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Preliminary Book Topics

By stretch | Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 11:46 p.m. UTC

As I announced earlier this summer, I'm working on writing a book targeted to people entering the field of computer networking. I've got a fair amount of content fleshed out already, but figured it might help to get some feedback on the tentative structure. The book is being written in a question-and-answer style, organized into chapters by subject.

Below is the preliminary table of contents. It's still very much a work in progress, but I'm curious what people think of this approach. Constructive criticism and suggestions for additional content are welcome!

Breaking Into the Field

  • What kind of networking jobs are there?
  • What are the different networking specialties?
  • How do I get into networking?
  • Do I need a college degree?
  • Do I need certifications?
  • Do I need to know a programming language?
  • What should I list on my resume?
  • How much do networkers make?
  • How do I find a job?
  • Do you have any interview tips?
  • What are the negative aspects of networking?


  • What are the most popular certifications in networking?
  • How much is certification X worth?
  • How should I study for certification exams?
  • What's a brain dump?
  • What is the exam experience like?
  • I only just barely passed! Does it still count?
  • My employer will pay for me to get a certification. Should I do it?

Revisiting Fundamentals

  • At what OSI layer does protocol X operate?
  • What's the difference between a router and a multilayer switch?
  • What's the difference between the control and data planes?
  • How is the best route to a destination chosen?
  • How does TCP use sequence and acknowledgment numbers?
  • What's MTU? Is it different than MSS?
  • Can you explain TCP windowing?
  • What's the difference between a VLAN interface and a BVI?
  • How do tunnel interfaces work?
  • What do NAT terms like “inside local” and “outside global” mean?
  • Can I use the network and broadcast addresses in a NAT pool?
  • Why do we need IP addresses? Can't we just use MAC addresses?
  • Does QoS provide more bandwidth?

Standards and Protocols

  • Who develops network protocols?
  • What is an RFC?
  • How do I read packet headers in RFCs?
  • What's the significance of uppercase letters in IEEE standards?

Names and Addresses

  • Where do IP addresses and domain names come from?
  • Did we really run out of IPv4 addresses?
  • Can I buy more IP addresses?
  • Does IPv6 really provide a billion IPs for every grain of sand?
  • Why does IPv6 use hexadecimal addressing?
  • What is IPAM?
  • How do I create an IP addressing scheme?
  • How does IPv6 subnetting work?
  • What prefix length should I use on point-to-point links?
  • How should I name devices on my network?

Network Operations

  • Is everything done through a CLI? Can I use a GUI?
  • Why do some network CLIs look so similar?
  • What are your favorite software tools?
  • How can I effectively monitor my network?
  • What is configuration management?
  • What do I need a maintenance window for?
  • How can I minimize downtime when performing maintenance?
  • Is it okay to copy and paste configurations across devices?
  • How do I reset a device to its factory default configuration?
  • What is a regular expression?

Data Centers

  • What is a data center?
  • How do data center networks differ from “regular” networks?
  • What's involved in building a data center cage?
  • How can I get connectivity outside my own cage?
  • How do peering exchanges work?
  • What's involved in leasing data center space?
  • What does "smart hands" mean?


  • What are the major components of a network device?
  • What does an ASIC look like?
  • What is field-programmable Gatorade?
  • How does switch stacking work?
  • What's the point of GBICs and SFPs? Why not build them in?

Physical Installations

  • A word about safety
  • What should I have in my tool bag?
  • How do I install equipment in a rack?
  • Is there an easy way to mount really heavy equipment?
  • Can you explain electrical power measurements?
  • What are the names of the different plug types?
  • Why are there so many different types of cabling?
  • When do I need a fiber attenuator?
  • Why bother with permanent cabling and patch panels?
  • What's the best way to label cabling?
  • Should I order prefabricated cabling or make my own?
  • Is there an industry standard color code?
  • How can I make my patch cabling look pretty?
  • We lost the keys to our cabinet! Now what?
  • How should I get rid of obsolete equipment?

Network Design

  • Where do I start?
  • What does a good network look like?
  • Does my network need to have three layers?
  • Which protocol is better: OSPF or IS-IS?
  • Why do people say to avoid layer two?
  • My network doesn't have loops. Can I turn off spanning tree?
  • How can I keep a fully-redundant network simple?
  • What's the biggest subnet I can fit on a VLAN?
  • What is equal-cost multipath (ECMP)?
  • Can I use BGP as my interior routing protocol?
  • Is it possible to run MPLS on an enterprise network?
  • How can I provide reliable out-of-band management access?

