Skills and Activities in Networking Jobs
You might well be wondering what people do in a networking job. Well, networking tasks can vary widely from company to company. In smaller organizations, a networking professional may do most or all of the activities discussed here. In larger organizations, the activities described in this section may be assigned to different teams.
Managing network devices
Network devices such as switches and routers facilitate communications between computers in an organization and between organizations. A smaller organization may have just a single router that connects the internal network to the Internet via a DSL or cable modem. A larger organization will have more routers, as well as switches, to connect various internal networks.
Setting up remote access
Remote access permits personnel to access an organization’s internal systems from remote locations such as home or while traveling. Networking personnel make the required configuration changes in the network equipment and the employee’s workstation to facilitate remote access.
Networking personnel often help employees learn how to use and troubleshoot remote access.
Maintaining user accounts
Generally, maintaining user accounts includes the following tasks: creating user accounts for new employees, removing user accounts for departing personnel, and making changes in access rights as needed.
Often, a documented approval from management is required before a networking professional can make any additions, changes, or deletions.
Helping end users
Activities related to the help desk could range from operating system and program configuration on workstations to Internet and remote access connectivity.
In some organizations, front-line help desk people answer the phone and help with simple issues. In other organizations, network professionals and other IT workers help users directly.
Firewalls are networking devices that play a role in keeping the bad guys out of an organization’s network. Some lucky networking professional’s job is going to be designing, setting up, and managing those firewalls, including managing the complex rulesets that determine exactly which types of Internet traffic are allowed to pass through the firewall.
Monitoring antimalware consoles
Smaller organizations and home users run standalone copies of antivirus or antimalware on their individual workstations. In larger organizations as well, each system has antimalware software, but they also have a central console where a networking professional can view the state of antimalware across all the machines in the organization.
In addition to just monitoring, a networking professional can use the console to change the configuration of antimalware on individual systems as well as run malware scans on individual systems or all systems at once.
Issuing authentication tokens
Many organizations are using token-based authentication to verify identities. Depending on the organization, token-based authentication may be used for remote access, privileged access, or perhaps everyone.
Another form of strong authentication is where a code is sent to a user’s mobile phone and the user must enter that number to log in to a system. A networking professional sets that up.
Setting up wireless networks
Organizations that want Wi-Fi require networking professionals with skills to design a Wi-Fi network, which can be a challenge in a multistory building or a campus with multiple buildings.
Setting up Wi-Fi networks involves choosing good locations for radios, antennas, and controllers, and connecting these to the organization’s data network and the Internet. Another issue is deciding how users will authenticate to the Wi-Fi network, which will require interconnections with domain controllers or LDAP servers.
Configuring communications with business partners
Not long ago, it was common for companies with frequent data communications to set up dedicated telecommunications circuits such as T-1 or DS-3 connections. Nowadays, MPLS or over-the-Internet VPN connections are often used. Networking professionals design and set up these connections, in coordination with their counterparts in the business partner organization.
Connecting storage devices
Computers access storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) devices to store and retrieve data. Sometimes this communications is on the general data network, but often it will be on a separate network dedicated to storage. Networking professionals figure out how to access storage devices and how to hook them up.
Managing telecommunications services
In the networking world, organizations connect their internal networks to the outside world. Those connections require telecommunications services of some kind, including a digital subscriber line (DSL), cable, or T-1 connection. A networking professional is instrumental in determining how much information needs to flow to and from the outside world and how fast it needs to flow.
Setting up VoIP phones and voicemail
Voice is just another form of data on a network. Networking professionals install and configure VoIP phones for office workers. Incidentally, they often set up voicemail as well.
Pulling network cabling
Network cabling is always needed. This cabling could be fiber-optic cabling for high-speed storage systems or for connecting floors in a campus or high-rise building, as well as copper network patch cords in data centers.
In some companies, networking personnel also build custom-length cables and install connectors on each end.
Installing network devices in data centers and closets
Some organizations have equipment in co–lo (co–location) facilities, which provide commercial data center space for companies that don’t want to build their own data centers, so working on these components of the company network might require a drive across town or further.
Senior networking professionals spend some of their time doing design work. Many events and trends necessitate changes in the design of an organization’s network, including the following:
New business partners
New or upgraded business applications
Business office relocation
Proper management of devices, systems, user accounts, firewall rules, and so forth requires sound business processes and controls to ensure that everything is properly approved and recorded.
Networking professionals often must troubleshoot different kinds of communications problems that can crop up in an organization. Good troubleshooting skills are essential so that you can isolate the cause of a problem quickly and get it fixed.