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Ask Slashdot: Becoming a Network Administrator?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the why-not-hire-one-to-show-you dept.

Networking 480

J. L. Tympanum writes "After many years as a star programmer, I have taken a position which involves maintaining and rebuilding the in-house network of a small company. There are maybe 100 machines, a mix of blade servers running Linux and desktop PCs running Windows of all flavors. Basically, I have to learn networking from scratch. I have been given an 'unlimited' budget to buy routers, switches, etc., to set up my own little test network as part of the learning process. So the question is: what's the right strategy here? What routers or switches or other equipment should I acquire? What books should I read? Should I take classes from Cisco, Global Knowledge, my local community college, or somewhere else?"

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Step 1 (5, Funny)

nuintari (47926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039618)

Run, run as fast as you can, and don't look back.

Re:Step 1 (4, Insightful)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039716)

1) Why does the network need rebuilding?
2) Where the hell are they getting an unlimited budget from?
3) Why, if they have money, would they hire somebody who never did any admin work?

I'm not saying you won't be able to do it, I'm saying you try and figure out their motives and cover your ass with asbestos!

Re:Step 1 (4, Informative)

nuintari (47926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039846)

And then, in all seriousness.

Deploy Juniper products where you can. Commit confirmed alone will help keep you sane.

As for learning how this stuff all glues together and works, that really depends on how you learn. I learn by trying things, and reading the manual, not from a classroom. YMMV, but I have never seen a class that did anything short of an awful job of explaining how networking works. I rely heavily on my peers and Google for ironing out issues that I cannot solve in my lab. Consider attending talks on subjects relevant to your needs, and anything that sounds even remotely interesting. Find someone more skilled than you who can explain shit in your native tongue and attempt to osmosis some talent bit by bit. Oh, and get yourself an O'Reilly Safari subscription, a nook/kindle/whatever, and start, as my friend Jeff says, consuming massive quantities of text.

And seriously, consider running, you are in for a long, dark road of evil.

Re:Step 1 (1)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039920)

Why is this modded funny? This is insightful. There's a reason I left network engineering and went back to the medical field.

Re:Step 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039962)

Run, run as fast as you can, and don't look back.

This was modded funny and it is, but it's also the best advice in this situation. Network administration really is one of the worst jobs in IT, so take our advice and RUN.

They're giving you an "unlimited" budget so they can blame you later on for everything that goes wrong, even if it has nothing to do with the equipment you recommended. You will be made the scape goat for everything that goes wrong, the company might even blame its bankruptcy on you.

They'll expect you to have everything up and running smoothly much sooner than you think, you don't have the time to build the kind of expertise that only experience over a longer period of time can give you, so in the end they will be unhappy with you and you will be frustrated and, if you're lucky, just fired. You're in way over your head, just say NO and let a professional company build and run this network for the company you work for.

Re:Step 1 (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040110)

What I find is that you'll start out with one plan, meticulously formulated through research and consultation and even after management has signed off on it... And then you'll find out that a half of the plan didn't make any sense or didn't in fact work the way those FAQs or sales people said it would, and the other half will be trounced by new demands from the departments you consulted because they neglected to tell you a part of their needs, or changed their minds, or read some article they read somewhere.

Re:Step 1 (2)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040058)

I agree, God help you.
This takes a major adjustment in your thought process'. From now on it is not your job to do things. It is your job to make sure everyone else can do their jobs.
Secondly get a bug tracker, or job tracking software setup as soon as possible. (I use Jira [] but it is rather expensive.) If the request is not in Jira (Or whatever you chose.) then you do not do the job.

One SA to another: Good luck!

Re:Step 1 (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040242)

"From now on it is not your job to do things. It is your job to make sure everyone else can do their jobs."

Just an unwanted observation, but star programmers who don't "make sure everyone else can do their jobs." by using the systems and applications they developed are either not start programmers, or are working for idiots.

So our OP is either already used to making sure his or her stuff makes others productive, or they are being promoted necause they have a relationship with the boss.

Either way, I'm pretty sure this is not a promotion, despite the OP's hopes.

Re:Step 1 (4, Insightful)

pvera (250260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040200)

I don't understand why this is modded funny, it is the correct plan of action assuming the move was voluntary. If this is a programmer that is trying to bail out of a sinking ship and this was the only job available at equivalent pay, then it is a completely different issue.

