Today, Computer networks are critical parts of every organization. Network administration serves a key role in building, securing and maintaining these networks at its best. Network administrators are responsible for the daily operation of handling these networks.
Network administrators install, support and manage the computer networks. They help in the implementation and maintenance of network hardware and software, troubleshooting network problems. They also ensure network security, availability & performance standards.
Network administration is a popular job choice among tech enthusiasts. A successful network administrator must possess a combination of problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, and technical know-how.
In this article, you will get an idea of the responsibilities of a network administrator, the required skills and training, etc.
What does Network Administration mean? Who is a Network Administrator?
The accurate definition of Network Administration is hard to pin down.
In large enterprises, it focuses more on the actual networks and networking components. That means, it includes the management and maintenance of switches, routers, firewalls, VPN, etc.
In small businesses, the network administrator is many times a jack-of-all-trades. They involve in the configuration of databases, installation, and upgrading of software.
They can also help in the management of user accounts and security groups, desktop support, etc.
As a network administrator, the networks you manage will vary in scale from modest LANs (Local Area Networks) to vast WANs (Wide Area Networks). You may have to deal with both wired and wireless networks.
Responsibilities may differ between organizations. However, on-site servers, software-network interactions as well as network integrity resilience will be the key areas of focus.
Seems simple enough. However, there is another common technical position that sounds similar to a network administrator and might confuse you, i.e., System administrator.
Is a network administrator same as a system administrator?
In many smaller enterprises, the terms “network administrator” and “systems administrator” are often interchangeable as they involve similar tasks.
Hence, the differences between network and systems administrators are more noticeable in large organizations.
An excellent way to differentiate between the two is to examine the type of work they do.
The most fundamental difference between these two roles is that a Network Administrator oversees the overall network.
On the other hand, a System Administrator is in charge of the computer systems, all the parts that make a computer function.
That means a network administrator focuses on the interconnect technology while a system administrator focuses on client devices and applications that join the network.
What are the duties of a network administrator?
A network administrator’s job can be broad or narrow depending on the organization and how complex its networks are. Most of the times, the duties of a network administrator is proactive.
Typical roles and responsibilities of a Network administrator include the following
Implementation duties include
- installing and configuring networking software and applications software
- laying out and connecting cables between servers and nodes
- establishing user accounts
- installing wireless transmitters and receivers, and installing storage area networks
- installing storage area networks
- installing and support hard-line telephones and other networked telecommunication devices
Management and Maintenance
Maintaining and managing the network is an integral part of Network Administration and involves
- Manage network security tools, e.g., firewall, anti-virus and intrusion detection systems
- Maintenance and updating of network hardware and software components
- maintaining user accounts and access privileges
- monitoring daily server traffic and system usage
- keeping network logs
- performing scheduled backups and recovery processes
- assisting with the realization of special projects
- Writing user documentation and training new users.
- Responding to user reports about service interruptions
- Analyzing network logs to locate the cause of a problem and applying an appropriate solution
Solutions include adjusting software configurations, installing patches, restoring broken or intermittent connections, and rebooting the entire system.
The network administrator always needs to monitor the network for faults, outages, and other network related problems.
Network monitoring software helps in detecting such issues. The network administrator receives an alert message upon detection of any problem.
Security and Testing
Testing of systems is also crucial to ensure the network is operating to the business standard. The network administrator will perform regular tests of the network to check for possible vulnerabilities.
Testing may also involve penetration testing to ensure that there are no possibilities of security breaches or unauthorized entry into the network.
Securing the network and maintaining security standards are also the essential duties of a network administrator.
Security measures differ from business to business. The network administrator determines which actions are appropriate for the business network and implements those security measures.
Like many technical roles, network administrator positions demand a breadth of technical knowledge. They must be able to grasp the intricacies of new networking and server software packages.
- Researching recent hardware and software upgrades compatible with the system they manage
- reading trade publications to keep abreast of recent developments in networking technology,
- recommending purchases, and assisting with the planning and design of essential projects.
What skills do you need to have to be a network administrator?
Network administration demands strong technical competence, but there is more to this role than just possessing technical skills.
Here are some of the most common non-technical skills that you need to be a network administrator
Analyzing and critical thinking
A network administrator must explore and find logical solutions to problems in a consistent manner.
You should be able to understand and implement the theoretical concepts into the practical world. Analyzing how these concepts work and affect other concepts is vital for being a network administrator.
Even if you do not yet know the solution, you should be able to think critically to find the answer.
Network administrators juggle several projects, people and problems simultaneously. That means it is essential to be alert in the present and to look ahead to prepare for what’s coming next.
You should have the ability to manage your time efficiently to keep everything balanced.
Passion for learning more
All professional network administrators have a passion for learning as they adapt to changing tech demands. This desire to learn more is also essential for the more mundane day-to-day work.
While working, you may come across issues that you have never faced before, and the only way to get out of it is to start researching potential answers.
What certifications do you need to be a Network Administrator?
Companies keep on implementing new networking and communications technologies to spur a competitive advantage.
That’s why, there is always an increased demand for trained and certified network administrators to install, secure and optimize the new systems.
Many organizations expect their network admins to possess a technical bachelors or masters’ degree in computer science or information technology.
It will enhance your fundamental knowledge required to begin in this field.
Some Companies may require their administrators to obtain certification in the products they use in their daily operations.
Certification helps to improve and validate the basic understanding by giving professional level training in a specific field.
It will also help you in distinguishing yourself and increasing employment and advancement opportunities.
Certification programs may be vendor-specific, i.e., offered directly from vendors or vendor-neutral certifications.
So, what certifications should you consider pursuing? It depends on your role and the company.
The CompTIA A+ certificate offers a vendor-neutral certification. It covers general wired and wireless networking concepts used by technicians and entry-level administrators.
You must also do thorough research whether the companies you are interested in working for, run on a specific type of system. It will help you to determine whether a vendor-specific certification would be useful for you.
Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Juniper Networks, etc. each offer vendor-specific certification programs targeted at professionals who work with their respective brands of gear.
Some of the most common and highly recommended certifications for Network Administrators include the following
- CompTIA A+ Certification
- CompTIA Network+ Certification
- CompTIA Security+ Certification
- Cisco CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) Certification
- Cisco CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) Certification
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
What tasks does Home network administration involve?
Managing a home computer network involves some of the same tasks that professional network administrators handle, albeit on a smaller scale. Home network administrators may perform activities like
- Setting up broadband routers including more advanced capabilities like wireless security keys and QoS ( Quality of Service )
- Helping train family members on the technical details of using the network and their network devices
- Troubleshooting outages and performance issues
- Building a home network backup system
While home networking cannot substitute for professional training and experience, it gives a taste of what network administration entails.
Network administration incorporates a wide array of operational tasks that help a network to run without any hassles. Without network administration, it would be challenging for even the smallest networks to maintain network operations.
Network administrators play an essential role in efficiently handling and keeping the technology connecting our devices running securely with minimal downtime. From scheduling doctor’s appointments to doing online transactions, behind each computer network is an efficient network administrator.
Computer networks are an indispensable part of the modern business. Therefore, the demand for network administrators will continue to grow as firms invest in better network systems to boost performance and scalability.
With demand for network professionals going strong, it is an ideal time to begin or advance your network administration career.