Network Testing Programs for Technicians

Joe Loucks

On November 21st In IP Solutions

There are a number of freeware software programs that can be very helpful for alarm technicians when programming and connecting wired and Wi-Fi devices to clients’ LANs and Internet devices.

The first thing that a properly equipped alarm technician needs to work on networks is a laptop or netbook portable computer, with the battery charged up for mobile use. In most cases the testing PC will need to be connected to the client’s network and properly IP addressed to be able to communicate with the other devices on the network. This connection can be either a hardwire Cat5e jumper into an available network switch port or Wi-Fi if available.

When using a Windows-based portable PC the following programs can provide very valuable information about a client’s network and its capabilities and limitations.

  • Wireshark – this is a “packet capture” program which will provide detailed information about each and every data packet that is transmitted or received by the PC that is running the program. Wireshark is a valuable training tool, as it illuminates exactly what is going on when, for example, the testing PC is communicating with a network camera. This program also can provide some information if there is a systemic network problem such as a runaway NIC or crossed ports in a network switch. To receive the data the testing PC must be connected to the client’s network and properly addressed.
  • LAN Monitor – this program provides bandwidth measurement data for the packets that are being sent and received by the testing PC. This program can provide the real-time detailed measurement of the size of video stream being transmitted by a particular IP camera. Manipulation of the camera’s compression format, frames per second, and compression ratio can increase or decrease the size of the camera’s bandwidth and storage requirement.

LAN Monitor displays the received bandwidth when viewing a four-camera NVR.

  • NMAP/ZenMap – NMAP is a network scanning software program. The standard program works off of the Windows “command line” and is rather difficult to use. When the “ZenMap” accessory software is also installed, users will have a simple Windows GUI that is very easy to employ. NMAP/ZenMap can scan a client’s network in just a couple of minutes and will provide the IP address, MAC address, open ports, and (usually) the manufacturer of every active device on the network being tested. This is a very valuable tool as technicians can verify what devices are on the network and what IP addresses might be available for use when programming the static IP addresses into new IP physical security devices being installed. 
  • Netstumbler – this software is a Wi-Fi testing program that is simple to use and very effective. Fire it up and it will immediately display all Wi-Fi access points that are communicating with the testing PC, along with their channel being used and signal strengths. Technicians can simply turn on Netstumbler, isolate the client’s Wi-Fi access point on the Netstumbler screen, and do a field strength survey of the premises. This is particularly critical if the system is to include Wi-Fi IP cameras; technicians must test the proposed location(s) of Wi-Fi cameras to ensure that they will have reliable communications to the Wi-Fi access point and LAN.

 All of these programs are freeware and can be downloaded from the Internet at no cost. These programs are included as part of the Electronic Security Networking Technician (ESNT) self-study training disk, along with practice labs for technicians to practice with the programs. The ESNT self-study CD can be viewed on Windows Media Player. These disks are available from ADI, part number 3X-ESNTDISC1 at a cost of $79.95.

 In future blogs, we will dig into each of these programs and demonstrate their best uses.

ADI offers numerous IP training opportunities throughout the year to share the latest installation tips and techniques. Click here to check out the upcoming training events taking place at your local ADI branch.