The biggest red flag is the "unlimited budget" that doesn't cover hiring a properly trained network admin, instead pushing him/her to learn the whole thing from scratch at the same pay.

Don't Do It!!! (4, Insightful)

rwv (1636355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039620)

Administering networks is best left to wizards and warlocks.

Re:Don't Do It!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039670)

and the criminally insane

Oblig. Farnsworth (paraphrased) (2)

Jon.Laslow (809215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039798)

Getting the core switch out was the easy part. The hard part was getting the core switch out! Hehehehehe...

Re:Oblig. Farnsworth (paraphrased) (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039844)

Here, let me show you the assorted lengths of wire we used...

Re:Don't Do It!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039838)

and people with hyperfocus adult ADD with little appetite that can only remember to screw when u get home and ignore people's problems at work the next day lol

Sony (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039634)

Can show you how to set up a network.

You might want to take a supplemental course for security tho...

I'd recommend... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039648)

... anything not using the Sony PlayStation Network as a case study.

Odd choices (2)

Apocryphos (1222870) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039660)

Why would a star programmer want to transition to network management?

Re:Odd choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039700)

Probably because he's actually a mediocre programmer that lacks the competence to realize that he's not all that.

Re:Odd choices (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039774)

Just a shot in the dark, but having seen such things before: the company may have had in-house software that it replaced with a commercial product, negating their need for a programmer. If the existing programming staff has a good working relationship with management, they may give them some leeway to re-purpose them into a new position rather than let them go.

Re:Odd choices (3, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039784)

It was a very dim star.

Re:Odd choices (1)

yeltski (1438587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039812)

A Mexican dwarf?

Re:Odd choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040056)

Leave Chelsea Handler's sidekick out of it.

Re:Odd choices (2)

mini me (132455) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040184)

Because it is sometimes fun to do different things? I, myself, love programming, but I wouldn't want it to be my only job. Life is too short to not have fun doing all sorts of different jobs.

Why? (2)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039672)

Why did you leave a position as a "star programmer" to move into network administration? Why restart at the bottom of the ladder?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040010)

Seems like a big promotion from where I'm sitting.

Step #1 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039678)

Hire a professional :)

Welcome to management (5, Funny)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039680)

1) Use your unlimited budget to hire a network administrator.
2) Go golfing.

Re:Welcome to management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039760)

what an excellent idea i would do the same :)

Re:Welcome to management (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039868)

Screw golfing, with that budget he could buy a Ferrari.

This isn't a boon. It's a curse. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039684)

I have this job now and my girlfriend tells me I wake up almost nightly screaming. I can't help but think they're connected.

Re:This isn't a boon. It's a curse. (5, Funny)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039898)

Haven't you seen Inception? You're still sleeping....the girlfriend should have given it away.

Here is what you do. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039690)

1) Hire someone who knows what the fuck they are doing.

Re:Here is what you do. (-1, Offtopic)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039718)

Another "Ask Slashdot" do my job for me.

CCNA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039702)

Read the CCNA courseware. You'll learn alot.

great opportunity (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039710)

Replace everything immediately, blame upper management, and start looking for a new programming job.

CCNA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039720)

Just take a CCNA course, they will have all the equipment you need to bone up on the basics. If this is only a few servers and 100 PC's, save the company some money and don't get too fancy. 3750 Switch with a few access layer switches and you are good to go. Or two 3750's running HSRP.

you just need to learn one thing (5, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039730)

All you need is the cloud.

What you do is get a cloud. Just connect all your machines and networks and cables to the cloud and you will be aaaaalright.

Re:you just need to learn one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040164)

Focus, too, on convergence.

Network+ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039740)

The Network+ exam would teach you quite a bit.

