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Network administration guide

Good network administration is the backbone of today's technology-dependent enterprises. Network administrators are charged with keeping expansive networks and numerous applications running smoothly, and the job can seem overwhelming at times. We're coming to the rescue with this guide that brings you back to basics. We polled our readers about their most common tasks to find out what the heart and soul of network administration consists of on a daily basis. Here we've outlined the main topics, such as network design, troubleshooting, backup, documentation, security, and managing users.

Network administration is an arduous task. The administrator's responsibilities often involve many different aspects and may include such tasks as network design, management, troubleshooting, backup and storage, documentation, security and virus prevention as well as managing users.

While the specific job description for network administrators will be slightly different for each organization, common responsibilities include:

This guide will help you with each step and responsibility. Refer back to it often when you have questions or need advice in each specific area.


Immediate to-do's: Do these before completing any other step in this guide

  1. Backups and recovery disks, RAID and images (Veritas, ArcServe, ghost, imagecast)
    1. Are operating system recovery disks requited (server or workstation)? Have they been created recently, copies and placed in a safe location?
    2. Are backup recovery disks needed?
    3. Is a full backup being made on a routine basis? Have you placed a verified, full backup in a safe, offsite location?
    4. Are daily, incremental backups being made? (They should be!)
    5. Do any other software packages require or allow recovery diskettes? Have they been created and stored in a safe location? (Antivirus, operating system, applications, etc.)?
    6. Is RAID and/or disk mirroring enabled and verified that it is functioning correctly?
  2. Service packs, critical updates, security updates: Are the latest of these installed? Is there a schedule for updating these items? (Weekly or monthly)
  3. Antivirus installed and updated? Recovery disks required? Is automated scan enabled and running? Are automatic download updates or push downs of updated DAT files available and configured? Is there a schedule for updating these items? (Weekly or monthly)
  4. Complete steps 1, 2 and 3 and then perform a full backup and store in a safe location.
  5. Secure physical access to the servers, enable BIOS passwords, lock server room, ensure battery backups are installed and operating properly. Is the power supply adequare for the number of devices you have plugged in?
  6. Verify and record all software licenses in possession. Are additional licenses required? Remember you could be liable for this!

Use your PDA and/or calendar feature in your mail program to schedule and remind you of these critical items. 

This checklist was created by Doug Chick.

If you're just getting started in the networking field, you've got a lot to learn, and with the rate of changes in networking technology, you can expect to always have a lot to learn, but here are 10 essential networking topics that you should concentrate on.


Additional checklist – Critical items that may require steps 1-5
Antivirus protection Mail servers
Backups and data redundancy Monitoring network traffic
Documentation Network routers
Fax machines Network security
File servers Network switches/hubs
File sharing Printer servers and printers
Help desk /Work order tracking Software licenses
Internet connectivity SQL servers
Internet security Time clock servers
Internet servers User accounts
Inventory of hardware and software

This checklist was created by Doug Chick.

Updated July 2007


 Task 1: Design, install and evaluate network
 Task 2: Perform and manage regular backups
 Task 3: Provide technical documentation
 Task 4: Manage users and provide user support 
 Task 5: Monitoring and troubleshooting assistance
 Task 6: Security management and virus prevention 

This was last published in June 2007

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