I've been having frequent problems with my ADSL connections recently. I have the same provider both at home and at work.
On both connections I get intermittent; seemingly random, outages on the pipe. The service provider has a "help desk" that are typical in Telco environments and IT Companies you know the routine:
- restart your computer
- check the cables
- restart your modem
- "are you sure you've got the password right? is caps lock on?"
Anyway getting to the point (finally), how did I know there was a problem with the network in the first place? not just the usual random web page not available (aka someone's turned the server off)
I knew because my trusty network sniffer couldn't find a way out; what is the sniffer I hear you ask?
The answer is Skype!
Wherever I am, inside or outside of a firewall, I know if there is at least one way out to the internet if I see this in the bottom right hand corner
Due to the way that Skype transits the network, generally speaking if it can't create a connection then this means that there isn't one.
If IT departments allowed people to install Skype they would empower the user to alert them very early to a broken network connection. The other benefit, for me, is that inside the firewall I can't use Yahoo or MSN messenger. Again Skype comes up trumps for me as I can use Skype Chat. A big up for Google as well as due to the way that GoogleTalk, a jabber based IM opposed to SIP, is integrated with Gmail I can also use their IM as well.
I'm sure it's a coincidence that both SIP IM's can't get out but Jabber and the Skype propiretary IM's can.
So you know you've got network problems when you see this guy