The Console Manager – Vital Help for Remote Network Equipment Sites

When an important network element located at an off-site data center or remote equipment rack suddenly locks up and refuses to communicate, the last thing you want to do is send a tech team off on a service call, merely to reboot the uncooperative network device or change a few communication parameters. A service call might seem like the obvious solution, but service calls are expensive, and the entire time that you’re waiting for the service team to reach the remote network equipment site, that important network device still refuses to communicate.

Rather than relying on an expensive, time consuming service call, it makes much more sense to make certain that your remote network equipment installations always include a console manager. A console manager simplifies the task of managing remote network devices by providing out-of-band access to console port command functions on remote network elements, allowing you to change configuration parameters or initiate troubleshooting routines without cost of a service call, and without having to wait for the service team to travel to the remote network equipment site.

In a typical installation, a console manager provides a single point of access, whereby administrators and tech support personnel can gain access to any network element in the rack that has been cable connected to a console manager serial port. Console manager products typically include from eight to 40 serial RS232 ports, allowing the console server to easily provide out of band access and management capabilities for all of the devices in most equipment racks.

In most cases, the console manager either resides on your secondary maintenance network, or can be contacted out-of-band via dial-up modem. When a device at a remote site crashes and takes network communication down with it, the console manager allows you to communicate with the troublesome device via network connection or dial-up modem, even when normal network communication is not available. Once you have accessed console port command functions on a malfunctioning device, you can either change configuration parameters or run diagnostic routines in order to fix the problem without leaving your office … and without the expense and delays of a service call.

In addition to providing out-band-access to console port command functions on remote devices, many console manager products also include monitoring and alarm functions which allow you to track conditions at the remote network equipment site. A console manager with alarm and monitoring functions provides comprehensive console management for remote network equipment applications, by enabling administrators to both solve problems remotely, and keep a close on factors such as high temperatures, power supply abnormalities, ping command response and other conditions and events at the remote network equipment site.

Given the powerful remote access capabilities provided by a console manager, it’s important to make certain that the console manager solution that you choose includes adequate security and authentication functions to protect console port command functions from unauthorized access. In addition to standard password/username protection, a good console manager should also provide support for authentication protocols such as TACACS+, Kerberos, LDAP and RADIUS. Other useful security features to look for include an IP address filter, which enables the console manager to filter out potential users according to their IP address, and a callback security feature, which essentially functions as a kind of low tech authentication service for dial-up users.

Dealing with crashed servers, uncooperative routers and other minor-league disasters at remote network equipment sites can indeed be a bit of an expensive pain in the neck without a console manager on the job. Nobody in their right mind wants to waste time and money on constant service calls to remote network equipment sites; it makes more sense to invest in a quality console manager for your remote network equipment application, and eliminate the need for those lengthy trips to distant data centers and far-away equipment racks.

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