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Hardware and Networking

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Hardware and Networking

The field of hardware and networking includes server administration, network administration, hardware technicians and general customer support.

Hardware refers to the physical components of a computer or network. It includes the CPU, RAM, Hard disk, Motherboard, etc. Networking hardware includes routers, switches and cables. Networking involves connecting computers, mobile phones, tablets, peripherals and IoT (Internet of Things) devices so that they can communicate with each other, over a network or the Internet.

Server administration has been there for as long as servers existed. A server is a computer that provides a service to client computers. Servers can provide a wide variety of services like Web, DNS, DHCP, Database, File sharing, etc. Servers can be Windows or Linux based. Linux is the more popular of the two and is used mainly in hosting web applications based on PHP. Server administration is mainly outsourced to companies that specialize in it. This makes it affordable to small companies as they need not hire a system admin exclusively for their company while there may not be much work to do. The servers will be in experienced hands, so work efficiency will increase. Also keep in mind that full control of the servers will be in the hands of a third-party company, so we must choose a company that values data security. The role of a server admin is to set up, manage, monitor and troubleshoot Windows and Linux servers and ensure the availability of applications running on them.

There is also a need to manage the networks of a company. Computers, printers and phones need to be connected with switches, cables and wireless routers. Routers are devices that connect different networks and offers the best path to reach a network. Different floors with separate private networks need to be connected together with routers. Large companies need enterprise grade routers by brands like Cisco or Juniper so that they can take advantages of their advanced features. Small companies may not need enterprise level features and may use routers that can be configured using a web browser. The role of a Network Admin is to design, configure, monitor and maintain internal networks of a company.

There are many levels of IT support in an organization’s structure. This enables a division of labour between the levels. Level 0 comprises of hardware technicians who handle cabling, crimping, patching and installation of servers and networks. This is the most basic level. Level 1 onwards comprises of server and network admins. Level 1 handles monitoring, customer support, incident management, basic configuration and escalation of issues. Level 2 handles most of the configuration. Level 3 approves the configuration changes sent by Level 2 admins. They also take care of advanced configuration and troublesome issues. Then comes the IT manager who is trained in ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and supervises the entire IT operations.

Nowadays, companies look for administrators with multiple skills. This was not the case earlier. It is common for companies combine skills like Windows server, Windows client and Networking in a single job posting. They require a single admin who knows and handles multiple domains like Linux server, Windows server, Networking and Cloud. This makes it easy and cost effective for the companies but difficult for admins. To cope with this, training institutes now offer a full package (MCSE, RHCE, CCNA, CCNP) to make you a complete networking professional.

Now trending in the entire networking field is cloud computing and SDN (Software Defined Networking). Cloud is a pool of computing resources on which a portion of resources can be allocated for virtual servers. Public clouds like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud are the future – they allow us to do much more than create virtual servers. Almost all IT operations can be done on the Cloud these days. Cloud also allows us to scale up and down according to the load of incoming requests. Job trends show that Cloud administrators are very much in demand as they can design, monitor and manage virtual infrastructure for a company’s entire IT operations.