Re:Network+ (1)

Niris (1443675) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039896)

The Network+ is decent for getting a general idea, but it doesn't give you many practical examples or skills. The CCNA was great for learning how to actually configure a switch/router (at least the book by Odom was. Amazing books by that guy). If you aren't planning on getting certified, you can probably go through the CCNA books in about two weeks of solid reading, and the CCNP book isn't too bad, either, if you're the same way I am and just find out you like networking. Not sure what to say on the whole server side of it though, since I haven't delved that far into that side of it yet, but I'm sure others here will have a wealth of information on where to look to learn that sort.

it's a long road and your tires are worn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039744)

Well, your programming experience won't mean squat, other than giving you the patience you will need.
If you think that you'll just pick up routing and switching with a casual approach to learning, you've been misinformed.
I would advise you to get some courses on Ethernet, switching, routing, firewalls.
Some books too.
Good luck, you'll need it.
You're in way over your head and if not careful, you'll make a shambles out of their systems.
Someone made a mistake "promoting" you.

Well well (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039752)

After many years as a star programmer,...


Only 100 workstations (0, Troll)

ninthbit (623926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039756)

LOL... Really? If you can't handle that one, then you are really doing more harm than good by trying. Thats about as simple as a network get, right after a home network. I don't even know where to start.

Re:Only 100 workstations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039936)

Yeah, a network of 100 pc and so ... will easyly fit a simple, nothing really fancy here.
What switching knowledge do you need here? just hook 3x 48 ports switches together, a dhcp server, and lets roll

Re:Only 100 workstations (1)

ninthbit (623926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040204)

If you want to get fancy with it, you can VLAN the workstations from the printer and the servers, then setup some ACLs. Thats the ONLY reason I say it's diffrent than a cable router.

Re:Only 100 workstations (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040174)

yes Cisco use a small network of 3/4 buildings and 2000 Hosts as the case study in the CCNA academy course work.

Why? (1)

yeltski (1438587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039768)

Why did they ask you to do it, instead of that guys geeky cousin?

Don't get Slashdot to do your job (0)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039792)

Advice is one thing but this is a "do my job for me because I'm not qualified to do it" question.

Slashdot Consultants, LLC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040256)

Advice is one thing but this is a "do my job for me because I'm not qualified to do it" question.

You mean this is not Slashdot Consultants, LLC?

Some actual advice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039822)

If you have an "unlimited budget" and you're in charge, hire someone under you who is already familiar with networking. Sounds like you're familiar enough with the SA aspect of the job, but just need help on the networking portion. Not only will hiring someone get you going quicker, their's no better way to learn than hands on experience.

orly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039824)

Take whatever made you a 'star' developer and apply it to networking. I'm sure you'll be a star in your own mind at that too.

Glad I don't work for your company.

Agrees with Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039826)

Why not use your star programming skills to study the following book about networking UNIX Network Programming Volume 1 by Stevens, Fenner, and Rudoff?

You should get a programming job that involves writing the embedded code for routers and switches. Taking a job as a network administrator is a step down.

The only viable route up in Salary is to become a Solutions Architect. This would involve perhaps working towards a CCIE and getting experience in a Software Architecture role on an IP based product. Architect salaries are higher than programmers assuming that salary is a factor in your decision.

HP Procurve (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039828)

Seriously. Stay away from Cisco Gear. Overpriced over complex over hyped. Look at the HP procurve line of switches. They have very good L3 L2+ switches that handle routing for small to large networks. Take the HP networking Fundamentals In Person Class. It is one week long and provides good hands on training. Their gear has a lifetime warranty and FREE Tech support during normal business hours. Did I also mention that Software Updats are FREE. No annual maintenance. Seriously look at HP Procurve. I took a job as a Net Admin 8 Years ago at a company that was an HP shop and have never looked back or ever been dissapointed by their products or support. The 2910al is a great Static Routing Gig Switch.

Re:HP Procurve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039928)

to the op: yeah, hire someone who knows what they are doing

and, i'll second the HP gear. Top notch and the structure and command is fairly close to IOS

Re:HP Procurve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040104)

Forgot to mention that I own Cisco Stock. So, actually ignore my advice on HP and buy a ton of Cisco gear.

Ignore Cisco (2, Interesting)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039834)

Forget Cisco. Phone your local HP Gold Partner - get them to put you in touch with the local HP Business Team. They'll give you free courses and training, and that is the end of that. For 100 networked devices, HP kit will do the job. I don't get the obsession with Cisco - I'm running 8 networks on 10 sites that are all HP, serving nearly 10,000 students and 1200 staff, and we've never regretted bypassing Cisco altogether.

