Jon Marshall, a network consultant in the U.K., appreciates the NetPro culture of helping. "I'm amazed that that people around the world, most of whom have demanding jobs, are willing to give their time freely to help other people," he says.
Q: How long have you been in the networking industry and how did you get involved?
A: I started out in technology as a Unix system administrator and became interested in TCP/IP. I began studying networking, and in 1999 was hired to take care of WAN connectivity when Honda Motor moved three smaller sites to brand-new site. The Honda site had one of the first Cisco Catalyst 6500 deployments in the U.K. Most recently I worked for Network Rail in the Technical Design Authority. One of my responsibilities was helping to set up site-to-site VPNs for 100 train and freight operating companies.
Q: How did you find out about the Cisco Support Community
A: I stumbled across it while searching cisco.com for information about MPLS for Network Rail. I posted to see if anyone knew why MPLS wasn't working in the lab I had set up. Harold Ritter responded right away, and after we exchanged three or four posts, he determined that the configuration was wrong and told me how to fix it.
Q: How do you use the community to find solutions to everyday networking issues?
A: For the first year and a half, I mainly visited the community to find answers to our networking issues. Either the answer had already been posted or I would post a question myself. One of my posts had to do with data center virtualization using a Cisco Catalyst 6500 Switch with a Firewall Services Module (FWSM) and Content Switch Module (CSM). Just about all of my questions were resolved, and far more quickly than if I had gone through traditional channels. While Cisco TAC is responsive, they have to follow procedures that can delay the response somewhat. On the Cisco Support Community, I generally didn't have to wait more than two or three days for resolution.
Q: When did you start contributing?
A: While I was looking for answers, I began to see questions on LAN switching and routing that I could answer. I knew how satisfying it was to get my questions answered, so I wanted to help out. The poster rated me and I decided to get more involved. The timing was good because our IT department was quiet at the time.
Q: What other tools do you use in order to get answers to your networking questions?
A: I frequently use cisco.com. All the information you need is there; the hard part is finding it. I also use Google and Cisco Press books.
Q: What is the most useful or inspiring conversation you have found on the community to date?
A: My most inspiring conversation was my very first, when I asked a question about MPLS. I was amazed at how quickly I received a response, and how patient Harold was with me. I completely understood the issue after our exchange.
Q: What's the most rewarding part of being a contributor?
A: It's very gratifying when someone thanks me for saving them time, because I know what it's like to feel stuck and under pressure. An example is when someone posted that they didn't even know how to begin deploying a Catalyst 6500 FWSM. After our conversation he was able to set up two of them successfully. Our respective locations were irrelevant; I think he was in Spain or the United States.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment to date in your networking career?
A: Can I name two? The first was consolidating three Honda offices into one new site. We had planned the move to take two or three months but had to accomplish it in just two weeks. I probably spent 20 hours a day during that period. The second was virtualizing the Network Rail data centers. We were among the first enterprises to realize the potential of virtualization and act on it.
Q.What is your overall impression of the Cisco Support Community?
A: I'm amazed that that people around the world, most of whom have demanding jobs, are willing to give their time freely to help other people. The NetPro community has a culture of helping. People tend not to get annoyed or flame each other.
Q. How often do you come to the community?
Q. Which features do you find the most helpful?
A: The search feature is quite good. I can often get answers to my question without even having to post. Ask the Experts can be helpful if you're especially interested in the topic. I learned useful information in a session about the FWSM.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for possible changes or modifications to the site?
A: Post guidelines for new posters so that they know what information to provide in the initial post for quicker resolution. Otherwise it can take 10 posts just to find out the exact nature of the problem! I also think it would be helpful to provide frequently asked questions for each forum because the same questions come up again and again. Finally, I suggest that Cisco publicize the support community more widely. Many members discover it accidentally, as I did, and wish they had discovered it sooner.
Q. Do you have a message for your fellow community users?
A: I would ask that people who post questions realize that people who answer are volunteering their time and expertise. The Support Community is not an unofficial TAC with obligations to answer in a certain amount of time. I'd also encourage people to rate responses. The ratings help to keep some very good people active in the forum. Finally, I'd like to say how much respect and admiration I have for people who answer questions. People don't bring their egos to the community, and everyone is open to being challenged.