This self-paced training course combines notes, hands-on procedures, multimedia presentations, and review questions to teach you the essentials of computer networking. The course is designed to be completed in sequence, from beginning to end, but you can also choose a customized track and complete only the sections that interest you. (See the next section, "Finding the Best Starting Point for You," for more information.) If you choose the customized-track option, check the "Before You Begin" section in each chapter before you begin to read it; these sections describe any prerequisite text readers are expected to have read before beginning the new chapter.
The book is divided into the following parts and chapters:
- The section you are reading, "About This Book," contains a self-paced training overview and introduces the components of this training. Reading this section thoroughly will help you get the most educational value from this self-paced training and plan which lessons you will complete.
- Part I, "Networking Fundamentals," introduces, in seven chapters, the basic concepts and principles that underlie computer networking. It presents an overview of networking terminology, examines different network topologies and architectures, discusses the physical components of computer networks, and reviews the principles of network connectivity.
- Chapter 1, "Introduction to Networking," acquaints you with some of the fundamental concepts upon which computer networks are built. The chapter discusses advantages and effects of networking computers—whether to create a local area network (LAN), such as a corporate intranet, or a wide area network (WAN), such as the Internet. It also gives an overview of how an organization's information needs help to determine its optimal network configuration.
- Chapter 2, "Basic Network Media," looks deeper into how networks are physically assembled and discusses the cables and circuitry that connect one computer to another. The chapter examines the construction, features, and operation of the primary cable types, citing the advantages and disadvantages of each. It explores the different types of network interface cards (NICs)—the components that provide the interface between cables and computers—as well as the various connectors used to attach the cards to the cables, and looks at how their performance affects a network. It also presents an overview of wireless-network technology.
- Chapter 3, "Understanding Network Architecture," explores the three principal access methods used to convey data onto network cables: contention, token passing, and demand priority. This chapter also advances the discussion of network architecture by examining the data itself and how it is put together before it is sent on its way. Last, this chapter examines the most common network architectures (Ethernet, Token Ring, AppleTalk, and ArcNet).
- Chapter 4, "Survey of Network Operating Systems," outlines various network operating systems (NOSs), focusing primarily on Novell and Microsoft network operating systems, but also including AppleTalk, UNIX, and Banyan Vines. The chapter briefly surveys peer-to-peer LANs, including systems running Microsoft Windows for Workgroups, Windows 95 and 98, and IBM's OS/2.
- Chapter 5, "Introducing Network Standards," describes the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model, standards that provide for how data is packaged and transmitted from a sending application through the physical cables to a receiving application. The text goes on to discuss the 802 Project, enhancements to the OSI reference model specific to NICs and cabling, developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. This chapter also looks at device drivers and how they relate to the OSI reference model.
- Chapter 6, "Defining Network Protocols," discusses the prominent protocols used with networks and defines the relationship of each protocol to the OSI reference model, including Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), an industry-standard suite of protocols that provide communications in a heterogeneous environment. This chapter also explores the protocols used by Novell NetWare, as well as several of the lesser, yet most commonly used, protocols and how they relate to the OSI reference model.
- Chapter 7, "Elements of Network Connectivity," explores the devices and technologies available to expand networks beyond the scope of LANs. The discussion begins with modems, moves on to repeaters, bridges, routers, brouters, and gateways, and concludes with a look at remote-access computing.
- Part II, "Implementing a Network," chapters 8-13, shifts the focus from general networking principles to implementation. Integrating elements from Part I, the emphasis now is on the nuts and bolts of designing and rolling out a complete network: choosing a network type (peer-to-peer or server-based), selecting hardware and software for installation, and choosing and establishing security through setting up shares and accounts. Part II examines environmental impacts on networks, as well as how to administer, upgrade, and relocate networks, and concludes with tips for troubleshooting problems and where to find helpful resources.
- Chapter 8, "Designing and Installing a Network," expands the reader's knowledge of networking hardware. How to take a detailed inventory of network hardware and software is described. By creating a simple networking plan for a fictitious company and exploring how to install and configure networking hardware for it, readers have the opportunity to design a network. The chapter concludes by taking a look at some related hardware-compatibility issues.
- Chapter 9, "Establishing Network Shares and Accounts," describes the process of establishing sharing on a peer-to-peer network, including how to make directories or printers available to other network users. For server-based networks, readers are shown how accounts are used to establish who can access which files, directories, and printers. This chapter explores the differences between shares and accounts and demonstrates how to use each appropriately.
- Chapter 10, "Ensuring Network Security," revisits some of the ways to enable sharing on a network that were covered in Chapter 9. Here, the focus shifts away from sharing procedures; instead the chapter discusses sharing from the perspective of how to establish and maintain network and data security. Security is more than preventing unauthorized access to computers and their data; it includes maintaining the proper physical environment to permit the network to function effectively. Special attention is paid to preventive maintenance and how to take steps to prevent data loss and minimize network failures, whether from human or other causes, such as natural disasters.
- Chapter 11, "Printing on a Network," covers one of the fundamental reasons for networking: to be able to share printers among workstations. Network printers are expensive and draw extensively on electrical resources; however, a single user is likely to require a printer only intermittently. By sharing the printer among many users, considerable savings in cost and energy are achieved. This chapter covers the devices and management of network printers and takes a look at fax modems.
- Chapter 12, "Administering Change," discusses how to document a running network and how to develop a baseline by carefully recording network performance and components. This baseline can be referred to later when assessing network performance issues. When and how to upgrade network components and confirm that the upgrading was successful are also discussed. The chapter concludes with a look at how to physically relocate a network installation.
- Chapter 13, "Troubleshooting a Network," surveys the process of troubleshooting a network. It begins by exploring how to get to the bottom of network problems, then looks at the various hardware and software tools that can help in troubleshooting. A point usually comes when outside expertise is needed. What resources are available, what they can do, and how to access them round out this chapter.
- Appendix A, "Questions and Answers," lists each lesson-checkup question, review question, and exercise sequentially for every chapter, referencing the page number where the question appears in the text. In Appendix A, suggested answers are also provided for each question and exercise.
- Appendix B, "Common Network Standards and Specifications," contains a summary of standards, specifications, and description of standard-setting organizations that preside over aspects of computer networking.
- The Glossary includes definitions of key networking and relevant scientific terms used in the book.