Re:Ignore Cisco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039900)

keyword: students
This guy works for a business.

Re:Ignore Cisco (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040100)

So true. There's a huge difference between running an enterprise network and a student/faculty network.

Re:Ignore Cisco (2)

silanea (1241518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040166)

Your point being? If the gear survives in a campus environment it will definitely be just fine in a corporate network.

Re:Ignore Cisco (1)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040240)

The demands of education are higher than business. Business is one station, one logon per day. Two tops if you include lunch breaks. My networks see nearly 5000 different logons PER hour. Just one of our academies has 40+ switches, 100+ Meru APs and 1000+ connected devices. Business is easy. Education - entirely different beast.

Re:Ignore Cisco (1)

dakkon1024 (691790) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040092)

I'm not going to take anything away from HP, but Cisco is still the gold standard. You’re not going to have the marketability you might get w/ a CCIE/CCNP. The man has money, let him spend it, and the obsession is that it's a standard. People can trust a CCIE cert. There isn't a HP equivalent w/ the same prestige.

Re:Ignore Cisco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040108)

I second that. The big problem with CISCO is that you really get zero support if you're not paying for support. So, no firmware upgrades if you're not on a maintenance contract. Unless you have some site-wide maintenance deal with CISCO, buying used enterprise CISCO gear is like buying paperweights, for all practical purposes. I think that Nortel and Carrier Access have similar, if not worse, policies.

I have been very happy with HP ProCurve gear. I'm still getting firmware upgrades for equipment that's several years old, and I have not had any failures in a small network (three managed switches, one wireless access point, three networked printer). You can probably save a lot of money by buying used gear on eBay -- there are some sellers that specialize in ProCurve equipment, and you get stuff where every port has been tested, the innards are cleaned, the firmware is latest and greatest, and you just know that it'll work. Instead of getting support contracts, just buy an extra unit as a spare. Or two. And learn what they offer -- for example many switches have connections (RPS/EPS) for an external power supply unit (ProCurve 600 series), where if the built-in power supply were to fail, the external unit will take over.

Re:Ignore Cisco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040220)

procurve is a good place to start. if they didn't make you license features like L3 or routing protocols like OSPF or had actual QoS it would be much better. Good luck if you need to run anything better than best effort DSCP 0. Another option, buy refurb Cisco Hardware.

Best of Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039854)

Setting aside any questions or criticisms, I would say find a decent Cisco/Comptia academy. Network+ and CCNA would be the best place to start if you are just getting into networking. Sounds like you have quite the job ahead of you so prepare to cram. I suppose the nice part is you will get some serious hands-on learning.

Hrm ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039864)

Bunch of slack jawed, elitist, phaggots up in this thread.

Whatever you do... (4, Funny)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039878)

...don't take any lessons from anyone employed by Sony.

I'm a Network Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039888)

I'm a Network Engineer and jack of all trades. I've been managing networks and desktop environments for the past 20 years. My suggestion to you on an unlimited budget is to out source the design and implementation with an experienced company or person. I can be hired at $195/hr plus travel and expenses. Once it is implemented, all you have to do is administer it.

"Many years as a star programmer" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039894)

If you're asking where to start, being a network admin, but start off with the phrase 'star programmer', it seems you were the lower section of the learning curve, and positioned yourself lower by using the phrase mentioned above.

Did you hear that? (4, Informative)

DomNF15 (1529309) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039908)

It's the can of worms popping open... You don't necessarily have to "buy" physical routers, switches, etc. These days, you can simulate pretty much any network setup you want via software and see how things work out: [] Also, asking "us" what hardware you should buy is like asking someone what kind of computer you should buy, the question is too general and the answer will depend largely on the business/security needs of the company. Tannenbaum wrote a very good book about TCP/IP networking which you may want to read: [] Aside from that, you should look into the basic requirements for network administration/security and make sure you understand and know how to apply them, the topics listed here could be a good starting point: []

If you have to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039922)

Assuming you're willing to put up with a probable pay cut, I strongly recommend your local community college, which will hopefully point you in the right direction for both Hardware and Software. Our local community college is affiliated with the Cisco Academy.

Serious answer for a serious question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039924)

As a starting point I'd recommend taking courses as part of the Cisco networking academy.

