Book Review: Cisco Networking Simplified

The primary audience for this 288-page soft cover book is entry-level networking technicians. But sales and marketing or other non-technical professionals working in the IT industry will find it just as interesting as students and instructors will.

Cisco Networking Simplified serves as a very basic introduction to networking technologies. It provides an overview of technical topics in a straightforward manner, and it also teaches the business relevance of today’s communications and how the Internet works.

The first part of the book provides a very general introduction to the inner workings of the Internet, beginning with how computers communicate and the Internet infrastructure. Next, the book discusses transmission control and Internet protocols (TCP/IP). The authors provide a general overview of TCP/IP functions, as well as IP addressing, subnetting and Ipv6 — a revolutionary addressing upgrade that will allow the Internet to continue to grow beyond its current IPv4 addressing scheme. The authors also discusses Internet applications such as e-mail, e-learning and peer-to-peer sharing.

In the second part of the book, readers are introduced to IP telephony, multicasting and videoconferencing. Components of IP telephony are discussed, as well as deployment models and quality of service issues. Next up is the anatomy of an IP call center, which looks at new ways to build upon customer interaction.

The third part of the book deals entirely with network security — once again in an easy to understand, fully illustrated presentation. Making the network safe is all about network and perimeter security issues, data privacy, systems monitoring and policy management. No discussion of network security would be complete without an in-depth look at authentication and authentication servers.

Next, the authors take a look at all the different types of hacking. Denial of service attacks are discussed, as well as snooping and spoofing techniques hackers use to infiltrate networks. Which naturally brings us to firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

The authors do a thorough job of discussing basic firewall protection and network protection schemes. Although intrusion detection systems are often difficult to manage because of the onslaught of false positives when initially deployed, the authors are wise to not overlook the role of these systems in basic computer networking.

The next logical step in secure computing includes virtual private networks and encryption. The authors discuss three different types of VPN connectivity — site-to site VPNs that connect different offices to a corporate network, remote user VPN connections for individual users, and extranet VPNs that connect separate companies to elements of each others networks.

The finale to the network security section of the book includes a general discussion of encryption methods, with a detailed look at data encryption standards (DES) and the Diffie-Hellman key exchange system. Each layer of security is addressed — at the application layer, data link layer and network layer.

The fourth part of the book is dedicated to the joys of Ethernet. The authors provide a little history of Ethernet, an easy to understand definition of Ethernet, and its evolution as the shared medium of today’s communications. From there, the reader is introduced to local area network switching, bridging, routing and how wireless networking works. This portion of the book is all about how data traffic gets from one place to another. Once again, the authors take highly complex technologies and discuss them in a manner that makes setting up a network appear to be as complex an act as flipping on a light switch.

In part five, the book changes directions to discuss how to keep a network running. Readers are introduced to basic disaster recover tactics, how to avoid downtime, network management tactics and quality of service issues. In part six, readers are introduced to hierarchial networks, as well as small, medium and large campus designs. At this point, optical and broadband technologies are discussed. The final portion of the book is dedicated to how businesses share data — from data centers to storage area networks, content networking and caching.

The book is organized in a way that readers are introduced to very general, then global and more detailed concepts. The reader can easily digest a section at a time in one sitting.

The authors provide a neat little guide to understanding basic networking. Even if you don’t plan on running out and building a network of your own, this book is a must-read for small businesses looking for ways to grow their organizations through computer networking.

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