The most poignant career question of 2009 was on how to gain IT experience after graduating college. This reflects the "How can I get a job when I have credentials and a degree but no experience?" issue which I like to think of as "How can I get a job to get some experience when nobody wants to hire me without some experience already?" This is such a big problem for career changers and entry-level people that it remains a perennial question I answer all the time, and -- given the recent economic situation – it is even more poignant than usual to answer. By the way, this answer begins with "Get some experience any way you can: volunteer or temp work; part-time work at a school, church or charity; or just build a home lab and gut things out as much as you can." Are there are any good brain dumps to help me study for the CCNA exam?
I think the most provoking question of 2009 I answered was about using brain dumps for CCNA exam prep. I am still amazed how I perform simple searches for exams and the top 10 results are some brain dump sites trying to peddle their exam questions. I'm sure many will take this path of least resistance to get certified, but it devalues the certifications and makes our line of business more difficult to prove to employers to support certifications, since they probably have their share of paper technicians to deal with. Can I use remote access and wireless network SSIDs to locate stolen laptops?
The most important network security question I answered, or the best of 2009, is "Is there a way to trace my stolen laptop computer?" I picked this question because it points to the problems we still have with physical security. As an example, just about a year ago it was reported that Secretary Carlos Gutierrez's laptop was compromised while he visited Beijing for trade talks. That same month, a local Fox 5 reporter purchased a used BlackBerry from the McCain campaign for $20. The device held phone numbers, emails and sensitive data. These are just two of the many events that occurred in the last 12 months. The solution is not only to have better physical controls but also to continue to increase the use of encryption. While our physical assets are important, it is the data they hold that is critical! How do I connect data closet switches to the core layer with redundant links?
The best computer networking question of 2009 was the following: How do I connect data closet switches to the core layer with redundant links? The specific question is a good example of a company, with more than 450 users, which has decided that it's time to make some serious investments and move from a flat, unsecure network with no redundancy and limited bandwidth to a truly professional solution that involves high-tech Cisco equipment with VLAN implementation and much more. This scenario is a typical setup we can find in most companies around the globe, because companies are starting to realize they can't rely on leaving their IT infrastructure with novice network designs and equipment. If you're looking at an equipment configuration similar to this and your computer networking knowledge is a bit rusty, it's time to get that good old networking book out and start reading again! Personally, I see this change as an awakening for the IT market, which urges true professionals to provide and implement solid solutions. A correct implementation means that the business is getting its money's worth and making a very important upgrade to its network security. This is extremely important since most companies can't understand why they need to invest in such computer equipment and technologies. In fact, I recently covered an installation and initial Cisco Catalyst 4507R-E switch configuration to help prove that these types of investments are much needed and are money well spent! How can I detect duplicate IP addresses?
The most provoking and best question in 2009 was on how to detect duplicate IP addresses. This is the most challenging task for any network administrator where IT policies and processes are not defined properly and user intervention is high. This not only asks organizations to have user intervention-free policies and automated tasks but will also prevent security breaches, which can pose a threat if not treated properly.
How do I know whether the computer networking advice I find is correct?
This year's most thought-provoking network infrastructure questions didn't come from my computer networking advice column but rather from confused end users that I work with. The terrible thing with information technology is that it is too readily available and not always correct. I have tracked down sources of questions over the year only to find out the information was outdated, based on some marketing hype by a single company to sell their solution, or from some freelance journalist who quoted one of the above sources. Any information should be verifiable by more than one source and should be current. Technology changes, and something that was once correct may no longer be.