Once upon a time, networks were pretty much irrelevant to the PC technician. Either the PCs he or she worked with were stand-alone, or their problems could be easily isolated from the network. Techs in PC repair shops, responsible for fixing PCs on behalf of individuals and very small businesses, rarely if ever even encountered a functioning network.
CompTIA's A+ exam retains this heritage, containing precious little networking coverage. Gradually, however, if you're a tech, networking and the Internet have creeped into your life -- and you need a far stronger understanding of them than you did when you passed your exam.
Fortunately, there's a solution: A+ Technician's Guide to Networking by leading tech trainers and authors Curt Simmons and David Dalan.
Like Simmons' A+ Technician's Guide to Windows XP, this book is written specifically from the tech's point of view, focusing on the specific issues and scenarios you're most likely to encounter. And, like that book, it's strewn with "secrets" and "painful lessons" learned through real-world troubleshooting in the field.
The authors start with a thorough overview of working with network hardware, cabling, and protocols. They review cabling categories (and explain why you may never need "CAT 6" cabling no matter what anyone tells you); basic network protocol configuration (especially IP); and some "generic" essentials for configuring routers, gateways, and other hardware. They also offer several practical troubleshooting tips and techniques you can start using today.
Next, they move on to configuring network workgroups. These were originally designed to connect just a few small-business computers to share files and printers. But they've sprouted everywhere: in homes where the kids and grown-ups want to share Internet connections and in growing businesses that don't want to invest in expensive domain servers. Some companies now run dozens of computers, stretching the workgroup paradigm beyond its limits. Meanwhile, workgroups are now festooned with Internet gateways, combining multiple operating systems and even multiple topologies. What's more, operating systems like Windows XP Professional provide significant workgroup network support, blurring the lines between servers and workstations. All this makes for unprecedented complexity -- and that, of course, leads to greater support challenges.
Simmons and Dalan discuss all facets of network workgroup support, from building a new workgroup network (including alternatives like wireless, powerline, and HomePNA) through day-to-day troubleshooting. There are plenty of tips throughout (in a pinch, you can make temporary network connections with a null modem cable; Windows XP can now provide bridging services that might otherwise require costly hardware).
You'll learn how to troubleshoot client connection problems, integrate Mac OS X machines into a Windows-based network, and lay the foundation for a relatively secure workgroup network (since workgroups don't use centralized authentication, you're at a significant disadvantage). Later in the book, there's more comprehensive coverage of security: managing user accounts, passwords, and permissions; deterring hacker attacks by carefully securing and removing network services; installing firewalls; and proactively protecting against viruses and trojans. After detailed chapters on managing client workstations in larger networks and on day-to-day network operations and tools, Simmons and Dalan turn to dial-up networking and virtual private networks.
In the age of the Internet, dial-up networking quickly became omnipresent. Nowadays, even the smallest companies are hooking up broadband connections -- and discovering they can use them to connect diverse locations and support telecommuting, just like the big boys. This book shows how to support all this -- everything from solving the most common dial-up connectivity problems to connecting your Windows XP Professional computer to a VPN server.
There are detailed chapters on managing Windows 2000 Server, NetWare, and Windows XP Professional clients; as well as a full chapter on Microsoft's IIS web server -- each with essential troubleshooting guidance. If you're suddenly supporting networks and feeling like you could use a little more help, this book will come to your rescue. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.