Few network administrators would argue that having a complete and always-current network map is an incredibly valuable and important part of their job. After all, network maps are an essential element of planning, implementing, and supporting every network.
But stories abound of lost computers, servers that cannot be physically located but can be reached on the network, printers that only exist on a spreadsheet, etc. I’ve personally encountered several varieties of this happening, so I can state with confidence that computers do, in fact, get lost. The impact of this loss could be minor if the computer is not in demand, but could also prove devastating if the computer is infected with a virus or is constantly overheating.
Finding the missing server or computer can be quite a challenge. Usually an outdated network map is available. This piece of data is similar to a treasure map drawn by a drunken pirate. It’ll get you in the neighborhood, but you will need to do research to pinpoint the treasure. And if the pirate was really drunk the map may be more of a distractor. Likewise a very out-of date network map might take you in a completely wrong direction.
There are plenty of other ways to find the missing computer. They involve a combination of tools, both simple and complex, as well as some analysis and logic on the part of the network administrator. Following a clear process is the best way to find it. But not by developing a process on the fly when the computer is missing. In this article I’ll illustrate a simple yet effective technique to find missing computers using increasingly powerful tools. This technique serves well to uncover easily-found computers quickly and yet is deep enough to ferret out even the most completely lost systems.