If you were talking to someone whose organization is considering NetAlly EtherScope nXG, what would you say?
How would you rate it and why? Any other tips or advice?
I've been using it quite often, several times a week; sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what's happening.
Buy it. It is worth it. I have gotten more insight into what we are doing using the solution along with more information to make better decisions in regards to troubleshooting or wireless. We use it anytime that we have network trouble. Now, it's one of the first tools that we pull up if we are having network connectivity issues. The first thing the we do, "Let's get NetAlly and test the cable to the switch." If someone picks up the tool, then forgets to put it back. Usually, we hear about it, they are like, "Hey, where's the NetAlly, I know it is being used?" The multi-technology functionality of the solution does a lot. We haven't dove into everything, but I can use it to test cables. I really like the fact that it does everything that it does. The fact that it does WiFi and wired Ethernet analysis in one device has been great. We have the solution’s AirMapper Site Survey app in a testing environment. We have been playing with it just to get familiarized with it. We did a wireless survey for a specific area that we were looking to do some additional equipment in. The AirMapper Site Survey app is pretty straightforward. I didn't have to do too much digging. Its ability to gather WiFi site survey data is good and works as advertised. Initially, for the simple things, the learning curve is pretty easy and quick. It's not a very big curve. However, for complex items, you want to read up on the solution. They have documentation online that you can watch to the help you. The more complex things take more time unless you're familiar with them, and I wasn't that familiar with the solution and had to do a bit more digging, but the simple things were easy. We haven't had the need to make use of the solution’s full line-rate 10 Gig capability. I would rate this solution as a 10 out of 10.
I would tell other engineers to decide what their total testing needs are: * To resolve whether or not they need wired and wireless testing? * Do they need to be able to test copper and fiber? * Do they need to be able to test just pure physical and verify that the cabling is correctly installed? Or, do they need to be able to test Layers 2, 3, and 4, as far as verifying that the network is fully functioning and network services are available? * Is the Internet available in their internal servers and external servers? Is it responding? I would tell them to look at what they need to test, then look at the devices which are capable of running what they need to test. If they find themselves in a situation where they do need to test all of those various things, then I don't think they are going to find a better all-in-one solution than EtherScope. Would it make sense to hand a EtherScope nXG to a cabling guy? No, it absolutely doesn't. I wouldn't recommend that. However, so many of us perform lots of roles, have to troubleshoot, and test in a lot of different scenarios. In those situations, we do need a tool that is capable of testing all of the various layers, both wired and wireless, and can verify things remotely. EtherScope is a single tool that performs all of these tasks. I have only tested to 1 gig at this point. I would rate it a solid eight. I think that there are a lot of places it could be improved, but for the average user, it solves the majority of their problems and concerns.
It's a great tool for network troubleshooting. It's an awesome tool. The biggest lesson I have learned from using this solution is that this is the tool to discover the issue. It's not that it helps to find something new but there are ways to discover the network details in a very efficient way and that's what EtherScope nXG offers.
The EtherScope is such a unique tool. Everyone is going to use different features for different purposes. I am more WiFi oriented. Regarding the unit's multi-technology functionality, I'm not using it too much on the wired side. I do have a lot of tools. Much of the time, when I'm doing wired troubleshooting, it's just simple continuity tasks more than anything. I use the EtherScope for WiFi more than anything, but it is nice to have the wired abilities when needed. I have used the AirMapper Site Survey app once, just last week. I did not use it fully. I just used it to do a quick assessment. I'm actually curious to find out more about it. It was very easy. I haven't used it with the software. I haven't been able to dump the data into the software and see it fully yet, so I can't say I have a real opinion of it yet.
This could save a lot of headaches on troubleshooting networks, connections, and cables. It's got a lot of options and it could definitely save a lot of time if used properly. I would rate it about an eight out of 10. It's not a 10 because there were a few bugs. It could be improved. Also, I don't know if it has this feature or not, but if I could write my own script to use on that machine, it would definitely be a 10. If it doesn't have that, I would stay with my eight. Most people who are engineers like to automate things, and they would want to write their own script to do their own testing.