The program is world wide. You can use the website above to find classes closest to you. I am currently enrolled my local area community college. I really like the program because I know that the course material is universal and my instructor is certified and registered, etc to teach the material to me. The downside I can see with this solution is that it won't be quick. It will be thorough, however. So maybe finding some short term resources to get things going and then taking the Network Academy courses as well would be the way to go.

The collective wisdom hath spoken. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039932)

All of these posts are accurate, in varying degrees.

I currently work for a large software company, and we joke that being in their support division is "1-800-DO-MY-JOB".

I have supported developers for over a decade, and rarely have I found one with a grasp on how hardware, drivers, network stack and logical and physical layers work.

Unless you are a masochist or are planning on quitting or committing seppuku soon, I would hire the administrator and oversee how you best keep upper management informed of your progress.

Rolling your own network admin hasn't been cost effective since the late 80s or early 90s.

Don't (1)

Sentry23 (447266) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039938)

This is not a home network.
Peoples work and income depend on that network.
It might look like a great job, but even when it is a mess, it is a working mess now. You won't learn everything you need to know before this thing needs to be in the air, and you run a risk of being run out of town, lynched, or something worse.

If you have unlimited budget, name your self network architect, follow a few nice courses, and hire people who know what they are doing to do your job.

Mockery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039952)

This is a mockery to professionals who have actually committed their life and time to learning and knowing networking, servers and associated technology. Putting some hack programmer in that position? No, you will get no advice from this place. Go back to being a programmer. We don't need you misrepresenting us. If you are that good of a programmer, you shouldn't have a problem finding a job somewhere else as a programmer.

I feel sorry for your servers and users while you are in charge.

Run... (4, Informative)

dakkon1024 (691790) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039954)

I am a 12 year veteran of the field. My official title is Sr. Technical Engineer. I work for a small (15 person) consulting firm. I’m being completely straight w/ you. Start looking for a programming job. This is the end of my advice.
If you need to fake it for a while, setup w/ a well-respected school in your area for your CCNA. If you have no budget concerns schools w/ equipment stacks and solid instruction will beat out any other option.
But seriously, you’re making a bad career move, this isn’t meant to be funny.

SonicWall (1)

Metabolife (961249) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039972)

Dead simple installations, multitude of configuration options to do most everything. Still lets you get down and dirty if you need to.

Learn how to say no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039978)

practice on your wife.

career change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039984)

Instead of network administration I suggest that you give astrophysics a try being familiar with star programming and all.

a good programmer already knows networking !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36039986)

"After many years as a star programmer" you must be able to know networking !!!

before that.. (1)

archen (447353) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039988)

Before trying all that it would be better to inventory what your network is doing right now as a starting point. Figure out what services are running, and how the current machines are configured to connect to the network. I'm assuming this wasn't all magically done and there must have been someone who did it before you. That's where I started and I learned a lot. I especially learned that our network was done horrifyingly wrong.

As for learning, the server type doesn't matter much (BSD/Linux) but you can learn a LOT by writing your own firewall rules from scratch (use FreeBSD myself). Not saying to do that for your company, but you'd be surprised at how much you learn from documentation, howto's and experimentation for firewalls.

Hire someone who knows what they're doing (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#36039994)

Seriously. If you're learning networking from scratch you are not prepared to be in charge of a network with 100 computers. If you screw it up, you could mess things up for days. Start at the bottom and work your way up, or hire someone who knows wtf they're doing, you could contract in someone (there are always going to be consultants who do network around). Bring one of them in, have them go over some of it with you.

The 'go read a CCNA book' advice isn't far off. But if you're already in charge CCNA is at least one step down from where you want to be.

I reiterate: use your money to hire someone else. Either hire them to actually do the job and become network manager, or hire a consultant in (be prepared to see this person regularly for a year or so) to come in and help you get things going. Make sure you have people on staff who actually know what they're doing, and can tell you when you're being an idiot.

Going from programming to network administrator may as well be going to predator drone pilot. You use computers and networks, and familiarity with computer skills is great, but they are very, if not completely different skills. And while you're at it you need to learn to be a manager, because most programmers don't learn about budgets, HR practices, setting security and devices on the network policy and all that but from the sounds of it you have to decide how to spend money.