Buying Stuff

  • How does enterprise gear differ from SOHO?
  • What is a VAR?
  • What's the difference between Capex and Opex?
  • What is "list price?" How much does stuff really cost?
  • Who are the most popular network vendors?
  • Should I stick with one vendor or use several?
  • When evaluating gear, what should I look for?
  • What do all the numbers on this data sheet mean?
  • Why am I being asked to purchase a support contract separately?
  • Can I just stock spare equipment myself and forgo a support contract?
  • How do I apply a software license to my device?
  • Do I have to buy the same brand SFPs as my switch?

Wide Area Networking

  • What is a circuit?
  • What kinds of circuits are there?
  • Do I need an SLA?
  • What's the process to install a circuit?
  • Why might I need a gigabit port for a 100 Mbps circuit?
  • What does a WAN look like?
  • How can I connect to the Internet?
  • Can I announce my own IP space to the Internet via BGP?
  • How can I verify that other networks see the prefixes I announce?
  • What prevents people from announcing IP space they don't own?
  • What's the difference between peering and transit?
  • Can I replace dedicated circuits with an Internet VPN overlay?


  • What is the principle of least privilege?
  • Is VLAN 1 evil?
  • How does encryption work?
  • What about hashing?
  • What do all these IPsec terms mean?
  • What's the difference between policy-based and route-based VPNs?
  • What can I do to make my network more secure?
  • What should I use for centralized authentication (AAA)?
  • How can I guarantee device access if AAA is down?


  • Is documentation really necessary?
  • What do I need to document?
  • What forms of documentation are there?
  • How should I organize documentation?
  • What pieces of information should I include on topology drawings?
  • What tools should I use to map out a network?
  • What's the trick to creating nice-looking topology drawings?
  • Are there standard symbols for routers, switches, etc.?

Packet Analysis

  • What is packet analysis?
  • How can I capture traffic on my network?
  • What's the best packet capture software?
  • How do I use Wireshark?
  • Why does Wireshark show so many incorrect checksum errors?
  • How does a capture filter differ from a display filter?
  • What if I need to capture traffic for an extended period?
  • Is it possible to capture traffic directly on a router?


  • Oh no oh no oh no I BROKE THE NETWORK!
  • How do you troubleshoot a problem?
  • My boss keeps watching over my shoulder and making me nervous
  • What does this error message mean?
  • Traceroute shows packet loss. Is that a problem?
  • Is it possible to test TCP services from a router?
  • Can I tell what manufacturer a MAC address belongs to?
  • How can I tell if traffic is "normal"?
  • How can I test the performance of my network?
  • When should I contact the vendor's TAC?
  • Why do vendors hide some configuration commands?
  • What if I need multiple network connections?

Building a Lab

  • Why build a network lab?
  • What devices should my lab include?
  • What's the difference between an emulator and a simulator?
  • Should I use emulators or real hardware for my lab?
  • Where can I buy lab gear?
  • How should I cable my lab?
  • How can I simulate traffic on a lab network?

Continuing Education

  • How can I keep up with advances in the industry?
  • Where should I keep notes?
  • Is it worth the cost to attend conferences like Cisco Live?
  • Should I learn a programming language?
  • Where should I go to ask questions?

Posted in Announcements


August 14, 2014 at 12:49 a.m. UTC

Can't wait to read the final product.

August 14, 2014 at 12:56 a.m. UTC

Stretch, this looks fantastic!

A couple of topics that keep coming up from my clients in addition to your awesome list:

Network Monitoring: How do you measure and track achievable throughput on links over time? (ie, perfSONSAR toolkit) Network Design: At what point do I need to use an IGP instead of static routing?


August 14, 2014 at 4:37 a.m. UTC

Love the topics...I have asked most of those questions at some point, as I'm sure most interested in networking have.

Ilir M
August 14, 2014 at 6:59 a.m. UTC

Plenty of useful topics. Looking forward to it. I would suggest you could consider the topic of the intersection of Networking with other IT domains especially Applications to help us get a better and bigger picture of how Networking fits into it and should not be approached in isolation.

August 14, 2014 at 2:07 p.m. UTC

I believe this book should include a fun section, with well known network jokes/memes (Smug Cisco Guy), and publicly available datacenter nightmare photos.

