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How to report network faults

Web site and network administrators take great efforts to eliminate faults from their services, and generally greatly appreciate fault reports, but the report needs to be informative so that the administrator has enough information to correct the problem. This page tells you what information to include.

Bear in mind that administrators often support thousands of users, and may be responding to dozens of fault reports, so it is important that your report be complete so that it can be acted on immediately.

Often you will find that the simple act of composing a fault report may identify a mistake that you made that you can rectify to fix the problem. A separate page describes how to identify and contact administrators so that you can report the fault to them.

What to include when reporting a fault:

  1. Describe what you were trying to do
    e.g. “Trying to get the web page http://www.getntegoing.com/fault-report.html”
    Accuracy of your fault report is important, so check that the address/URL that you report is what you used and not just what you intended.
  2. Describe your system configuration (i.e. how you were trying to do it)
    e.g. operating system (e.g. “Windows XP”) and web browser model and version (e.g. “Internet Explorer version 6.0.2800” - most Windows apps provide version numbers under the “Help” menu under “About appname”)
  3. Give information to help administrators check their logs or correlate your problem with what others experience.
    e.g.:
    • When did you first detect the problem? Since web sites and networks may be supported by people located around the world, give the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

      Date

      Time



    • When (if ever) did you last successfully do this? Hopefully you have tried the action multiple times, to gain confidence that the fault wasn't transitory, e.g. due to transmission noise.
    • Does the problem recur every time that you attempt this operation?
    • What was the IP address of your machine that you were trying to do this from? You can readily determine your public IP address from web sites such as whatismyip.org or whatismyipaddress.com and others
  4. Describe what problem you experienced
    e.g. “HTTP 404 - File not found”
    If you are using Internet Explorer, then if you temporarily disable the use of friendly error messages, then you will see more detail about the error which can be included in your fault report.

    Under Microsoft Windows, you can readily capture screen images to precisely show what happened. To copy to the clipboard

    • the whole screen: press the “Prnt Scrn” key on your keyboard.
    • the current active window: press Alt+“Prnt Scrn”
    You can then paste such images in your fault report. Your fault report should also include the key text that appears in the images, since administrators will find it easier to search for text than for images.

  5. What can you do?
    e.g. Can you:
    • Access other web pages on the same server?
    • Access web pages on other servers?
    • Connect to the same server in other ways, e.g. ping, traceroute, telnet?
  6. Provide a reliable mechanism for return communication.
    e.g. if your email isn't working, then don't provide an email address.
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