A Serial Console Server Saves Both Time and Money

Not too many years ago, the only way to deal with a crashed server or router at a remote network equipment site was to send your tech support team off on a long, expensive road trip to the remote site, and when they finally got there, the problem could often be solved by merely entering a few simple commands via the console port on the remote device. Not only was this type of solution prohibitively expensive, but you were often left without network communication until the tech support team finally arrived at the remote equipment site and took care of the problem. Today, this type of solution to a problem at a remote equipment site has become increasingly rare, thanks to the out of band management capabilities provided by a serial console server.

When a serial console server is deployed at a remote network equipment site, most common network problems can usually be solved without even breaking a sweat or leaving your desk. Instead of that long drive to the middle of nowhere, a serial console server allows network administrators to quickly access console port command functions on remote devices, invoke a few diagnostic and troubleshooting commands, and have the network back up in minutes instead of hours or days.

The out of band access capabilities provided by a serial console server provide network administrators with a powerful tool for dealing at problems at remote network equipment sites without actually traveling to the site in person. Typically, the serial console server is either installed on a secondary maintenance network, or contacted via dial-up modem or satellite modem. When a device at a remote site malfunctions, administrators can establish a secure, out of band connection with the serial console server, then connect to the troublesome device and gain instant access to console port command functions.

In addition to providing a way to deal with malfunctioning equipment at the remote site, a serial console server can also help to keep administrators better informed regarding conditions at remote network equipment sites. Many serial console server products include powerful monitoring and alarm functions which allow network administrators to track environmental factors such as rack temperature, or detect potential problems such as unresponsive network elements and power supply problems at the remote site. In most cases, the serial console server can be configured to automatically notify the network administrator when high rack temperatures, power outages, loss of communication, excessive invalid access attempts or other noteworthy events are detected. A full-featured serial console server can usually provide notification via several popular communication protocols such as email, text message, SNMP Trap or SYSLOG message, and often include the ability to notify several different tech support personnel in the event that the primary contact is unavailable.

Obviously, the out of band access capabilities of a serial console server need protection from unauthorized access. When choosing a serial console server product for your out of band management application, it’s important to select a product that supports both security protocols such as password protection and IP address filtering, as well as authentication protocols such as LDAP, Kerberos, TACACS and RADIUS. Ideally, a serial console server should allow a multi-layered approach to security to insure that critical console port command functions are safe from unauthorized users.

When it comes to remote network equipment management, A serial console server provides a tremendous improvement over expensive, time consuming service calls to remote network equipment sites. A serial console server eliminates both the expense and inconvenience of a service call or truck roll, and also eliminates that long wait for the network to come back up again while the tech support team is en route to the remote equipment site. As an added bonus, a serial console server also provides network administrators with a clearer picture of conditions at remote equipment sites, enabling a more proactive approach to remote device management and often helping network administrators to take care of potential pitfalls before a troublesome network element crashes and severely effects network communication.

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