August 14, 2014 at 2:46 p.m. UTC

Great content Jeremy

It'd helpful for everyone around the world if you can generalize the chapter "Breaking Into the Field" as most of the books gives info only about US. Thanks

August 14, 2014 at 6:49 p.m. UTC

I would leave out the revisiting fundamentals and the names and addresses sections. These are easily found information and are technical in nature, the other stuff looks great and would work as a easy way to get interview questions fro a newbie as well. Good job!

August 14, 2014 at 8:46 p.m. UTC

Even though I think is great to get your opinion/experience in those topics, I think is way too much content to be compressed in only one book, specially if you go from what's a network to AAA servers ... I would buy an ebook only with DC basic related topics as how is the big picture of BGP with the ISPs and topics like exchange points, etc..

August 15, 2014 at 4:45 p.m. UTC

I would disagree with bigzaqui, I think the broad range of topics is not meant to be the in-depth end all authority. I tend to think of each sub-section as 1-3 pages (about a blog post each,) and as such worthy of such a broad set of topics.

Additions, I would add how to cable using premise wiring and when you need to flip the fiber. Some pointers for network diagrams, physical vs logical, when it's too much, etc.. Circuit troubleshooting, e.g. who to loop to show where the issue is.

August 16, 2014 at 3:48 a.m. UTC

"What is field-programmable Gatorade?" indeed. A question that has vexed many network engineers. ;)

Seriously - awesome list, Stretch. I'm sure it will be a good addition to any network engineer's bookshelf - mine included!


August 16, 2014 at 1:38 p.m. UTC


August 17, 2014 at 8:56 a.m. UTC

It looks very good! I 'm looking forward reading it.

August 17, 2014 at 2:29 p.m. UTC

This is super exciting, I can't wait to see the finished work.

August 18, 2014 at 1:41 p.m. UTC

Nice initative. Cant wait for your book.

August 19, 2014 at 2:37 p.m. UTC

How to ask another IT department for a favor...

August 19, 2014 at 5:53 p.m. UTC

Nice! I want it Stretch! Have success!

August 19, 2014 at 7:04 p.m. UTC

Pretty big list. Looks like this book is going to be useful for even mid level network engineers like me. Appreciate your efforts.

August 19, 2014 at 7:57 p.m. UTC

These are two areas that really confused me all the way back to taking my Networking CS course, and I think people just starting out would benefit from a discussion on them:

  • Bandwidth vs. latency

  • The difference between megabits and megabytes: if I have a $x sized file, how long will it take me to download it at $y speed? Why are they different?

Love the topics! I'm looking forward to your book.

August 20, 2014 at 3:49 a.m. UTC

The content's great! Can't wait to read it!

August 20, 2014 at 7:02 a.m. UTC

Excellent topics/questions, Jeremy. Looking forward to the final product!

August 20, 2014 at 8:02 a.m. UTC

Can't wait to PRE-ORDER this. :)

August 20, 2014 at 12:43 p.m. UTC

This really does look promising! Can't wait to read!

August 20, 2014 at 4:52 p.m. UTC

I will certainly be purchasing this book based on the contents alone. Get cracking and finish this book please....

August 20, 2014 at 5:02 p.m. UTC

+1 on what Kay said about Bandwidth and Latency. And how perception of bandwidth generally does not include calculation for latency.

Also, IMHO, I would order Troubleshooting before Packet Analysis.

Great list! I too have tried to find answers to most of these questions. And also, haven't asked quite a few as well. Excellent job, would love to pre-order this as well.

August 20, 2014 at 5:23 p.m. UTC

Jeremy please make a specific newsletter for people to sign up and learn news about the book, so no one will forget it!

August 21, 2014 at 8:10 p.m. UTC

awesome...reminds me of the Network Warrior !

Quote ELIAS : "Jeremy please make a specific newsletter for people to sign up and learn news about the book, so no one will forget it!"

August 22, 2014 at 1:40 a.m. UTC

A few random topics that could be added:

  1. what is the difference between ipsecurity, advipsecurity and other licenses? How to activate the evaluation lic? And how to ftp/tftp the new lic into the router?
  2. a couple of easy scripts to make repetive tasks easier?
  3. easiest way to change a remote WAN ip address and not screw up the process (using a script or secondary ip)?
  4. how to explain tech stuff to non tech people?
  5. why a lot of people use one ipsec tunnels for traffic and another for monitoring?
  6. normally on test labs and on the real world you would use private ip's for ipsec tunnel ends but some people use public ip's? How to do that and why?
  7. DNS and workarounds. Some countries block certan sites and ip's. how to solve that?
  8. how to find out if an ISP blocks udp port 500 and show proof to them? How to debug or test it (ping/traceroute/nmap/etc)?

