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A Beginner's Guide to Troubleshooting Your Network: 6 Things to Check When Your Business Can’t Connect

Of all the different issues that can plague your computer and various devices, a network connectivity problem is perhaps the worst. Most computers and smart devices can do a lot offline, but not being online can severely cripple the everyday tasks of your business. This is especially the case when most work resides in the cloud —apps, online tools, etc. can help to run your business smoothly, but can also be a source of misery when not connected to your network.

If you are certain that your Internet providers are up and running, then it’s time to look at your internal network. This can be a tricky process, even if you’ve done it numerous times before. Anytime a device is added or reconfigured, changed, or patches are applied to servers or applications, your network can stall, slow down, or even stop working altogether. While this list isn’t comprehensive and it starts out with basic knowledge, it’s a good place to start so you can knock out the most likely culprits yourself. Here's a beginner's guide to troubleshooting your network connectivity issues:

1.   Start with Your Hardware.
This may sound silly, but you should first check the physical components of your network — the cords and switches. You’d be surprised how many long troubleshooting missions ended with the discovery of a loose cable! And don’t laugh, but did you reboot everything? Turn your routers and servers off and then back on again, one at a time. This is a quick way to make sure everything is running properly and with the latest updates. Plus, any support line you call is going to ask if you’ve done this already!

2.   Check Your WiFi. 
Another simple suggestion, but it’s easy to overlook minor things like your WiFi not being on. So, one of the first steps in troubleshooting your network connectivity is to check the WiFi connection. Phones, tablets, and computers all have settings that turn WiFi on and off. Make sure it’s on so you can connect to the network. Also, check to make sure your device isn’t on Airplane Mode either, which would interrupt network connectivity.

3.   Can’t Connect to a Website?
Many times, it appears you’re facing a network problem when in fact the website or application in question is down. You can check to see if a website, service, or application is down through various websites including Down for Everyone or Just Me, Is It Down Right Now, and Downdetector


4.   Check for Updates. 
Your network problems could be caused by your system. This means you likely need to install an update. Most computers and devices will either automatically update or will notify you that an update is available. At this point, you may need to restart your device in order to finish the system update or to jolt the device (or even the router — see tip #1) back into working like normal, especially if the device hasn’t been restarted in a while.


5.   Is It Just Your Device?
Ask colleagues or employees if they are also experiencing connectivity problems. If the connection is down for everyone in the office, then it is likely an issue with your network device or Internet service provider (ISP). If multiple devices on the network are experiencing connectivity issues, you or your IT person will have to troubleshoot deeper — looking into network slowdowns and performance issues for the entire network. 


6.  Are you a DIY person? Time to get technical.
Not everyone wants to go into this level of detail, but almost anyone with some technical knowledge can use these tools to diagnose your connectivity issues.  We found a great blog that has more detail on each of these tools if you want to read in more detail: 

  • PING - If an Internet connection is down at an office, the PING utility can be used to figure out whether the problem exists within the office or within the network of the Internet provider.  It basically sends a packet to your destination and then listens for a response. This can tell you if your connections are completely down, down for some, or simply slow.  And yes —  this is how the slang term "ping me" came to mean the same thing as "call or contact me."

  • Tracert/traceroute - If the PING test shows you that you are connected, the tracert/traceroute utility can be used to determine more specific information about the path to your destination, showing the route it has taken and the response time of the hosts.   

  • Ipconfig/ifconfig - Sometimes the IP address has not been set up correctly and this is what is keeping you from connecting.  Using IPconfig, you can see how your destination site has configured its IP address. An error on their end would certainly keep you from connecting. 

  • Nslookup - Some of the most common network troubleshooting issues revolve around issues with Dynamic Name System (DNS) addresses. Some people refer to this as Domain Name System as well because it’s basically the system that controls how your domain name (like vanbelkum.com) connects to your IP addresses (i.e. 74.125.115.145 - your “address” on the Internet). When this isn't working correctly, you won’t be able to reach a site or access the full functionality of a cloud-based platform.  This typically occurs when updates are made to a corporate website and/or cloud system. 

  • Speedtest.net/pingtest.net - A very easy test that can be used to both determine the bandwidth and quality of an Internet connection is with the speedtest.net and pingtest.net websites. The speedtest.net site tells you how much bandwidth is available and how long it is going to take to upload or download information from the site in question. 

7.  BONUS Tip! Call VanBelkum.
At the end of the day, you have a business to run. You depend on reliable and secure connections to the Internet and likely can’t do your job without it, or with a slow or broken connection. Working with a Managed Network Provider (like VanBelkum) ensures that your network just works.

Often, most managed network providers get notifications about any network misfirings before we get calls from our clients or their IT personnel. A lot of what we do is on the cloud, which means we don’t always need to be onsite — so we can check your firewall, access points, and switch to see what’s going on (or what’s not) and get you back up and running. Working with VanBelkum for managed service solutions is not only an affordable option but frees you up to focus on what you do best — running your business.


The Takeaway
Networks are complex, multi-layered moving targets with unpredictable roads that can stand in the way of productivity and profitability — two things no business owner wants to face. Trying to troubleshoot your network can be stressful, even at the best of times. But, the best place to start when trying to get to the bottom of connectivity issues is to check with your devices and the websites or applications you’re trying to use. Once you have a little context about the issue and who it’s affecting, you have a better chance of resolving the it quickly.

Here at VanBelkum, we work with this technology every day and can translate complex issues and solutions into layman’s terms. A managed network from VanBelkum is your best bet to ensuring your business is up and running at its peak performance at all times.

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