Your Remote Power Switch Might Be Able to Do More than You Imagined

When a vital network device at an off-site data center suddenly locks up and refuses to communicate, most network administrators rely on a remote power switch to reboot the uncooperative network device and restore communication without the need for a service call. This capability can prove extremely valuable in any network application that includes communication with important network elements located in remote equipment racks. But in addition to allowing administrators to reboot remote network devices, a remote power switch can also offer other capabilities that help to minimize network downtime and simplify the process of managing off-site network equipment.

In most cases, the primary function of a remote power switch is to enable administrators to reboot vital network elements at remote equipment sites in order to restart malfunctioning network devices. Although just about any remote power switch on the market can provide these remote reboot capabilities, there are also remote power switch products that go a step further and provide other capabilities that in some cases, can be just as valuable and time-saving as the ability to initiate a remote reboot. Two good examples of helpful functions to look for on a remote power switch are scheduled power and reboot control and ping-no-answer reboot control.

When the remote power switch supports scheduled power and reboot control, this allows administrators to define a daily or weekly schedule which will automatically reboot or power On/Off specific devices at user-selected times and days. Scheduled power and reboot control can be very helpful for performing daily reboots of specific devices at the beginning or end of the business day, or for switching devices On or Off at specific times of the day when they are more or less likely to be needed. For example, scheduled power control could be used to switch On cooling systems during times of the day when rack temperatures might be expected to rise, or switching Off devices such as servers or routers during times of the day when they are less likely to be used.

A ping-no-answer reboot (or ping response reboot) feature enables the remote power switch to automatically reboot any connected device that ceases to respond to ping commands. Typically, the ping-no-answer feature allows administrators to enter IP addresses for specific devices, set up a ping parameters for each specified device and then automatically reboot those devices if they fail to respond to one or more ping commands. When properly configured, a remote power switch with a ping-no-answer feature can continually monitor vital network elements, and automatically reboot devices that become unresponsive. This enables administrators to take a more proactive approach to network management, and automatically deal with unresponsive routers, servers and other elements as soon as a problem arises, rather than waiting for users to notice the problem and complain. In addition to providing automatic reboots for unresponsive devices, a ping-no-answer feature can often be configured to merely notify administrators via email, SNMP trap or SYSLOG message when a device fails to respond to ping commands. This allows the administrator to investigate the problem and troubleshoot the cause rather than automatically rebooting without checking the device out first.

Remote power switch units have become such a common element in remote network equipment sites, that it’s almost a surprise to find an off-site data center or remote equipment rack that doesn’t include a remote power switch. When selecting a remote power switch for your off-site network equipment application, it can often be useful to consider other helpful functions that the remote power switch provides that can simplify the process of managing equipment at the remote site. Or on the other hand, if your remote network equipment site already includes a remote power switch, it sometimes pays to do a little bit of research to determine if that remote power switch might already provide helpful features that you have previously overlooked; often you’ll find features such as power and reboot scheduling and ping-no-answer reboot functions that can further simplify the process of managing network devices at the remote site.

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