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Computer technology has evolved in a truly explosive fashion over the last 20 years. Computers have become hundreds of times faster and at least two times less expensive seemingly overnight. Even the smallest companies now see a computer network as an indispensable part of their business infrastructure. And with the Internet and World Wide Web bringing massive amounts of data right to your desktop, no one can dispute that we are living in an information age.

A big issue for companies both big and small is getting network resources and Internet information to the desktop of each and every employee. This means having an understanding of how networks work and knowing what kind of technologies are available for moving data between two computers in the same room or two computers separated by a thousand miles. Networking is also no longer just the domain of companies and business—even the home user now can see the advantages of networking computers and other devices in the home.

When I sat down to write this book, I took a quick look back at my network administration experiences and thought about the things I had learned on the job and the things I wish I had known (things that certainly would have saved me some overtime and grief in certain situations). I wanted to put a body of information together that would be useful for someone new to networking but also provide enough depth to be an excellent starting point for someone who plans on learning more and maybe eventually working in the computer networking field. You are now holding the result.

The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Networking, Third Edition will help you bridge the information gap related to information technology and computer networking. Although this book covers a wide breadth of information, it also provides you with enough detail that you won't be lost as you further explore the subjects covered.

Although this book takes its subject matter very seriously, the material itself is approached in a straightforward, conversational manner that should help you digest the information without dozing off or developing a horrible migraine headache. Technology can be very intimidating, but this book will show you that the right information can go a long way as you explore networking technology, network operating systems, and the hardware devices that make networking possible.

Conventions Used in This Book

Certain conventions have been followed in this book to help you digest all the material. For example, new terms appear in italics. These terms can also be found in the Glossary, which supplies a short definition for each term.

At the beginning of each chapter, you'll find a quick-view list of the major topics that will be expounded upon as you read through the material that follows. The end of each chapter provides a list of summary points, reiterating some of the important information covered in the chapter.

You will also find several icons used throughout this book. These icons are accompanied by additional information on a subject, supply asides that provide useful insight, or give warnings that can help you steer clear of problem areas related to a certain subject or technology. These icons are as follows:


These sidebars include additional information related to the current topic, but they do not have to be read in order for you to have complete understanding of the information provided in the regular text.


These sidebars contain higher-level information and additional insight into a topic that expands on the material provided in the chapter.


These boxes attempt to reach out and grab your hand before you press that red destruct button. Warnings point out major problems or issues related to technologies or network practices.

How This Book Is Organized

This book has been completely updated for its third edition. It covers many cutting-edge technologies and also attempts to provide some hands-on insight into certain operating systems and hardware devices.

The book is divided into four parts; each part provides you a body of information that covers a particular area related to computer networking. Part I, "Networking Basics," provides an overview of computer networking and information on network hardware, network cabling, and the protocols that are used for network communication.

Part II, "Getting the Network Up and Running," covers the various aspects of configuring peer-to-peer and server-based networks. It includes information on configuring network client computers and network servers running different network operating systems, such as Windows 2000 Server and Novell NetWare. This section also discusses the different ways to deploy applications and communication software on the network.

Part III, "Expanding Your Network," discusses how to use WAN technology to expand and connect LANs at different locations. This part of the book also discusses how to connect a network to the Internet and develop a company Web site.

Part IV, "Keeping the Network Running Smoothly," discusses how to protect network data using strategies such as RAID arrays and backups and also discusses how to troubleshoot network problems. This part of the book provides a primer on network security, which includes information on protecting the network from viruses and outside attacks. Allowing users to connect to the network infrastructure remotely using dial-in connections and personal digital assistants is also discussed. This part of the book concludes with a discussion of some of the technological advances that are on the horizon in the networking field.

To help you keep track of all the new terminology that is introduced in the book, Appendix A provides a glossary. Appendix B, "Online Networking Resources," provides you with a number of links to informational and product sites related to computer networking that will allow you to continue your study of the networking field and read about specific networking products mentioned in this book.

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