Computer networks fit so seamlessly into daily life that it’s only when these systems fail that people notice them.
When these systems fail, there has to be someone to get them back up and running and that is where network engineers come into play.
So what exactly does a Network Engineer do?
Role of Network Engineers:
Companies rely on network engineers to protect enterprise networks from unplanned outages and security breaches.
Network engineers plan, construct and manage networks to ensure they’re optimized and functioning as intended.
A network engineer is responsible for the foundation of an organization’s IT system and by default, the entire organization because it is their job to keep things up and running.
While network administrators and technicians deal with daily IT issues and troubleshooting, the network engineers tackle the more complex tasks such as designing and improving networks.
After configuring the right hardware, software, and services, a network engineer, then, tests the system to ensure that information flows properly.
Any errors or service interruptions require network engineers to troubleshoot, diagnose, and test the system until working harmoniously.
Once implemented, network engineers perform regular maintenance to secure and update networks.
Here is what a typical Network Engineer job description looks like:
- Designing and implementing new network solutions and/or improving the efficiency of current networks
- Installing, configuring and supporting network equipment including routers, proxy servers, switches, WAN accelerators, DNS and DHCP
- Procuring network equipment and managing subcontractors involved with network installation
- Configuring firewalls, routing and switching to maximize network efficiency and security
- Maximizing network performance through ongoing monitoring and troubleshooting
- Arranging scheduled upgrades
- Investigating faults in the network
- Updating network equipment to the latest firmware releases
- Reporting network status to key stakeholders
At the basic level, Network Engineers must at least have experience in the following areas:
- Clients and servers: How email, websites and pages connect using networks
- IP addresses: Unique identification codes for network devices that control the flow of data
- Network hubs, cables and switches: The hardware building blocks of any network
- Firewalls and routers: Tools that organize and control network traffic flow
Most Network Engineers are also certified and specialized in different areas of expertise as follows:
- CompTIA A+ Certification
- CompTIA Network+ Certification
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Windows Server 2016
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Core Infrastructure
- VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization
- Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) –Routing and Switching
- Cisco Certified Network Professional Level (CCNP) –Routing and Switching
Network engineers also have the important task of making sure the network is secure from hackers and viruses.
They are responsible for performing penetration testing and threat detection as well as training staff to be aware of the dangers.
Something as simple as downloading an e-mail attachment can wreak havoc on a network.
Most organization have SOC audit requirements which the network engineer is usually responsible to spearheading.
Software Every Network Engineer Must Have:
What sets the best network engineers apart from the mediocre ones are their ability to stay on top of new softwares to help them better their role and efficiency.
This means constantly keeping up with industry trends, news and the ever changing world of technology and finding ways to be even better.
Network Engineers work primarily on their PC’s and with the right tools, the PC can become a powerful toolbox for success.
Here are a few of the Software’s that every Network Engineer should be using:
- SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset – SolarWinds ETS is an industry favorite, delivering 60 essential network engineering tools. The key features of ETS include automated network discovery, real-time monitoring and alerting, powerful diagnostic capabilities, enhanced network security, and integration with SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM).
- PuTTY – PuTTY or Super PuTTY is an open-source terminal emulator, serial console and network file transfer application. It supports several network protocols, including SCP, SSH, Telnet, rlogin, and raw socket connection. It can also connect to a serial port.
- Notepad++ – I don’t think I’ve ever net a IT professional who doesn’t use Notepad++. In a nutshell, Notepad++ is an advanced alternative to Notepad and is used to write text such as notes, code, configuration commands and more.
- MultiPing – MultiPing is a nice tool to have in your toolbox. It allows you to run a simple monitoring system on your PC.
- Wireshark – This powerful software allows you to capture packets in and out of your device, and analyze them. You can use it to ping multiple devices at the same time, and create real-time charts with their availability in the screen.
In this article we’ve only listed a few of the top software that network engineers use but there are so many more.
However, simply knowing the technology and software isn’t enough to succeed in this role.
The Network Engineer role requires leadership, teamwork, and other qualities such as:
- An analytical mind
- An ability to learn new technologies quickly
- Good time management skills
- An ability to follow processes
- Strong documentation skills
- Good communication skills – both written and verbal
- Commercial and business awareness
If a network engineer progresses into a senior role, such as network architect, they will work with their client/organization to understand their business requirements, and then plan and design complex computer networks which will meet their needs in terms of functionality, security, efficiency and cost.
As you can see, being a Network Engineer is no easy task.
It takes time to learn and build experience and it is a role in which you will continue to learn and grow every single day.