Review: Fluke reinvents handheld network testing

The Fluke Networks LinkSprinter makes on-the-fly network testing quick, easy, and more affordable than ever

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Cloud companion
The LinkSprinter Cloud Service runs on Heroku and Amazon Web Services. During the initial setup process, the serial number of your LinkSprinter needs to be "claimed" by your cloud service account. This sets up the AES-256 credentials the LinkSprinter will use for all of its cloud communications. The cloud service provides a common data collection point for any number of LinkSprinters, with filtering tools to make it easy to create PDF or CSV reports on any subset of your testing data. Thanks to a free format comment field, installers could easily put in the data jack number combined with data from LLDP or CDP switches to give you a fairly decent start on your network inventory.

I'm hoping Fluke will settle on a slightly higher number of tests per subscription level. Currently, you get 100 tests per LinkSprinter per month for a monthly fee of $9.95, or 1,000 tests per LinkSprinter per month for a monthly fee of $79.95. On the plus side, usage during the first 120 days after registration is both unlimited and free so that you can get comfortable with your new tool. After that, the first 10 tests per month continue to be free. You also have the option to surge outside of your subscription level on a month-by-month basis.

The Fluke Networks LinkSprinter is sold through Amazon, and it's available at a price just about anyone could afford. To get the price down to consumer levels, some compromises had to be made (see the list of pros and cons below). But the LinkSprinter is a network test tool anyone can use -- not just the network techs with years of experience -- and it's cheap enough to put into a lot of hands. Imagine how many tech support calls could be avoided if the branch office manager could plug in a LinkSprinter and see if he gets four or five green lights.

Fluke Networks LinkSprinter at a glance

 
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Platform-independent
  • One-button operation
  • Pairs with LinkSprinter Cloud Service for test aggregation
  • Will test gigabit connections, but will only run Internet tests at 10/100 megabits
  • Test results can be filtered and exported to PDF or CSV
  • PoE test will tell you how much power is available
  • Can run on PoE or AA batteries
  • Can comment or annotate test results via your HTML5 browser
  • Available on Amazon
  • Uses LLDP or CDP for switch information discovery
Cons
  • Access (to LinkSprinter 200) limited to 2.4GHz 802.11b/g
  • Confirms only Layer 2 gig operation, not Layer 3 or higher
  • LinkSprinter Cloud Service currently lacks an API
  • Clumsy if you do not have DHCP on your network
  • No DHCP option parameter demux yet, so you see only the option itself
  • Uses only LLDP or CDP to discover upstream device information; no SNMP support yet
  • Must push results to the cloud; no on-premise counterpart
  • Can only store up to four test results, but not to the phone or tablet
  • Can only upload results over the wired Ethernet interface
  • Initial setup must be on a wired network with DHCP
PlatformsWorks with any HTML5-enabled Web browser
CostLinkSprinter: $299 for Wi-Fi version (LinkSprinter 200); $199 for non-Wi-Fi version (LinkSprinter 100). LinkSprinter Cloud Service: Free for 10 tests per unit per month; $9.95 for 100 tests per unit per month; $79.95 for 1,000 tests per unit per month

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