A Console Server Provides Out-of-Band Access to Remote Network Elements

When you need to communicate with an unresponsive network element at a remote equipment site, there are basically two choices: you can either travel to the remote site in person, or you can use a console sever to establish an out-of-band connection to the problematic network device. When direct communication with a malfunctioning device is not possible, a console server provides a secondary, out-of-band means to access console port command functions on a remote device.

In a typical out-of-band management application, the console server is configured to allow both in-band access via primary network or out-of-band access via secondary network, dial-up connection or cellular broadband. When a device at a remote site fails and takes the primary network down with it, a console server provides a means for remote access to console port command functions on the problematic network element, without the need for a service call to the remote site. This allows remote network administrators to communicate with unresponsive network elements at distant equipment sites in order to change configuration parameters, correct errors and restore normal network communication with the remote site.

In addition to providing out-of-band access to remote network elements, a full featured console server should also include monitoring and alarm functions which enable tech support personnel at the head office to track conditions and events at remote installations. Features such as temperature alarms, ping response monitors and power cycle alarms enable network administrators and support personnel to keep an eye on conditions at distant network equipment sites without the need for a constant human presence at the remote site.

Given the remote access capabilities of a console server, it is extremely important to choose a console server solution that provides adequate security and authentication features to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive command functions on remote network devices. A well designed console server should support basic security functions such as a user/password directory, plus more advance security functions such as encryption, HTTPS and IP filtering as well as popular authentication protocols such as LDAP, Kerberos, RADIUS and TACACS+.

When properly installed and configured, an effective console server solution will allow personnel at your main office to securely manage and maintain remote network elements, keep tabs on conditions at the remote site and provide a reliable means for out-of-band communication in the event that direct network communication with the remote site is not available.

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