Many thanks

August 22, 2014 at 1:29 p.m. UTC

Bout time! I've been reading your blog for a few years and your writing style is very easy to follow. I'll definitely give it a read! Keep up the good work Stretch!

August 25, 2014 at 10:16 a.m. UTC

it is a very good idea and i believe it will not only help people who entering in teh networking field but also remove any confusions about these ideas for people who are alreadyy in the networking field and it will serve as an excellent refrence for evryone alike.

Guest name
August 25, 2014 at 3:43 p.m. UTC

I would love if you covered SNMP and Python programming for network devices.

Mr. Meow
August 26, 2014 at 3:52 a.m. UTC

Shut Up and Take my Bitcoin!

August 26, 2014 at 9:48 a.m. UTC

a pdf copy of each chapter would be nice. :)

Ken Johnson
August 27, 2014 at 8:25 p.m. UTC

Section on network applications. DNS, SNMP (someone mentioned this), NTP, etc.

Section on network devices. Quick description of name & functions; firewall, load balancer, proxy, voice gateway, WAP, IPS, IDS, etc.

The cloud.

Glossary for networking terms & descriptions.

August 27, 2014 at 8:49 p.m. UTC

Really excited for this book - it is exactly what the industry needs to speed up the training and integration of new Techs, Admins & Engineers into the field.

We have such a severe shortage of folks right now - anything to expedite and forward knowledge is awesome.

August 28, 2014 at 8:35 a.m. UTC

In addition to raidomingo, I would suggest to publish it as a epub (maybe per chapter) ebook as well as a printed version. ebpub could be read with the most ebook readers out there.

I would love to read the book, the chapters sound very promising.

Miguel Rio
September 1, 2014 at 5:40 p.m. UTC

Very interesting table of contents. I will definitely use it to support my lectures. Suggestions: A bit more detail in BGP. Introducing Multi-protocol BGP, mentioning Software Defined Networking and OpenFlow.

September 2, 2014 at 5:14 a.m. UTC

Stretch..this is Awesome :) Could please add how do we calculate the total bandwidth to build a small network ,medium size and large networks .I am talking about the ISP bandwidth how do we calculate and order appropriate bandwidth ?

September 2, 2014 at 8:53 p.m. UTC

it seems to be a very real-world book. Look forward to it

September 6, 2014 at 6:16 a.m. UTC

You are doing a great help to people who want to get in to networking.

September 9, 2014 at 8:44 p.m. UTC

Thank you for this great work!

Juha Karilo
September 10, 2014 at 11:41 a.m. UTC

Hi, Very nice TOC. Could there be mention under Security for IT Compliance stuff. Like ISO27k, PCI DSS, etc. And some Legal stuff also, what you can/cant do with (customer)data as a Service Provider point of view. This involves also The Cloud, EU/ETA- U.S Safe harbour and many more.

September 12, 2014 at 7:28 p.m. UTC

I concur Toyo. You should leave out the revisiting fundamentals and basic stuff including the names and addresses section. These basic topics are beaten to death in numerous other books. There's gonna be plenty of unique content in your book and you should focus on it.

One topic I would suggest in WAN section: Demarcation Point between provider network and your network. When troubleshooting a problem it is extremely helpful to know (in advance) where demarcation point is. You could describe possible demarcation points in the book.

September 13, 2014 at 2:20 p.m. UTC

Hey Jeremy,

Keep up the good work! Would it be possible to also touch a bit of 'ticketing work' such as troubleshooting connectivity issues that might be reported by customers in a NOC(loss of connectivity, packet loss, etc). Focusing on stuff like where and how to navigate a network at a job that does not have documentation.


September 16, 2014 at 6:04 a.m. UTC

It's like an updated network warrior. I dig it.

September 16, 2014 at 5:16 p.m. UTC

A topic on Capacity Management is due.

