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Testing a 1000-branch WAN for user acceptance

WAN user acceptance tests are key to establishing a good service-level agreement and an operational multi-branch WAN. Find out more about creating and running an effective test to ensure a good SLA and a bug-free WAN.

Acceptance test plans are the underpinning for a service-level agreement (SLA). What you accept for the agreement may remain the best you will ever get, even after renegotiations or changing providers. To develop a user acceptance test for 1000 branches you should plan on contracts running into seven figures (U.S. dollars). If the vendor has specified ping and SH(ell), if at all possible, I would suggest latency over the longest time period they will allow. Latency measures transit times more effectively than ping alone. Tests should be run throughout the day -- in the morning (7 a.m. to 9 a.m), noon (lunch time) and night (5 p.m. to 7 p.m. local). It gives a better idea of what the network performance will be. If you have a standard application you run over the network (i.e., client-server database), put it on a laptop and try it at each location.

A standard test at each site should be:

  1. Attach laptop. Do you get an IP address in a reasonable length of time?
  2. Connect to your login server. Can you actually log in? Do NSlookup.
  3. Do the names of your servers resolve? Tracert the path. Any surprises?
  4. Does your application work? Is the data entry person going to yell when the system can't keep up with their typing?

Other questions to ask:

  • Who owns the network?
  • Does this side own ALL segments?
  • If like most deals, it goes through various companies, who do you call? You want one person on the hot seat for repair, AND you want to know who to call if the failure is at some third party on a Friday night.

This question was asked at Ask the Experts on

Howard Plumley, Jr., Contributing writer

About the author: Howard Plumley, Jr. is a network administrator at the University of Florida. He has been in electronics since 1965 -- first radio intrigued him, then TV, and through his six years in the Navy in the communications field, he learned all about ETN. His first computer was a Sinclair ZX80. He has programmed in everything from Assembler to Visual Studio and Java. Howard spent 15 years in the biomedical equipment industry, where he dealt with maintenance, research and development and interfacing. For the last 28 years, Howard has been the network administrator for the University of Florida. If you face a network admin problem, chances are good Howard's had to solve something similar.

This was last published in May 2009

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