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What are the most important concepts to be aware of when managing the network? What should I study?

What are the most important concepts to be aware of when managing the network? I want to get into the field, but I am a novice. What should I study?
Even after 15 years in the business, I am always amazed that I can get up in the morning to download my e-mail, and it actually works. The reason I am amazed is that there are hundreds of things that can fail between the time I click send/receive on my e-mail application, and the e-mails start to arrive in my inbox. Network management is a challenge because typically when an application fails, it is always considered to be the network's fault. However, frequently, it is not a network problem at all. Network management is about understanding if a failure is truly a result of some problem within the network infrastructure. It 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 covering topics 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, and you will find numerous courses and training companies.

There is also a great networking FAQ on this site that gives an overview of the basics.

This was last published in February 2005

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