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This work is designed to provide assistance in engaging and overcoming challenges involved in troubleshooting and maintenance of local area networks. It is presented in such simplified, easy-to-use way, that even users who are not experts in the field of networking, computer and/or communication engineering can relate with, and can apply its expertise to obtain various network solutions. Whenever there is a need to monitor a computer network and/or to troubleshoot in the event of a fault, the software package which is the end product of this project work can be installed or run on any of the computers within the network. With the assistance offered by the software, and with the wealth of a thorough knowledge-base captured within the software package, the needed solution for rectification of the network will be reproduced for the operator to apply. Hence, it is termed ‘Expert System for Local Area Network Troubleshooting’.
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
The Information age has brought about so much reliance on information and data communication in many respects, and the focus seems to culminate on the internet and on various networks. Local Area Networks (LAN) are now common in interconnecting offices, firms or organizations within a location; Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN) are employed over cities or such large geographical areas; Wide Area Networks (WAN) are employed over much larger geographical regions. All these technological advances are all geared towards efficient communication/dissemination of information at the fastest possible time.
Hence, networks (especially, Local Area Networks or LAN) have become a common feature for most modern firms or organizations – whether it is an office, hospital, hotel, church premises, educational institutions, or even residential premises, etc. A network can be defined as a set of devices or nodes connected by communication links. These nodes or devices can be a computer, printer, or any other such device capable of transmitting and/or receiving data . LANs are commonly used to interconnect different computers to provide for collaborative computing and knowledge management within a firm. Sometimes this interconnectivity can be linked through an internetwork. In such cases, the local network of computers is linked to the internet through appropriate hardware (router, modem, etc).
However, a major hitch in this success trend is the fact that networks have shown to be easily vulnerable to break-down. This could be attributed to several factors – problems from the interconnecting nodes (computers, printers, etc), or the physical cable connections, or from the communication hardware equipment, etc. These all contribute to the vulnerability of the network. Another major reason for this vulnerability lies on the fact that because of the interconnected nature of a network system, a problem affecting any node on the network could possibly spread to other nodes within the network, thereby shutting down the entire system. This is especially true for certain network topologies such as the Star and Ring network topologies.
This vulnerability precipitates a need for provision of
continuous/scheduled repairs and maintenance of the network, especially in the event of a fault. Thus, troubleshooting and maintenance is to be an integral part of the network administrative process.
1.2) AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The major objectives of this project are to provide for the following:
• An expert system in the form of a software package, which can run on any system in the computer network and assist in the troubleshooting and maintenance of the LAN.
• The software package to serve as a guide to its users in carrying out troubleshooting and maintenance functions through the help of its step by step instructions.
• An expert system that can function as a tutor/trainer for getting knowledge and insight into the operation of networks (especially LANs)
1.3)THE NEED FOR THE PROJECT WORK
One vital importance of this project work is that it can provide a means to effectively deal with the challenge of real-time troubleshooting and network maintenance. In communication networks, a major challenge is the ability to keep the network operational at all working/needed times. Communication networks are known for their potential to break-down easily. As such, any organization utilizing such a network should have quick and effective means to restore a network that is faulty or malfunctioned, back to order. This will involve readily available means of troubleshooting and/or maintenance to be done on the network, and all its equipment – both hardware and software. This project serves such a purpose.
Again, this project work will serve as a tool to provide thorough knowledge and training to non-network professionals, and/or differing experienced levels of network operators in performing network functions. The manner of presentation after which this work was compiled will prove to be very useful as a tutorial for network functions.
1.4)SCOPE OF THIS WORK
This work is focused basically on Local Area Networks (LAN). It also covers internet network administration and maintenance within a localized area, for example, in an internet cyber café or a learning and research centre, or an office premises interconnected with an internetwork (such as Banks). It is concerned with providing assistance through the use of software in performing network maintenance functions. The block diagram showing the various project development stages is shown in Figure 1.1.
The scope of this work is not primarily focused on larger networks (WANs, MANs, etc), however, this work will definitely offer a guide in understanding the operations of these other larger networks.
1.5) PROJECT REPORT ORGANISATION
This project report was organized into five major chapters covering the entire work done.
Chapter one introduces this project work, also giving a proper background and insight into local area networks. It also explains the need for the project, the aims and objectives, and the scope of the work.
Chapter two reviews other related literature and similar works done on the subject. The concept of Expert systems, Artificial Intelligence and computer networks were also looked at and other relevant academic research were included.
In chapter three shows the research methodology undertaken for the work. The process of knowledge acquisition and modeling of the entire system was described. The processes involved in the overall design and development of the system were also thoroughly illustrated, and the method of implementing the developed system was described.
Chapter four shows the practical process involved for installing, testing and methods of executing the already developed system. Appropriate diagrammatic illustrations were employed to properly illustrate this.
Finally, in Chapter five, a summary of the work developed is given. Recommendations were also given for further development and
advancement of the work done so far.