An Introduction To Networking: A CCENT / CCNA / Network+ Tutorial

In this series, we’ll take a look at the very fundamentals of networking, including what a network is in the first place.   That’s as fundamental as it gets, and it’s important knowledge for your real-world career as well as your CCENT, CCNA, or Network+ exam studies.  Let’s have at it!

Before we get into the nuts and bolts and routers and switches of networking, let’s ask ourselves three questions:

  • What is networking?
  • Why do we need networking?
  • Why do we need routers and switches?

For the answer, we need to go back in time just a bit.

Networking was once quite simple, whether you were networking a small office or a high school.   Your end users just needed access to a printer and maybe some shared files.  They were thrilled not to have to walk down the hallway to get a Word doc from someone.

As human beings will do, after the initial thrill of printing to a printer in another room (!) wore off, our end users wanted more.

  • “Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep all our docs on one computer and access them from anywhere?” 
  • “It would be wonderful if we could have some servers where only certain people have access to them.” 
  • “I hear some companies show a video and employees can actually see it on their computers. Can we do that?”

In all seriousness, think of all the services we take for granted today that were absolute fantasies 15 to 20 years ago.  Voice and video?  Forget it!   Most networks 15 – 20 years ago couldn’t begin to handle that kind of traffic.  Today, our clients take voice and video for granted, just as you and I do.

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What about network security?   Having a security certification on your resume used to be a luxury.  It actually made you stand out from the crowd since network security was once seen by many clients as an extravagance.  (“A firewall?  What do I need that for?”)   The network security devices that exist today were barely a glimmer in their developers’ eyes 15 – 20 years ago.

Our networks used to consist of just a few devices that needed to communicate with each other…A Very Small Network

… but today’s networks have all kinds of devices that need to play together nicely.

A Much Larger Network

This is where you and I, the network admins, come in.  It’s our job to get these devices to work together in an efficient manner so our clients can do their job in an efficient and secure manner.

When it comes to network security, it’s not enough to keep the bad guys away from sensitive info.  We have to perform that task while also allowing the good guys (authorized users) to access the information they need.  If our clients can’t do their job, we will not have a job for long.

Let me fill you in on why I’m telling you all of this.   I’ve been exactly where you are today, working on getting CCENT and CCNA certified and creating a brighter future for my family.  I’m not one of these guys who walk around acting like they were born knowing everything in the world about networking.  (I’ve worked for guys like that.  Hated it.)

I know from experience that studying the material in this section – networking models, TCP and UDP, and other networking fundamentals – is in some ways the toughest material in the course to study.   It can be a little dry at times, and there’s not much contact with Cisco switches and routers in this section.

And when you’re a little tired (or a lot tired!), and you’re studying this particular material, you’re going to think something I certainly thought during my studies: “Do I really need to know this stuff?  Can’t I just skip ahead to the next section?”

Allow me to be your voice of experience here:  Yes, you really do need to know this stuff.  There are two kinds of network admins in the world: Those who have a structured plan for installing / configuring / troubleshooting, and those who don’t.  You want to be the admin with a plan, and using a networking model can make that happen.  You’ll see how to use these models in everyday networking after we take a look at the two main networking models on your CCENT and CCNA exams – the OSI model and the TCP/IP model.

That’s coming up in the next installment of this free Networking Fundamentals tutorial series!

Introduction To Networking: The OSI Model

While you’re here, head over to Amazon and grab a copy of my exclusive “Binary, Subnetting, and Summarization” Workbook – and thanks to those of you who already have a copy for making it an Amazon Best-Seller in the Cisco Certification Study Guide and Computer Networking categories!

It’s an excellent study guide for CCENT, CCNA, and Network+ candidates alike!

Chris Bryant's Binary Workbook