Collecting data over time


In many troubleshooting situations, you'll want to run PingPlotter over a course of days (or possibly weeks or months) to collect data about a specific problem. In this section we'll talk about some of the ins and outs of doing this.

In most cases where you want to collect data over time, you're having a problem and suspect the cause is within your network connection, but you don't always know when or why that problem is happening. In this type of situation, you can setup PingPlotter to monitor a specific target continuously.

We've already covered how to trace to a specific target, and that's the same technique you use to monitor over time as well. PingPlotter has a number of features and options to make this type of monitoring more reliable and easier for you to do.

Minimizing PingPlotter to the Tool Tray

First, if you're running PingPlotter constantly it might make sense to minimize PingPlotter into the system tray, rather than into the taskbar. One of the advantages of doing this is that PingPlotter will not show up in the list when you hit ALT-TAB, and you'll really not even know it's running.

To turn on this option, use the View menu, and select Put Icon in Tool Tray. When PingPlotter is minimized it will only show up in the Tool Tray.

Saving PingPlotter data

In the previous section we loaded a previously saved PingPlotter save file. When you're collecting data over time, you'll want to save the accumulated data occasionally also. This can be done through the File menu with the Save Sample Set command, and the resulting files are saved with an extension of .pp2, or PingPlotter's save file format.

This save file includes all collected data that is currently in memory, including routes and all hops. You can then at any time reload this save file for later analysis.

Creating a comment or note

During any collection period you may notice some problem with an application that uses the network. Let's say you're doing stock trading, and PingPlotter is tracing to your stock trading server. If you notice slow performance, you might want to make a note of that so you can come back later and analyze what was happening.

PingPlotter supports creating notes so you can record an event at a certain time. To do this, right-click on a time graph at the time the event occurred, select "Create Comment...", enter a meaningful description of the event and then click the OK button.

You'll then have a red triangle "marker" at that time period. If you float your mouse over this marker, you'll see a tool tip that shows the text you entered. That text description and time will then also show up on any saved images that you create, helping to document what caused some of the problem(s).

This is an important capability which makes it easy to come back later and do analysis, and can also be useful if someone else has asked you to collect data with PingPlotter. Sending that person history data where the problem time, description, and network conditions (as collected by PingPlotter) can all be correlated is extremely useful.

Auto-saving collected data

PingPlotter keeps all the collected data in memory unless you configure it to occasionally save this data. This can be done through the Options menu in the Auto-Save section. For full details on how to set up Auto-Save, please see the PingPlotter Tutorial and Product Manual.

Auto-Save always saves all the data in memory, which means that over time the save file will become larger and larger. You can limit the amount of trace data in memory, and subsequently control the file size, by changing the Maximum samples to hold in memory. This can be done through the Options menu in the General section.

Other tips and tricks

  • PingPlotter Standard can only monitor one target with each instance. If you want to monitor multiple targets, either use PingPlotter Pro or launch multiple instances of PingPlotter Standard.
  • Long term monitoring projects can probably use a higher trace interval than a short-term trace. For best results, 5 seconds or longer is generally good. You probably don't want to use an interval much longer than 60 seconds though.
  • PingPlotter allows you to enter any trace interval you like by just typing it in. For example, if you want to do 2 samples a second, just enter .5 seconds.
  • If you want to show more than two days in the time graph, you can enter your own custom graph periods by following these instructions in our documentation.