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Network Admin Primer

By davist@childrensfactory. ·
Help. I am a programmer/PC support tech at a small company (120 users) and have been given the title of Network Administrator, with no training and big expectations.

I have been tasked with securing our network (16 servers), roughly 200 networked devices, about a dozen unamanaged switches, and 1 IT guy. Could anyone pass along some good links, articles, etc... for a Neophyte Network Admin?

I am mostly interested in how can I get information about my physical network such as traffic at each node, bandwidth usage, who is on my network and are they authorized.

I am doing my own research, but I figured why not ask the gurus.


David Stahlman

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All Answers

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Wow, lucky you

by robo_dev In reply to Network Admin Primer

Are these devices in a Windows Domain? Active Directory can tell you 99% of what you need to know. Logically, if it's a domain, you cannot get on the network if you have no ID. The whole purpose of AD and group policy is to secure the network.

Some of the tools to help you along the way are:

a) a Sniffer such as Wireshark
b) a network management platform such as OpenNMS
c) Some managed switches

Wireshark can show you precisely what is going on at each node.

A NMS, though it takes time to configure, tune, and test, will show you LOTs of info about what the network is doing.

There are TONS of network management and monitoring tools out there.***/

Overall, the use of a bunch of unmanaged switches makes me assume the network may have issues, such as the uplinks are overloaded or there are broadcast storms or similar issues. The first order of business is to determine if the LAN design is any good, and if not, do a redesign with managed switches, VLANs, etc, as needed.

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Reponse To Answer

by davist@childrensfactory. In reply to Wow, lucky you

Any suggestions on how to deterimine if the LAN design is any good? Physically I can tell you it is a mess. The main factory location was implemented by the maintenance man in the late 90's and there are literally places where I have found spools of wire in the ceiling where they just unspooled it to the location they needed and then left the excess in the ceiling. It is a mashed up mixture of Cat5 Cat5e and some Cat6.

Also instead of subnetting they just ran a second set of cables. So I have one network for all devices operating on a .0 subnet and then a second network for all devices operating on a .3 subnet and very few if any of them are labeled so most of them have to be traced back if nothing is connected to determine who they below to.

What about Nagios? I am familiar enough with Linux that I wouldn't mind a Linux based tool. Is it a good NMS?

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Reponse To Answer

by davist@childrensfactory. In reply to Wow, lucky you

Sorry for being rude. Thank you for your answer. I read it and immediately had questions so I apologize for forgetting my manners. I really appreciate any assistance you can provide.

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To answer a couple of questions

by robo_dev In reply to Network Admin Primer

If it looks like a mess, it probably is a mess.

The LAN design part is really just looking at things like how many fast Ethernet ports are being aggregated into a Gigabit port. So if a 24 port 10/100 switch has only a single gig uplink, it's dropping packets, or if there is no redundancy built in, so if a single uplink fails, you lose a whole building.

Have never used Nagios, but it IS very popular.

Depending on skill level, I would suggest just playing around with WireShark to begin with. A laptop with WireShark and a simple Ethernet hub lets you sniff every packet, and really see what's going on. WireShark is a free product, so the analysis part is limited. If you spend money on a tool like SolarWinds NPM, it does all the analysis for you.

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