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From a beginner's perspective, what is the best course of study to get into the network management f

From a beginner?s perspective, what is the best course of study to get into the network management field? I have a degree in computer science and I am working now at a small company in their IT department. Should I go for certifications, or is hands-on experience more important?

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Network Management is detective work that requires an understanding of the various networking devices and basic application services provided by the network team. If you are good at self-study, my recommendation is to find books in the following areas:

  1. Networking basics - This will help you understand the underlying equipment used in building a network. This will include everything from routers, hubs, switches and firewalls.

  2. TCP/IP networking protocol - This is the standard with which most computers communicate with one another across a network. This will also educate you on the basic application services provided by the networking team like Domain Name Service (DNS) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).

  3. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) - This is the method most commonly used for accessing management data in a ubiquitous manner across all manner of networking devices.

If self-study is not your preferred methodology, you might consider taking a networking certification class for one of the more prominent networking hardware vendors. This will not only give you the networking knowledge, but also some credibility in the industry. Search for network certification on the web, or just check out SearchNetworking.com's certification section, and you will find numerous courses and training companies.

As with any discipline, nothing beats experience. The best network managers have years of hands-on networking experience and are great detectives. Perhaps there is a CSI-type series here somewhere.

There is a great networking FAQ on this site that can start giving you some of the basics.

This was first published in June 2005

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