COVID-19: A Helping Hand – Free-of-charge Access to Netrounds Technology

Getting started guide to overcome the challenges of a remote and distributed workforce

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March 24, 2020
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The COVID-19 outbreak has created a surge in remote workers, putting an unprecedented load on IT infrastructure both on private and publicly shared resources. Netrounds is here to provide a helping hand by providing a free-of-charge solution to enterprises. Read more below for more information. 

We have all been blindsided by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Most enterprises are probably unprepared for the sudden need of having the majority of employees working remotely. These individuals are relying heavily on flawless access to business-critical systems, collaboration tools and video conferencing systems.

Degradation of network service quality and unexpected outages have a larger impact on productivity now than ever before. The ability to quickly identify bottlenecks, choking points and other network issues will help provide value for many organizations during these difficult times.

Therefore, we at Netrounds would like to give a helping hand. Today Netrounds is announcing that we are providing free-of-charge access* to our software technology until 31 July, 2020. This will include a kit with Netrounds software-based Test Agents** and your own dedicated account in our cloud-hosted Netrounds Control Center.

The Netrounds active assurance solution is software-only and easily installed within minutes. Tasks that Netrounds will help enterprises solve include:

  • Quickly identify poorly performing Internet connections and cloud connectivity. 
  • Empower employees with browser-based tools to troubleshoot and sectionalize a network to find out where an issue is located.
  • Understand if VPN gateways have become a bottleneck, degrading the ability to work remotely.
  • Confirm that critical business applications and video conference services are available to remote workers with the expected quality of service.

There are many ways to deploy and use our technology to confirm network service quality. This blog will describe a simple scenario intended to identify poorly performing VPN connections from your employee home offices to your datacenter, as well as to your applications running in the public cloud. It will also describe how Netrounds Speedtest can be used to troubleshoot and sectionalize the network to pin down where an issue is located.

continuous monitoring for remote workers (speedtest)Example of a remote worker's home network and placement of Netrounds software-based Test Agents.

Step 1: Request a SaaS-based Netrounds Control Center (NCC) account

By clicking the link below you will be directed to our sign-up page where you can request free access to Netrounds Technology according to the Helping Hand offer. 

Request Free Access ►

Step 2: Deploy Netrounds Test Agents

The quickest way to deploy a new cloud Test Agent is by first subscribing to our AMI in AWS Marketplace. Images for Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure are also available, but they need to be manually uploaded which entail a few extra steps please see separate documentation on this.

A second Test Agent can be installed in your private virtualization platform (KVM, OpenStack, VMware, etc). For this a Test Agent image needs to be downloaded. This can be done from the Control Center GUI, where multiple image formats are available. Go to “Test Agents”  ”Download” and you will find the following:

Download Netrounds Test Agents InstructionsNetrounds Test Agent download dialog

For instructions on how to launch a Test Agent in various virtual environments, please see the manual.

To register the Test Agent to the Control Center, either use user data input (day0) or do the procedure manually by using the VGA, serial console or SSH CLI, which provides a self-explanatory and user-friendly menu interface. Below is a brief example of how user data can be formatted:

#cloud-config

netrounds_test_agent:

  name: test-agent-in-my-cloud

  email: john.doe@example.com

  password: mypassword

  account: companyname

Once the Test Agent is registered and connected it will show up in the Control Center inventory, as can be seen here:

Netrounds Test Agent registration - Control Center view

Netrounds Test Agent registration: NCC view

In the above view, please observe that the “test-agent-in-my-cloud” has both a local IP address and a public IP address. If you want test traffic to be sent towards the Test Agent's public IP address (which is a normal scenario if you do not have private VPC peering setup), then you change the interface configuration of this Test Agent to enable “Use public address” as can be seen here:

Use public ip-address - NCC view

Public IP address: NCC view

This means that the other Test Agent will send traffic towards that public IP instead of the private one.

Step 3: Start a new Monitor

Go to “Monitor”  ”New monitor”. You are now presented with the Netrounds toolbox for defining a new monitor:

New monitoring group, my office-cloud - NCC set-up view

New monitoring group "My Office-Cloud Health Monitor": NCC setup view

A good basic health monitor is a bidirectional UDP-stream running at 100 kbps in each direction with thresholds for Errored Seconds set at 0% packet loss and 20 ms jitter.  If you would like to understand how well your network is supporting video conferencing services specifically, relevant Errored Seconds thresholds are 150 ms delay, 30 ms jitter, and 1% loss:

Thresholds for errored seconds - NCC set-up view.

Thresholds for errored seconds: NCC setup view

Note: When selecting Server/Clients, make sure that Server is set to the Test Agent in the cloud if NAT or firewalls are used that block connections in the other direction. Connections are always established from the Client towards the Server.

Other useful tools for network health monitoring are: running a synthetic VoIP call and calculating the MOS to allow reporting and triggering of alarms if the voice quality drops, or doing periodic HTTP requests towards important web-based services such as intranet sites. In this example I have added three tasks to run in parallel:

Network monitoring tools: UDP, VoIP UDP, HTTP

Network monitoring tools: UDP, VoIP UDP, HTTP

The last thing I do is to add an alarm to be sent if any of my monitor tasks fail:

Trigger alarms - NCC set-up view

Trigger alarms: NCC setup view

This configuration means that if during a 60-second window there are 6 seconds where my monitor task exceeds my thresholds (packet loss, jitter, MOS score, or HTTP response time), then the system will send an email to my defined email list. 

Once I hit Save, the system will start my monitor and soon I will see the status of my network, including real-time KPIs:

Example of monitoring result KPIs - NCC view

Example of monitoring result KPIs: NCC view

Green status means that there are no errored seconds reported. Any orange/red/black markings would indicate faults impacting my services.

Step 4: Enable end-user web-browser based Speedtest

Being able to quickly measure network connectivity quality for an end-user is a very important troubleshooting step to sectionalize and isolate a network problem. Any Netrounds Test Agent can take the role of a Speedtest server, allowing the end-user to measure towards many different locations very easily. First enable the Speedtest application on selected Test Agents:

Speedtest enabling in Test Agents

Speedtest enabling in Test Agents

Then go to “Apps” ”Speedtest” ”Go to public page” to access the end-user facing page to run a Speedtest. The page is fully customizable and will look like this by default when a user hits the Start button:

Speedtest: Network performance testing gif

Speedtest: Network performance testing

By running the Speedtest both towards an office-located Test Agent and one located in the cloud it's possible to sectionalize where an issue originates from and more effectively focus on correcting the issue.

Final note

We hope that you find our technology helpful during these difficult times. Please feel free to reach out to our dedicated response team to help with this special offering and any related questions you may have. You can reach us at helpinghand@netrounds.com. Stay safe out there!

 

(*) Netrounds retains the right to exclude companies that might misuse its capabilities or could breach its copyrights, and reserves the right to stop this initiative at any time.

(**) Optional hardware-based Netrounds Test Agents and on-premise Netrounds Control Center offerings are available at a discounted price for the duration of this initiative.