The Fortinet Cookbook site and the Fortinet Documentation site are two excellent sources of information on Fortinet Products and anyone that manages a Fortinet product should have these sites bookmarked in their browser, but there is another site filled with useful information that may be getting overlooked; The Fortinet Knowledge Base found at http://kb.fortinet.com. The site may be fairly basic and utilitarian in layout, but it more than makes up for any perceived lack of polish in the breadth and depth of information that it contains.
Types of content
There are two types of content in the Knowledge Base. They are Product documentation, that is found in the docs site and other product specific webpages, and Knowledge articles that are only found in the Knowledge Base.
It may seem a little redundant to have what could be described as the entire contents of docs.fortinet.com also on this website, but that is not quite what is going on. The documents are only stored in the one location, the Knowledge Base only really keeps links to the documents, that way they don’t have to be updated in both places when changes are make, but the Knowledge Base site is able to search the contents of the documents for specific search strings. On the Docs site you would browse to the title that you were looking for and then open it to search through it.
The downloading of the larger PDF documents may be a little faster on the Docs site because that is where they are located.
Knowledge articles – These are the number 1 reason for visiting this site. These articles are written primarily by either Customer Service people or Technical Support members. Whether it’s the Customer Service people writing about registration, contracts, licensing and the Support Portal or members of the Technical Assistance Center writing about the issues that have arisen out of customer support issues that they have solved there is a very important thing to remember. The people writing this articles are the people with real world experience and practical knowledge on the subjects that they are writing about.
That being said, the second thing you have to remember is that they get all that experience and practical knowledge because they spend most of their day working with the products and systems solving issues. This means that some of the articles my not be as polished and as eloquent as some of the other product documentation, but what were you looking for, elegant prose or a good solid answer to your question?
The topics can range in complexity and difficulty. Some of them will be as simple and straight forward as how to find your system ID or a change that has occurred in the GUI or CLI. Other topics can be highly technical descriptions of what is going on at the code level to explain an aspect of how the device approaches a security concern. Chances are that if you see a Knowledge article on the site it is because it was an issue that came up in a support case. Customers calling in, come in a wide range of technical levels and so the solutions they require span a wide range as well.
Searching for information
The biggest problem when you have a lot of information to search through is how to zero in on the information that you need. If the search parameter you’re using is fairly unique or if you’re looking for everything on a subject you can use the basic search.
If you want to narrow it down to a specific product, you can click on the “Select” button next to “Products:” or use the Browse: Products panel at the start of your search to narrow down your search to just those documentation entries that have been tagged as relating to the product you chose. Depending upon the product, you might also want to select the version level of the firmware.
If what you’re looking for is an even more narrowly targeted piece of information you may want to focus on information contained in Knowledge Articles. These are often more practical and less general in nature. You can filter the search to include only Knowledge article documents by clicking on “Advanced Search and selecting only ‘Knowledge Article’ as document type.
The ‘Advanced search’ also permits specifying a particular range of publication dates if you only want the most recent.
If you are looking for the results of an exact search phrase, put your search terms in double quotes so that you will get exact matches, for example “system ID on Infrastructure Controllers”
The site’s search engine stops searching after 300 results have been found. If you search result give you the message“Search Results: 1 – 10 of 300 ”, unless there were exactly 300 items that fit the search parameters, your search terms may have been too vague. This means two important things:
- The most relevant document to your search may not be included in the search results. The search could have stopped before it got to the needed document.
- Even if there aren’t more documents that would have turned up in your search you still have to go through 300 documents looking for what you want. Try to reword you search to narrow down the search results a little more manageable number to save yourself some effort.
The information migration and evolution
As mentioned earlier, a lot of the information in the Knowledge Articles started off as a response to a support or technical query. The basic premise being that if one person needed that information someone else might as well and documenting it saves replicating the effort of researching the issue the hard way.
The Knowledge Article will probably be a little more fleshed out than the original notes in the trouble ticket because the writer now has more time to organize their thoughts and wants to make it easier to read. This is not necessarily the last stop for this information. Sometimes Knowledge Articles can become the seed or a component of sections of product documentation. As this information migrates from one place to the next, additional details and context gets added to improve the content.
Don’t be surprised if you see something in one of the Administration handbooks that you once looked up in the Knowledge Base.
There is always some concern with documentation databases made up of individual entries that the information can get out of date and that there may be some difficulty in determining its relevance. There are efforts to take this into account.
You may come across articles that are for versions of the firmware that a lot of people think is well past the “best by: ” date, but not everybody upgrades their devices with the same diligence to having the latest and greatest as others. For whatever reasons, there are some users still running older versions and we want to make sure that they have the information they need as well. Articles don’t get deleted when a firmware version reaches “End of Support”. In fact, the Knowledge Base still has a few articles that were written more than 10 years ago.
The first step in helping determine relevance is to flag an article with the firmware version to which it applied at the time of writing the article. This means that if an article is written for an issue regarding FortiGate 5.0 it gets flagged as being related to FortiGate 5.0. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the information has no validity for 5.4. The most frequently accessed articles are reviewed periodically and additional firmware versions added or disclaimers to mention when they are no longer applicable.
If you’re the sort of person that likes to keep track of such things, there is an article index and RSS feed available on the home page. These are updated weekly and show the articles that have been added or updated.
Occasionally, you will find that an article will include links to other articles or documents. Some of these URL’s can be a little imposing:
If you don’t want to copy the entire URL, they can be shortened by cutting just after the document ID
Just like the other documentation teams at Fortinet, the Knowledge Base writers welcome feedback. There’s even a nice “Feedback” button in the upper right-hand corner to use to make sure that it’s as easy as possible. This is the best way if your feedback relates to a specific article. All feedback submissions are anonymous.
The Feedback form contains 4 sections.
- Star rating system: This allows you to rate an article on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Not only does this help other readers, because the ratings are displayed on the articles, but it shows the administrators of the site which articles are presenting the information in a way that readers appreciate and which one could use some additional work.
- Reason for Change:. While, no one will object if the feedback is to tell the author that the article is perfect, there is usually the assumption that there is something you feel could be improved. This section is just to simplify which category of improvement the feedback falls into.
- Subject:. Which subject within the article is the feedback about.
- Comments. Getting a good rating always makes the day seem a little better, but the best feedback is the constructive feedback that can help make the site and the content better. Try to be as specific as possible such as:
- If something is wrong, why is it wrong or what is the correct information?
- If something is missing, what is missing?
- If something is unclear, where did you lose clarity and why?
If your feedback is more general in some way like you have a way to make the site itself better or you want to request someone write an article on a particular topic you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is not the place to submit troubleshooting questions about a technical issue that you may be having (that’s what TAC is for), but a trouble shooting situation can lead to inspiration for a KB article that can be researched and written, potentially helping someone down the line that comes across a similar issue.
The Knowledge Base is a great resource that is searchable and filled with practical information that has been written by people who work with the products they’re writing about on a daily basis. What we have done, is asked the most experienced people to dump out all of the little bits and pieces of knowledge that they gained in their expertise with Fortinet products and collected it together for the use of other users of the products. There is more information here than is in any one person’s brain. If you have any questions about a Fortinet product it is worth looking here to see is someone has already written down the answer for you.