Understanding the Role of IP Addressing and Docking Station Connectivity

Understanding the Role of IP Addressing and Docking Station Connectivity

Ray Cavender | Monday, May 17, 2021

Technology has advanced so much in the last decade that sometimes we forget the complex processes that allow us to plug in a device and connect to the internet in seconds. This makes it all the more confusing when the technology isn’t connecting as expected. Without a physical widget to fiddle with, it can be hard to know where to start.

Luckily, most technology relies on a few basic elements to connect to the internet and send your data to the cloud. Here, we’ll cover some facts about how network devices communicate and how to troubleshoot some basic connectivity challenges.  

How does network communication play into gas detection? Imagine taking all the worry and hassle out of managing your gas detection program. Imagine being able to walk into work, see a green light on a docking station with a gas monitor on it and know you can take that gas monitor into the field with you to ensure your safety. This is the DSX™ Docking station. And with it, you know that your gas monitors are calibrated and bump tested to keep you safe during your workday. However, your docking station needs its own address to communicate this information to the cloud.

Ensuring this connectivity likely involves a partnership with your IT department. From an IT perspective it’s important to know what is communicating on the company network, because the integrity of the enterprise network is key to keeping any organization up and running. 

What do docking stations have to do with network connectivity?

The way that docking stations function can be compared to the way your home PC functions – they both require a certain set of circumstances to communicate on a network. Understanding the technology behind the docking stations can help you communicate better with your IT teams if you encounter an outage. By understanding some basics of network connectivity, you’re closer to understanding how your IT department can help and can get to the root cause of an issue faster.

What is an IP address and why do I need one? IP is short for “Internet Protocol.” If you want to send someone a letter (forget email this time, we’re going old school), you need to share certain information with the postal service: your name, street address, state and ZIP code. In order to send that letter, you need that same information for the recipient. If you look at your network as a neighborhood, every server, switch, router, printer and PC needs to have its own address as well (they look like this: 192.168.20.25). To be in the neighborhood, you have to have an IP address. No exceptions. Your docking station has its own IP address, which is determined by the display on the dock.

What is DHCP and what is static?  DHCP stands for “Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol” and it’s a convenient way for a PC to get its credentials automatically. Go to an airport or university, open your laptop and you’ll likely get offered the chance to join a network. When you tell your PC to connect, behind the scenes a “handshaking” process is taking place, where your laptop requests and receives an IP address to connect to that public wi-fi. If you want tighter control over the devices on your network, or if you have a device (such as a printer) that does not move, you might use a static IP address. The device has a manually assigned IP address, typically from the network admin of that company. This means the device has a specific IP, subnet, gateway and DNS. Most corporate networks are a mix of the two, with some devices like servers and printers being statically assigned and your work laptop being free to roam around the office, receiving information automatically.

 Part of the reason it’s important to understand the connectivity process is that you have docks specifically set up (static) for one network (subnet). If you disconnect a dock and move to a different subnet that it’s not compatible with (different network, different subnet), then the dock will no longer be able to communicate.

What issues might you face when uploading data? Just as your home computer relies on your ISP to communicate, the DSX Docking stations rely on your company’s network to reach the outside world.  Troubleshooting their connectivity is relatively easy in some cases with a few questions:

  • When did they last upload?
  • Are all the docking stations communicating out of the enterprise network into the internet?
  • Are certain areas of the company seeing this issue and others are not? And if so, and a DHCP-enabled dock isn’t communicating where it’s at – can you take it to where there are working docks, plug it in, and see if the status changes?
  • Is it a Monday? It’s not uncommon for calls of “My docks are not uploading” to happen on a Monday. IT departments, not wanting to impact normal business days, will often perform updates on a Friday evening or weekend. It’s always possible a firewall update or change affects the ability of the docks to get out to the cloud.

To understand IP addressing, how it’s assigned, why it’s needed, and how it works is key in gas detection programs that use network-enabled docking stations – like the DSXi Docking Station. Communicating the status of your docks to IT can often lead to quick resolution. If you need help solving connectivity issues, talk to one of our experts for more information.

 

Ray Cavender is an iNet systems engineer team lead with Industrial Scientific.