Helping Us Help You: AppSense Troubleshooting Best Practices
*This post originally appeared on the AppSense blog prior to the rebrand in January 2017, when AppSense, LANDESK, Shavlik, Wavelink, and HEAT Software merged under the new name Ivanti.
As a Senior Solutions Engineer, I see many high priority / high impact issues that require detailed analysis of a complex set of moving parts. This often includes memory dump analysis, in-depth log analysis, cross-platform interoperability issues, and generally finding creative solutions to tricky problems. The urgency and complexity of these situations requires me to work in an efficient environment. I like to be organized enough that if I need to reach for a resource, I know exactly where it is. If I can’t, quite frankly, it ‘drives me up the wall’ with frustration.
I’m sure that many reading this relate to this feeling and think, “Well, duh! Doesn’t everyone?” Well actually, no, not intentionally. When a high-pressure situation occurs, sometimes the simplest and easiest things that can make our lives easier can be overlooked. We all do it on a daily basis in one way or another in all aspects of life.
My goal is always to take a structured approach to troubleshooting. Where there’s structure, there’s efficiency. Microsoft provides an excellent article relating to ‘Troubleshooting Methodology’that outlines some clear and distinct phases of the troubleshooting process.
One of my pet hates is seeing or dealing with incidents where there is unnecessary “to’ing and fro’ing” back to customers asking for more information or gathering more logs. Unfortunately, some of the time it is a necessity, but other times the information could have been captured much earlier in the incident.
Logging a call with a software vendor is one of those times when you really need the process of to be as smooth and painless as possible. (Normally, because your boss is breathing down your neck, right? I remember those times well! ). It’s really important to ensure that the right information gets to the right people as soon as possible. Fortunately, we’ve developed a set of tools and tips over time that can make this process easier and much more efficient for our customers.
By the time I generally see issues, they have often reached Phase 4 of the methodology mentioned above. However, it’s common for more ‘Discovery’ to be required, which is time consuming from both the vendor’s point of view and the customer side as well. So reducing this amount of time is a must to create an efficient working environment and, more importantly, reduce incident time-to-resolution (TTR) for our customers.
Think about your past support interactions with AppSense and other software vendors and ask yourself a question: “After I have logged an incident, do I then get asked a lot of ‘non-specific’ questions?” If the answer is ‘yes,’ how much of that could have been provided at the point the first call or e-mail was made? The likely answer is a fair amount.
It’s in the best interests of both AppSense and you as a customer that we spend as much time as possible in troubleshooting (Phases 3, 4 & 5). This tends to go very smoothly with an efficient and collaborative approach, where all parties’ primary goal is to resolve the issues(s) reported by getting to root-cause.
Typically every support vendor has a minimum list of things that are required at the point of incident. Here at AppSense, we don’t impose a rigid list, but we do have a general list of information we will ask for, if they haven’t been provided at first point of contact:
· AppSense Support Toolkit – Data Collection Output (Formally the Support Script)1, 2
· Product debug logs – (identifying problem sessions where applicable)
· Detailed reproduction steps or events building up to when the problem occurred
· Personalization Server Export (for Environment Manager Personalization incidents only)
1Data Collection - This feature collects AppSense configurations, event, registry and file information details to aid support troubleshoot the issue.; 2We are planning on expanding the AppSense Support Toolkit to be the ‘go to’ place of all support related utilities, so watch this space for further details!;3 All of our products have detailed logging which can be toggled on/off.
If the AppSense Support Toolkit – Data Collection (AST-DC) or Personalization Server Export output has been provided recently (~3 months) and is still relevant, then clearly it is not required again. Simply reference any previous incident numbers and the information can be retrieved.
Below I’ve included links to common tools that support will most likely ask you to use (dependent on products installed) after an incident has been logged:
Common Support Tools
AppSense Support Toolkit
|Environment Manager Agent
|Application Manager Agent
Rules Analyzer Logging
|Performance Manager Agent
|Client Communications Agent
Ideally, the best sets of logs are the ones that are a combination of items that can be chronologically matched. They are even more useful when combined with third party utilities such as the Sysinternals suite from Microsoft: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/sysinternals/bb545021.aspx
For example, the following are some sample support scenarios with corresponding example of the log data that is key to successful troubleshooting.
Issue Symptom: EM Personalization Settings are not synchronizing on application stop.
Required Logs: AST-DC Output; EM Agent Logs; PS Export.
Symptom: AM is blocking files through a proxy when I my configuration should allow it.
Required Logs: AST-DC Output; AM Agent Logs; AM Rules Analyzer Log
Symptom: EM Console crashes when doing x,y,z.
Required Logs: AST-DC Output; EM Console Logs
Each situation is a little bit different, but providing a relevant set of logs will help up quickly and efficiently process your incident. While we hope you won’t ever need to contact us for help, if you do, taking that little extra time upfront goes a long way towards expediting the resolution of your incident. And that’s good for everyone.
Watch out for additional troubleshooting tips and tricks – coming soon to the AppSense blog!