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Daily Tasks in the Field of Networking

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Networking is a truly diverse field. Network administrators will find themselves in a variety of situations during a working day, which is part of the attraction of the role. Much of their time will be spent working with systems rather than with users, although in many environments there is still a reasonably high level of interaction. The following list contains some of their most common tasks:

  • Performing general system maintenance-Even the most basic computer network is a complicated device. The primary task of a network administrator is to ensure the overall health of the network. For this to be the case, continuous attention to all systems is necessary, although many companies use a management system to make the monitoring easier. Even so, the data supplied by the monitoring systems must be interpreted, and if necessary, acted upon. All of which can serve to ensure that the network administrator is kept busy.

  • Dealing with system failures-Three words a network administrator never likes to hear are "the system's down." Unfortunately, even the most diligently maintained network is likely to experience occasional problems. In many cases, the problems will be minor and isolated, but every so often a major problem will come along that will test not only your troubleshooting skills, but also your patience and ability to deal with stress. These are the times when network administrators really earn their money. Every minute that the system is unavailable can potentially cost a company money. When the systems are down, the meter is running, and everyone has their eyes on the person who can make everything work again.

  • Applying software updates and fixes-The complexity of software packages coupled with the need for them to work with such a diverse range of products results in the necessity for manufacturers to release updates to their software. The installation of these updates is essential to ensure the consistent smooth running of systems. In addition, certain software programs, particularly programs such as virus checkers, require frequent updating.Though most updates are easily applied, network administrators must always consider what effect the updates may have on other software products, and if suitable equipment is available, test the products before implementation.

  • Attending to network related PC support issues-In many cases, PC support staff will fix problems on a specific workstation. Other times, the network administration staff will be called in, especially if the problem is related to a networking issue. This is where communication skills and diplomacy come into play. The network administrator will need to take the time to understand and fix a problem for sometimes impatient and irate users. Just smile and say thank you. More often than not, the users won't.

  • Attending meetings-Those working in computer networking must understand that they are basically working in a service industry. For the service to be kept in line with the customer's wishes, a certain degree of communication is necessary. Communications will often take the form of meetings, where the current state of the network is discussed along with the analysis of any recent issues. In addition, because networks are in a constant state of advancement, new projects and products must be discussed.

  • Evaluating new solutions--Just because an administrator has the network up and running smoothly does not mean that his or her job is done. The versatility of computer networks means that there will always be some other enhancement to add to the network. This extra functionality often involves products that will change the layout of the network and could potentially affect the other components. For this reason, any solution that is considered must be tested fully, and the results of those tests documented. Many larger companies provide a dummy-test network for these purposes, although not all do. Because implementation ot new solutions can require the network to be taken "offline," a great deal of this kind of work takes place in the evenings or on weekends, so users are not disrupted. Network administrators must be flexible in this respect.

  • Documenting systems-One of the most overlooked and avoided of all network administration tasks is that of documentation. Documentation serves to provide a reference point for the configuration of the network and is an invaluable resource when troubleshooting problems or investigating network related issues. It also is very useful when planning upgrades to the system or when deciding to introduce new products. Unfortunately, the ever changing nature of the network means that the process of updating the system documentation can be endless.The good news is that no one is awarding prizes for creativity either. An easy to read, concise, and above all accurate run down on the specifics of the system is more than sufficient.

  • Performing backups-Sometimes referred to as a disaster recovery measure, backing up system data is probably one of the most important tasks performed each day. Most modern backup systems are highly automated, and the maintenance and checking of the system is very important. In addition, network administrators will periodically restore data from a backup to test that the system is working as it should, and that the data being restored can be used in the event of a failure.

  • Maintaining hardware-Much of a network administrator's work is software related, but because the software runs on hardware, a good knowledge of computer hardware is also required.Tasks that a network administrator may perform will range from upgrading or replacing individual components to replacing an entire PC. The PCs used as network file servers often bear little physical resemblance to the PCs that appear at home or on users' desks, but they are still basically the same albeit more powerful and with more disk space and RAM.

  • Maintaining cabling and network devices-Cabling is the medium that makes computer networking happen. Even though a cabling contractor may install the main cabling system, there will always be computers that need to be relocated, new systems added, and faults with existing equipment diagnosed and corrected. In addition, many modern networks use hardware devices to connect systems together. Although novice network administrators may be excused from knowing all about these devices, those with even a few months experience will almost certainly have to deal with them, though on a relatively infrequent basis.

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