CCNA (1)

CerealBH (1553255) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040002)

CCNA is definitely the way to go, you could take Net+ but its pretty much the same thing as CCNA, but not as proprietary, but seeing as how CISCO practically runs the background of the internet, its not such a problem. And even if you end up gettnig juniper products or something else, all the commands are very easy to pick up most router IOS's being unix based. CCNA helped me expand my knowledge ALOT, and I do mean ALOT. If you were going to get anything to test on, you might grab a CISCO 1841 router, there not cheap but if you have a "unlimited" amount id get one, o and me one :). If you sign up for a Cisco Netacad class, you get access to PacketTracer which is a router IOS emulator which is very useful and powerful and there are also other alternatives out there. Nowadays you can even make a Virtual Machines with a router IOS.

If you were a star programmer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040006)

If you were a star programmer they wouldn't have dumped the job of network admin on you. Just sayin'.

use that unlimited budget to hire people to help y (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040008)

use that unlimited budget to hire people to help you as it seems like you are the only IT guy there.

Also what is in place now? and why does it need a rebuild any ways?

What happen to the old IT guy?

Do it this way (2)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040012)

Configure static IP's on all the machines
Take a 100 port hub or build it yourself
connect all machines to it

Enjoy :)

Becoming a network administrator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040036)

Why were you hired for this job? MNo offense, but whoever made that decision needs to be sent packing.

google and newegg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040050)

First learn how to phrase you google queries. If you're stumped on fixing or how to do something you can bet your newly enslaved ass that some other poor admin had the same problem and posted about it somewhere on the internets.

Next buy from newegg if you can wait, their peer reviews will help you select a quality product and their prices are very hard to beat, making you look good by not spending a ton of money.

My final tip, don't let them put you on call or pay for your phone. Once thats done and the sales team has your number you can say good bye to any sort of work life balance you once had.

Adtran (1)

Eg0Death (1282452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040064)

Look at Adtran switches. HP's Procurve support has gotten flaky.

Experience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040068)

Have you ever set up a network at home that was more than 2 computers plugged into a Linksys router? Have you messed with your own routing/iptables/subnets and done any type of remote administration, file sharing, or patch management with Windows? If so, you will be fine with the basics.

Think about it, managing 100 computer in a small business is not much different than managing 4 or 10. They have the same requirements, there is just more end users and your mess ups can take down 100 people instead of 5. Automation methods help balance your time but the management principles are exactly the same. If you've never done even a small 3-5 computer network, classes like net+ aren't going to help you right away either.

Views from a New Entrant (4, Informative)

imlepid (214300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040084)

what's the right strategy here?

Proceed with caution. Make sure you enjoy networking and that its challenges interest you. Networking is very different from programming and also different from desktop support.

What routers or switches or other equipment should I acquire?

I have extensive experience with HP Procurve equipment and I have been satisfied with their stuff. (In the network I manage we have about 120 HP switches.) They are pretty reasonable in price and have a lifetime warranty on their switches and routers (I just got a replacement for a part for something that was manufactured 10 years ago, no hassle). Cisco is good if you like features, have a large network, and enjoy spending money. I would avoid Netgear switches (unless you need a small desktop switch (e.g. GS108) to provide more ports) as I have heard bad things but I have no first-hand experience. Expect to pay around $1000-1800 for a good 48-port Gigabit switch.

What books should I read? Should I take classes from Cisco, Global Knowledge, my local community college, or somewhere else?

I would look to achieve a "CCNA level" knowledge. For a network of about 100 devices you won't need much more. You can do that by simply reading a book (e.g. the CCNA prep by Lammle or Cisco Press), self-study (e.g. books alone or with video) then trying to pass the test, or taking a classroom course with Cisco or GlobalKnowledge. The material covered in CCNA is useful even if you use Procurve devices (although vocab will be different, such as "vlan trunking" (Cisco) vs. "vlan tagging" (Procurve, IEEE 802.1Q))

Background: I managed a network at a scientific research center (1000+ end user devices and a couple hundred servers). Its a mix of Cisco (core) and Procurve (edge). I have been working in networking full time for 2 years (I was in the poster's shoes not long ago) and with computers for about 5 years in a professional setting.