A guest
September 18, 2014 at 1:43 a.m. UTC

Your list seems pretty good. For now it is only my suggestion whilst on my busy work. I will write more as will flash to my mind. Hardware •How does switch stacking work? -Like to see Do's & Dont's (A simple mistake turn your effort upside down)

-What will be a minimum config need for A Switch or Router to work -VPN Types, Site To Site, DMVPN etc. -What are very helpful tools for a network administrator (A lot in your site). This needs to publish commercial free. -Vital troubleshooting commands (Device Type wise & Protocol wise) Nexus, Cat6500,ISR, etc. What to look for & the decision based on it. -Touch little bit about Voice. How a complete Voice Implementation Take place (Most Voice Books are device centric & Not educate the basic Mechanics). How we start with ordersing an ISDN 30 from Telco. What are the options the Telco has. What are DID lines. What are the Voice modules for GW router etc.

September 18, 2014 at 1:50 a.m. UTC

Your list seems pretty good. For now it is only my suggestion whilst on my busy work. I will write more as will flash to my mind. Hardware •How does switch stacking work? (Modular Stack Switches) -Like to see Do's & Dont's (A simple mistake turn your effort upside down)

-What will be a minimum config need for A Switch or Router to work -VPN Types, Site To Site, DMVPN etc. -What are very helpful tools for a network administrator (A lot in your site). This needs to publish commercial free. -Vital troubleshooting commands (Device Type wise & Protocol wise) Nexus, Cat6500,ISR, etc. What to look for & the decision based on it. -Touch little bit about Voice. How a complete Voice Implementation Take place (Most Voice Books are device centric & Not educate the basic Mechanics). How we start with ordersing an ISDN 30 from Telco. What are the options the Telco has. What are DID lines. What are the Voice modules for GW router etc.

October 6, 2014 at 9:02 a.m. UTC

Content looks great :) few topics i would suggest you to add i) difference between access, aggregation, distribution and core networks and a general architecture along with what devices are used for each stage ii) layer 2 and layer 3 vpn

October 22, 2014 at 7:36 p.m. UTC


I barely can wait to read this book.

November 13, 2014 at 2:47 p.m. UTC

I get asked this a lot. Often I see new network guys surprised at the amount of off-hours (nights and weekends) and shift work in entry-level jobs. I generally explain that it's part of "paying your dues", and that most of us have gone through it. I like to make sure they understand that nights and holidays before they start on the path of learning. Many don't mind, but some sure do and move on to some other choice.

November 16, 2014 at 7:21 p.m. UTC

I knocked out something similar while unemployed recently. It was fun, and hopefully will have helped some people building cert labs at home, which was it's main focus. Based on the topics listed, Jeremy's book ought to be epic, and of real use.

Mine ended up 100 kindle pages, and I've made a few bucks off of it, but it's nothing to write home about. If anyone has any questions about the kindle e-book publishing process, I'll try to at least forward what I've learned.

January 25, 2015 at 4:42 p.m. UTC

umm, yeah, that's a commercial link I put there. If I could edit it out, I would. Won't be hurt a bit if you delete the post.

March 17, 2015 at 4:02 a.m. UTC

Jeremy, This practical info is vital to getting started in the field. I have only say %60 of the Network + or CCENT level of knowledge; spent 10 years installing cabling and installing devices, currently in a data center as an NOC tech. Everyday is OJT, On the Job Training but when my studies get too academic I long for real world practical context...I really enjoy your site and hope the book comes to fruition...Keep up the good work!

Mohsin Ala
June 10, 2015 at 12:13 p.m. UTC

The toipcs are superb. Most of the stuff is known to professionals working in the field but read it will act as a refresher. The Documentation and Buying Stuff topics are of greatest interest to me. I'll surely get one for myself.

July 3, 2015 at 3:27 p.m. UTC

Looks great, the only thing i would say is avoid topics which are overly geographically dependent, prime example would be thinks like ordering circuits.

The reason i would say this is different ISP's and operators in different countries have different products and processes, whilst the underlying technology may be the same, the delivery process is likely to be different.

An example, in the UK, its quite difficult to buy pure "dark fibre" where i can put my own multiplexer on the end and run my own DWDM, the usual approach is for the supplier to provide the fibre and the mux, and then we rent the individual wavelengths. However in Europe this is quite the opposite, and its standard to just get the circuit, and the customer provides their own mux and as many wavelengths as they want.

Efren Aguilar
July 31, 2015 at 5:10 p.m. UTC

Hi Jeremy! What is the status of the book? Still working on it?

August 15, 2015 at 10:45 p.m. UTC

Yeah, I'm also very eager waiting for the book to be published. Hope everything is going well for you.

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