Using a Server Console Swith to Communicate with Network Devices at Remote Sites

When designing a remote network equipment site or off-site data center, it’s always important to ensure that IT support personnel in your central office have an avenue for out of band management of network elements at the remote equipment site. An out of band management solution ensures that even when your main network is down, tech support personnel will still be able to communicate with devices at the remote site without relying on expensive service calls and truck rolls. The most popular solution for providing out of band communication with devices at remote equipment sites, is to include a server console switch in the remote equipment rack.

Normally, when the main network is functioning properly, the server console switch provides a means to access console port command functions on remote devices and to monitor environmental conditions, user events and device status at a faraway equipment site. Obviously, these are very important functions for remote network equipment management, but in addition to these capabilities, a server console switch can also prove itself to be extremely valuable in allowing communication with remote devices when the primary network is down, or when the site is beyond the reach of normal network communication.

Ideally, the server console switch is installed on a secondary maintenance network in order to provide out of band management when the primary network is down. This type of installation provides administrators with the ability to communicate with vital network elements when the main network is not available. In this case, the secondary network performs two functions: it provides out of bound access to remote devices when access is not available via the primary network, and it also cuts traffic on the primary network by providing an alternative avenue for IT personnel to use when performing firmware upgrades, diagnostic functions and other tasks.

If a secondary network is not feasible, the server console switch is often used to provide a modem-based out of band management solution for remote network devices. In this configuration, support personnel can connect to the server console switch via a dial-up or satellite modem, and then employ the server console switch to access console port command functions on other network devices on the local area network at the remote site. This often provides the only way to contact devices in the remote equipment rack when the main network is down, without an expensive service call to the remote site.

In other cases, where the remote equipment site is so far off the beaten path that a network cable connection is not practical, a server console switch with outbound SSH/Telnet capability can be installed at the remote site in order to enable tech support personnel to access IP addresses on the remote site’s local area network. This allows IT personnel to contact the server console switch via modem, and then use the outbound SSH/Telnet function to communicate with any IP address on the local area network at the remote site.

It’s easy to see that a server console switch with outbound SSH/Telnet capabilities can provide administrators with a variety of convenient tools for communicating with remote devices when a primary network connection is out of the question. In addition to these powerful out of band management functions, a server console switch can also help administrators to keep a closer watch on network devices at remote sites, by monitoring environmental conditions and other important factors at the site. An intelligently deployed server console switch can provide additional benefits beyond reducing costs for service calls; a server console switch also provides support personnel and administrators with a clearer picture of exactly what is going on at the remote site.

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