My advice would be "use it." Get a demo and try it to see how effective it is at identifying, for WiFi situations, what's going on in the air around you. Try it out, go debug something with it. If you are someone in the business of being in the field, day in and day out, try out all of the interfaces on it. If you're a person who has to debug a variety of different network issues every day — Ethernet, WiFi, fiber — I would definitely encourage you to to try it out. It's very capable. It doesn't do MoCA — that's coax cable — which is important to our market space, but for most network installers, I don't think that would be an issue. If you're a network installer you should definitely have a look at this tool. I don't know that I've learned the following by using the nXG, but it has certainly helped reinforce it: Being able to attain a third-party look at what your WiFi environment is, is key to troubleshooting problems. Devices themselves that may be a part of your network may not necessarily always be telling you the truth. Your ability to get an independent view of what is going on over the air is key. That's the key takeaway for me. I need a reliable way to get visibility into what's going on over the air so that the analysis and the troubleshooting that are going to be done are appropriate. Visibility of what's really going on from an independent piece of test gear is very critical. The multi-technology functionality of the device, that it does WiFi and wired Ethernet analysis in one device, is not that important to us. We use the multi-function capability maybe 10 percent of the time. Since most of our focus is on WiFi, while it's convenient to have the ability to test other things, we don't use it that often. We rarely use the pre-programmed AutoTest feature. We typically have our own test protocol for how we want to conduct a test. I can definitely see how AutoTest could be very useful in the field-deployment arena. But we don't use it all that much. It appears to be effective at being able to find top-level network problems. A good example would be if you are testing a device and the WiFi appears to be working but you aren't getting connectivity to the internet. You might want an independent test of that with another device, and that's where AutoTest could quickly determine if you are really getting out to the internet through your router or not. Within our group, the maintenance and systems engineering group, there are 11 of us using this solution and we are all test engineers. In terms of maintenance, we just use them. We perform firmware upgrades as they are available, but beyond that there is no other maintenance. This product is a 10 out of 10. It's a solid little product.
We don't use it day-to-day because of the way our company is structured, and its use cases in our business. But we certainly use it once or twice a week, fairly regularly. It has definitely become one of our go-to tools in just about any scenario, whether we're walking or running out the door to a customer's site. I use the solution's pre-programmed AutoTest feature and I've got my own that I built, as well. I use both. But in my environment, the equipment that it plugs into has very little in the way of discovery functionality and options. In the majority of my environment, that functionality is blocked and limited at a network level. So that function doesn't allow me to do much. However, outside of my specific company when I do consulting work, or even at some of our customer sites, if I have to help troubleshoot their stuff — which doesn't happen very often but it does happen — in that scenario it has been extremely helpful because it will give me a deeper dive into the network. Otherwise, I would just be guessing because I don't know what their network looks like. Overall, as far as technical features go, it would be a nine or 10 out of 10, hands-down. It's an all-in-one device for most functionalities. I'd be hard pressed not to give it a 10. As far as ease of use is concerned, it's absolutely a nine or 10 as well. It's fairly straightforward, out-of-the-box. Even if you don't have a lot of network experience, it doesn't take long. You can tap around and figure out what it does and doesn't do. And there are some great online videos for it already;I've been through some of those webinars as well. There is easy access to those kinds of materials. The fact that it's handheld and fairly lightweight definitely makes it a nine or 10 as well. As far as development goes, it's still in its infancy, so that is only a five or six out of 10. It's extremely new and they're trying to come on as fast as they can. Maybe, by now, it's in "early adolescence," but I fully expect them to make more improvements going forward. The functionality, what I can do out-of-the-box today, is easily a seven to nine out of 10, depending on what you need. The fact that it can do packet capture, line rate gig or 10 gig without dropping a packet, to me that's a 10. There are not a lot of products out there that can do that. The fact that we could do 10 gig all day long, for three straight months, fresh off the assembly line — that just floors me. That's a big telltale sign of the R&D and the love that went into that device before it ever got into my hands. That's priceless.
If you're on the fence reach out to your regional account representative within NetAlly and request a demo of the product before anything else. It is a solid enough product that seeing it in use, even within a NetAlly demo, makes it very clear to many customers and many technical decision-makers how valuable a product like this can be in an organization. Its value is very easily shown and very easily understood by a wide variety of people. Requesting that demo and looking at it before purchasing is always a great step, but it will definitely reinforce the decision to do so. Also, read the documentation. If there's something that you don't understand, or the output of a test looks unclear, or it's something that you haven't seen before, look at the documentation before anything else. Within the manual they very clearly detail all the potential test results, what they mean, and what implications they have. The fact that the manual is available right on the device in a PDF reader is great. In addition, make sure to look at the app store that's available on the device. It's curated by NetAlly and it has tools that are vetted and specific for troubleshooting and analyzing networks. That app store has a wealth of applications that can be used in addition to what NetAlly has already built. I would rate the EtherScope nXG at nine out of 10, because there is always room for new features and improvement in any product. That being said, NetAlly has built an incredibly stable product that provides a large amount of value to anyone using it.
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