What NOT to Do When You First Become a Network Administrator - dummies

What NOT to Do When You First Become a Network Administrator

By Doug Lowe

Just about the time you figure out how to avoid the most embarrassing computer mistakes (such as using your CD drive’s tray as a cup holder), the network lands on your computer. Now you have a whole new list of dumb things you can do, mistakes that can give your average computer geek a belly laugh because they seem so basic to him.

Don’t skimp on cable

If your network consists of more than a few computers or has computers located in different rooms, invest in a professional-quality cable installation, complete with wall-mounted jacks, patch panels, and high-quality network switches.

It’s tempting to cut costs by using cheap switches and by stringing inexpensive cable directly from the switches to each computer on the network. In the long run, though, the Scrooge approach may actually prove to be more expensive than investing in a good cable installation in the first place.

Here are just a few of the reasons it pays to do the cabling right in the first place:

  • A good cable installation lasts much longer than the computers it services. A good cable installation can last 10 or 15 years, long after the computers on your network have been placed on display in a computer history museum.

  • Installing cable is hard work. No one enjoys going up in the attic, poking his head up through ceiling panels and wiping fiberglass insulation out of his or her hair, or fishing cables through walls. If you’re going to do it, do it right so you don’t have to do it again in just a few years. Build your cable installation to last.

  • Your network users may be satisfied with 100 Mbps networking now, but it won’t be long before they demand gigahertz speed. And who knows how fast the next wave of networking will be? If you cut costs by using plain Cat5 cable instead of more expensive Cat6 cable, you’ll have to replace it later.

  • You might be tempted to skip the modular wall jacks and patch cables and instead just run the cable down the wall, out through a hole, and then directly to the computer or hub. That’s a bad idea because the connectors are the point at which cables are most likely to fail.

    If a connector fails, you have to replace the entire cable — all the way up the wall, through the ceiling, and back to the switch. By wiring in a wall-jack and using a patch cable, you have to replace only the patch cable when a connector fails.

Don’t turn off or restarting a server computer while users are logged on

The fastest way to blow your network users’ accounts to kingdom come is to turn off a server computer while users are logged on. Restarting it by pressing its reset button can have the same disastrous effect.

If your network is set up with a dedicated file server, you probably won’t be tempted to turn it off or restart it. But if your network is set up as a true peer-to-peer network, where each of the workstation computers also doubles as a server computer, be careful about the urge to turn off or restart your computer. Someone may be accessing a file or printer on your computer.

So, before you turn off or restart a server computer, find out whether anyone is logged on. If so, politely ask her to log off.

Many server problems don’t require a server reboot. Instead, you can often correct the problem just by restarting the particular service that’s affected.

Don’t assume that the server is safely backed up

Some users make the unfortunate assumption that the network somehow represents an efficient and organized bureaucracy worthy of their trust. This is far from the truth.

Never assume that the network jocks are doing their jobs backing up the network data every day, even if they are. Check up on them. Conduct a surprise inspection one day: Burst into the computer room wearing white gloves and demand to see the backup tapes. Check the tape rotation to make sure that more than one day’s worth of backups is available.

If you’re not impressed with your network’s backup procedures, take it upon yourself to make sure that you never lose any of your data. Back up your most valued files to a flash drive.