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New First-Step book Provides an Easy Start to Computer Networking

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New First-Step book Provides an Easy Start to Computer Networking

It's Saturday night, and you've just arrived at a party. While sipping your drink, you overhear someone saying, "Our campus has 23 VLANs, and we had problems—the MAC addresses just weren't showing up in the address table! Eventually, we realized that IP routing was broken because of an OSPF design problem caused by some bad subnet masks—we used a /25 when we should've used a /26, and it was a mess." So what do you do? Run the other way? Ask your spouse if you can go home now? Or at least drift to another part of the room, and spark a conversation with someone else about one of your hobbies?

You might want to talk about computing or networking at a party, but a lot of people need some knowledge about networking today. In fact, a lot of people need to have what I call a conversational knowledge of networking—the ability to talk about it in general, to understand, and to ask good questions of a vendor or network engineer—but no need to understand every little detail, or be able to do it themselves. While the average person probably doesn't want to talk networking at a party, it can be important in a lot of jobs.

For example, most mid-level managers in the IT departments of most companies are former technical people at those same companies, but not all started out in the networking part of IT. Now they manage the networking department, and they have final decision-making responsibilities for networking equipment purchases, but their only knowledge about networking is whatever they happened to pick up by accident in their earlier jobs. At a minimum, they need to know something about what vendors, or their networking team leaders, mean when they explain why you should buy a particular product. But that manager certainly doesn't need to know all the details of how to install the device and make it work—in effect, they need to be able to talk about it with networking professionals, and be able to know what questions to ask to get the job done.

Many others might need a conversational knowledge of networking: networking salespeople, IT professionals in areas other than networking, or even people totally new to the IT world, but who need a good place to start learning about networking. However, most sources of information focus on the network engineer who by definition does want to learn all the details about a networking topic. Those same people who need a conversational knowledge of networking also have lots of other things to do, and they really can't take the time to read all the details in a book geared for a network engineer just to get a general idea about the technology. Instead, a different kind of networking book is needed, and that's what Cisco Press' new First-Step series is about.

The First-Step series of books from Cisco Press hopes to provide a clean, easy way to get started learning about networking. Each book is written in a more casual style than most technical books, but still describes a broad range of concepts and terms related to networking. The goal is that for someone who wants to know about the main topic of the book—say, network security—they can read the book and be assured of a couple of things. First, the book assumes that all terms need to be described at least briefly, so even if the reader hasn't heard the term, it will make sense after reading the book. The flow of the topics has been created to make it an easy read cover-to-cover, rather than a reference book. You could just read a typical First-Step book for 10 minutes a day for a few weeks and learn a lot. And the books, although more casual in wording, certainly do define a fair amount of technical materials.

The series begins with Computer Networking First-Step, which covers a broad topic base on networking in general. Books on specific topic areas, like security, routing, TCP/IP, LAN switching, and others will follow Computer Networking First-Step. For those people who want a good, broad foundation, Computer Networking First-Step is a good place to start. For those who already know a lot of the basics, but want more on a particular topic area, one of the other books in the series makes the most sense.

In my own experience, lots of people have wanted to clarify a point about networking or just learn the basics about something. It's not that networking is that hard—frankly, most of it is pretty simple. It's just that there's so much to know. What is difficult is knowing how to get started, identifying the right base of information, and getting your questions answered. I personally like to think of the First-Step series as books that read as if your friend is sitting there giving you several 10-minute talks about how this networking stuff really works, without having to get into all the details.

Whether you are interested in gaining a conversational knowledge of networking technologies, or you are looking to start a career as a networking professional, Cisco Press First-Step books will help you understand the technology essentials and provide you with the perfect introduction to the world of networking.

You can learn more about the First-Step series at www.ciscopress.com/firststep.

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