From one Network Administrator to another... (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040114)

I'm a Network Administrator. With 100 computers, you have a nice small network to test already. First, you have an unlimited budget. Take advantage of that ASAP. Give it a couple years, and you'll be saying, "Budget? Don't I get a budget?"

Get setup with some nice Cisco Gigabit. Probably just 1 or 2 routers, maybe 5 or 6 24/48 port switches. Next, get a HANDLE on your network. Either go corporate, or go free. Look into Spiceworks, Hyperic, OpenNMS, Zenoss, etc (spiceworks actually has a nice community of Network admins that you can talk to and ask questions).

Next, get your anti-virus in order. I recommend ESET. (I assume with 100 computers, you're also the Systems Administrator, that's typical).

Focus on security, security, security. I'd get OpenDNS on it immediately, lock out malware sites. You may find several computers already running trojans, maybe conficker. It'll be a fun learning experience.

I'd advise avoiding Active Directory or anything Microsoft. Then again, that's laughable advise. Good LUCK avoiding AD! And then, good luck with your windows users not getting pissed because there are no policies on the Mac users! (Just remember, control them at the DNS/router level, and you'll be fine. Active directory is good for pretending like you're doing something that looks important.)

Most importantly, go to community college. Get a degree if you need it, but at least pick up some certs. They're not worth anything, but you'll learn. Hell, if they're paying, free education is always good.

Screw books, you don't have time for books. Go to some SANS Institute workshops (unlimited budget will cover that) and learn some hard core skills. College and workshops will give you real hands on experience no book on Cisco Routing will do.

Now, get ready to crawl your ass over rafters and in dank dark closets. Get ready for your finger tips to bleed as you make Cat-5e cables by the hundreds.

Get ready for the wake up calls at 4am on a Sunday because your email server is unreachable. (You got the budget, plan a cloud failover now... hell, plan everything failover now. If it's not on VMware or HyperV or Xen, make them buy all the hardware you need to get it there. Remember, it's all YOUR fault!)

But it's worth it. Because, in the end... you are God on your network. Just remember, benevolent gods get their heads chopped off. Make them fear you a little. Take away their facebook and youtube for a week on accident... let them know you can make them cry at the push of a button. Use inexperience as a mask for your mind games and plots. "Whoops! Gee, did I do that?"


Seriously... it sucks. You are always to blame for everything. Eventually, you will make believe you are God and fantasize about taking away facebook and youtube... probably while crawling through your ten thousandth spiderweb pulling another wire behind you and remembering the last Bastard Operator from Hell story you read.

Get it done, then change jobs. (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040116)

"After many years as a star programmer, I have taken a position which involves maintaining and rebuilding the in-house network of a small company.

Learn how to do it, get it done, then work hard on getting a better job. Being an administrator for a small network is a miserable job.

Basics (3, Informative)

g00head (1433713) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040120)

Assuming you didn't leave out VoIP or Video Conf equipment:

1. As above, take a CCNA course or find the materials. That will give you a good basis.

2. Read everything you can in regards to VLANs and how they work/best practices/management by hardware OS

3. Read everything you can about switch port management (i.e., access port vs. trunk port, again relies heavily on the chosen hardware OS)

4. Choose your hardware: If money is no object, Cisco is reliable but more upfront and much more for yearly support. HP ProCurve is a very good economical option.

a. Either way, use two stacked Layer 3 switches for core routing with Layer 2 switches for access layer.

b. For Cisco products, I'd recommend a pair of stacked 3750X's, with 2960 for access layer switches.

c. Save yourself pain later - have each access switch trunk to the core stack with an aggregated trunk, one port to each half of the core stack. (if half your core stack goes down, most of your network stays up. If one line/port of the trunk goes down, whole network stays up but speed may be affected depending upon bandwidth used)

5. Use one VLAN for infrastructure (i.e., switches, servers, printers, appliances), use one VLAN for workstations, use one VLAN for wireless if necessary.

a. Avoid using VTP, even if it seems like a good idea to you

b. Do all routing between VLANs on the core stack, access switch trunks should carry all VLANs however

c. Test the hell out of your config in a lab if you have time, lot less pressure telling them that the project is delayed by testing than telling them all work is delayed because you can't find the problem on the prod network

d. Thank god you get a test network

4. Once everything's built, configured, and running well - BACK ALL OF THE CONFIGS UP, and repeat whenever a config change is made.

