-Fi security - especially in home network and those of small and medium sized businesses. So, I decided to write up some tips on the subject here and also highlight what can happen when you don't secure your wireless networks.


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