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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Solve Remote Network Connection Problem

networking tips and trick troubleshooting
Resolving remote network issues often goes beyond common fixes you may have used to fix your Internet connection. Fortunately, you can quickly eliminate a number of possibilities using a CLI (command-line interface; a text-based command window that is a holdover from the early days of computing), which is still available in Windows XP/Vista/7.

All these suggestions assume that the network is up and operating. It also assumes you are connected to the Internet. Before you proceed, you’ll need to know how to open the CLI window. In WinXP, click Start, select Run, type CMD in the Open field, and press ENTER. In Vista/Win7, click the Start button and type CMD into the Start Search field, and then click the CMD icon that appears in the results.

Ping It
All Internet or network hosts, computers, routers, and other Internet-enabled devices use an IP address (which is a string of four groups of numbers separated by periods, such as 233.122.0.2) to uniquely identify themselves. You may have used this number to access a network login. This can also be a Web address (called a host name) or DNS name to access a login. IP addresses and DNS names are interchangeable. With either, a ping command can determine whether the computer and network can exchange basic data.

From the command line window, type ping followed by a space and the IP address or DNS name (examples would be ping 167.154.16.27 or ping www.corporatenetwork.com). Press ENTER. If you see a time-out message, wait a few seconds. A time-out alert appears if the reply takes longer than a second.


If the response indicates the data packets were sent and received, your machine is exchanging data with the network address. You can skip to “Get Connected” to set up a dedicated connection and edit settings. If you have been accessing the site via a Web address, go to “Look It Up” before heading to “Get Connected.”

If you receive a response that contains something about a nonexistent domain, you are likely using the wrong IP address or DNS name to log in. Double-check the address and try to connect normally. (If you are logging in with an IP address, skip to “Look It Up” for a quick way to check its validity.)

If you receive a transmission error, then the ping data is not leaving your PC. Your firewall is likely blocking you from accessing the network. You will want to add the site to your firewall as an allowed exception (refer to your firewall’s help documentation for these instructions) and try again.

If you receive a response after an excessive number of time-outs, the network’s response to your connection may be slow and your browser or other network access utility may be giving up before it connects. Lengthen the response time by adding a -t switch (ping-t followed by the IP address or DNS name). This will ping the address indefinitely. After a dozen pings, press CTRL-Break to view the packet data. If there is no response yet, continue awhile longer, and then press CTRL-C. If you never get a response or the number of pings to get a response is considerable, skip to “Trace the Route” for assistance.

If you get a message saying the ping request could not find the host or the response indicates the number of data packets sent is zero, the network is not acknowledging your ping. Changes to the network or configuration may now be preventing access. Contact the network administrator for further assistance.

Look It Up
You can look up a DNS name from an IP address and vice versa. From the command line window, type nslookup followed by a space and either the DNS name or the IP address and press ENTER.

Write down the DNS name and numeric sequence you see in the lines that begin with Name: and Address: (ignore aliases). If you are checking an IP address, the DNS name should help confirm it. If you recognize nothing, contact the network administrator to confirm the IP address.

If you are using a DNS name, Windows may be having a problem with DNS name resolution (translating the DNS name into an IP address). Perform two pings from the same command line window, first using the DNS name you wrote down and then using the IP address. Compare the access times and packets you sent and received. If there is a big difference in behaviors pinging the DNS name vs. the IP address, skip to “Get Connected.”

Trace The Route
Tracing the path data packets take going to the network will help pinpoint problems. From the command line window, type tracert followed by a space and the DNS name or IP address, and press ENTER. Lines will appear with access times and IP addresses. The final few hops should show domain names—the last one being your network. This is the route—and the time the trip is taking—between nodes on the Internet.

If an early hop takes a long time or causes the trace to hang (a flood of timeouts), contact your ISP. If you reach many hops before things go awry, the problem may be with a gateway or router at or near the location of the remote network. Check with the network administrator for assistance.

Get Connected
Setting up a direct VPN connection gives you a dedicated login interface and lets you avert DNS issues.

To set up the connection in WinXP, select Control Panel on the Start menu. Click Network And Internet Connections and then select Create A Connection To The Network At Your Workplace. In Vista/Win7, click Control Panel on the Start menu and click Network And Internet (in Category view), then Network And Sharing Center. Click Set Up A Connection Or Network (Vista) or Set Up A New Connection Or Network under Change Your Network Settings (Win7). Select Connect To A Workplace, then Use My Internet Connection. (Vista/Win7 offers smart card as a connection option. We won’t discuss that here.)

Select Virtual Private Network Connection, name the connection, and provide the host (DNS) name or IP address. If you are asked if you would like to dial a connection, click No (unless you only have dial-up Internet) and click Finish (WinXP) or Connect (Vista/Win7). The OS will attempt to connect you without configuring any settings. If this solution does not work, or if you are using WinXP, proceed with the following instructions.

Return to the Network Connections window in WinXP or the Network and Sharing Center in Vista/Win7 and click the option to manage network connections. Right-click your VPN network icon and select Properties. Next, click the Networking tab, click Internet Protocol (in Vista/ Win7, you will need to do this for TCP/IP V4 and TCP/IP V6), and then click Properties. Override automatic configuration and provide the
exact IP address and DNS names for the network. Exit the Properties interface, right-click the VPN icon, and click Connect. Provide your login information if prompted.

If you cannot connect, then Windows can provide some assistance, but you may need more advanced configuration information. You will need to contact the network administrator for detailed information. ▲

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