Out-of-Band Access to Remote Console Port Command Functions

When a vital network element at a remote equipment site crashes or refuses to respond, network administrators are often left without a means to communicate with the remote site. In many cases, the problem at the remote site could easily be remedied if administrators could just gain access to the console port on the failed device, but with network communication down, the only alternative is a costly, time consuming service call. But it doesn’t have to be this way; an intelligently deployed Console Server can eliminate situations like this, by providing an avenue for out-of-band communication with devices at the remote site.

A well designed console server solution provides system administrators with a secure, reliable out-of-band means to communicate with remote network elements at remote sites, even when normal network communication is not available. When the network is down, remote administrators can connect to the console server via dial-up, broadband or secondary network and then gain quick access to console port command functions on problematic network elements. Once connected to the console port on the remote device, administrators can change configuration parameters, run diagnostic routines and implement fixes to restore communication, without the delay and expense of traveling to the site to deal with the problem in person.

Ideally, an advanced console server should provide adequate security and authentication features to ensure that console port command functions are protected from unauthorized access. In addition to basic password protection, a console server should also support authentication protocols such as Kerberos, TACACS+, LDAP and RADIUS to verify the identity of each potential user. Other features such as IP address filtering, an invalid access alarm, encryption and secure communication provide an additional layer of security to ensure that communication with the remote site is adequately protected.

A full featured console server can also provide other capabilities that help to simplify the task of managing devices at remote network equipment sites. For example, monitoring and alarm features can help keep administrators appraised of high rack temperatures, unresponsive devices, power supply problems and other potentially disastrous conditions and events at the remote site. If the console server supports logging of user activity, this creates a record of all activity at the remote site, which can prove to be a tremendous help when diagnosing the source of problems and refining management procedures.

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