Good luck, and you'd really better love troubleshooting problems with very little info to go on...

5/5 != 4/1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040150)

No story or more appropriate troll tags on this one... programmers becoming network admins... bah!

personal opinion (1)

hologrm (2115094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040152)

Unlimited budget? Have Juniper, Cisco and HP bid on your project including installation and a managed service provider to look after it. Then take the training for which ever manufacturer you choose. I would tell you to do Juniper since you are a one man shop. I have a four man team with only two senior network engineers managing 19 sites in and out of state. The Juniper gear has proven to be the least cost of operation for us and the strange stuff we try to do. And learn one command "Commit confirmed"

Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040160)

If you want to do this task, and learn something relevant in the process, get a bunch of high-core-count servers that are on VMware's HCL. Provision 128GB of RAM per host with an EMC SAN backend and 4Gbit + FibreChannel storage network. Get yourself an Enterprise license with VDR, Virtual Center and VMotion. P2V the servers you have.

Then, at least you will have learned something modern that you can take with you, when you are inevitably replaced with a new college graduate with no years of experience who will work for a third of your salary.

Best advice (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040176)

What to learn: Learn networking fundamentals very well before touching anything.

What to buy: The cheapest thing that does the job and meets the requirements. Ignore anyone in sales or any geeks with axes to grind.

Caveat: Be very very carefull in gathering requirements.

Networking training (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040206)

OK - the key is that you need to maintain the networking, while improving it as necessary. Start with a clear picture of what is there, what is working, and what is not. Understanding what is happening across a network is complex and often misleading; things that look like network problems frequently are not, and things that could not possibly be the network's fault just as often are resolved by fixing the network.
Research skills are the number one thing you need in support, where in programming they were often your own knowledge and creativity. You cannot say "I don't know", your answer has to be "I will find out", as the problem will not solve itself for you, nor will the people waiting for you accept that answer.
Start with building a diagram of what you have, what it connects to what, and what you need to get from here to there without spilling. Few of us can keep a picture of that size and complexity in our heads, so get it on paper and build on it as you gain more information., 100 systems is more than enough to bring a networking segment to its knees just in normal operations, but a well segmented and managed switch configuration can handle that without breathing hard, so use a divide-and-conquer approach - the less that has to share bandwidth with anything else, the better.
On the other hand, complexity will create more work than necessary, and bite you when your back is turned., A few good switches with a solid backbone between them will do enough to manage the traffic between the end devices; separating the types of traffic with VLANS (VoIP across one VLAN, PC traffic on another, server to server or backup traffic on another, etc) will keep the overall broadcast and chatter from impacting everything rather than the systems that it needs to reach and not all the rest.
As you can see, the process is a lot of compartmentalized steps that build on each other to create your solution. Don't be too quick to tear down until you know what the system you are replacing is doing, and get a good picture of what you have and what you need to build on. Be honest with your management about the need to get either training or consulting support to help you; getting the basics right will make all the difference as you build the network towards what the company really needs.
Lat major piece of advice - DOCUMENT EVERY STEP!!! There is absolutely no going back to get it all written out later - keep track of each thing you do and where each things connects as you do it and you will be able to identify your successes as well as your mistakes.

Ramp Up Slowly (1)

boogahboogah (310475) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040228)

As an applications programmer I can tell you that we have network consultant's at our customer's sites. They get paid T&M, and little config issues we handle ourselves.

By getting network support from a third party:
1) Network will stay up with few hiccups
2) Your transition to Network Dude will leave you with hair on your head
3) Your education will not interfere (too much) with the operation of the network
4) You'll get book learning and practical OJT
5) PHB won't have to bitch about downtime or cover his own butt

Is networking the easiest thing to learn ? (2)

lsolano (398432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040252)

I do not understand why people underrate networking as if becoming a network admin can be done just with a " 'unlimited' budget to buy routers, switches, etc., to set up my own little test network as part of the learning process".

Seriously. Have you asked yourself for example, who's going to do the troubleshooting? Yourself?

Think about a network admin that asks here what computer, software and books need to buy to become a "star programmer". What would you answer?

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