When network administrators talk about libraries, they usually mean the software kind. But even IT professionals sometimes have to rely on old-fashioned book libraries too.
There’s no shortage of books on networking. In fact, there are so many of them that finding the best ones can be a challenge.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of network administration books we like and consider indispensable. If you could only have 12 books in your network admin library, we humbly submit that these should be the 12.
- Network Warrior
It’s hard to write a book about networking that touches all the relevant bases, and deals rigorously with existing technology while also anticipating future developments. But Network Warrior by Gary Donahue does a great job of it.
Pitched as a book that helps professionals “pick up where certification exams leave off,” Network Warrior covers everything from routers to Network Time Protocol (NTP) to firewall configuration.
It pairs practice with theory, allowing you to understand the concepts and philosophies behind modern networks, as well as the hardware and software they’re built on. And it gives adequate attention to technologies, like IPv6, that still aren’t in widespread deployment but are sure to become important in the future.
- The Practice of System and Network Administration
Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup and Christina J. Hogan
For its truly expansive breadth and depth in covering networking topics, we also like The Practice of System and Network Administration. Widely recommended by professionals in the field, and required in many networking college courses too, this book leaves no stone unturned in explaining all of the fundamentals.
- Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach
James Kulrose and Keith Ross
Last but not least on the general reference front, we recommend Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach.
At times, the book’s perspective can seem better suited to academics than to pros working in the field—which is no surprise, as both of the authors are university teachers. Yet the book’s thorough explanation of key concepts, combined with practical exercises to help explain them, make it an essential reference.
We also like that it’s organized according to network layers, starting with the application layer and working its way down into other parts of the network.
- Routing TCP/IP
Jeff Doyle and Jennifer Carroll
When it comes to routing, Routing TCP/IP is our go-to guide. First published in 2001 and revised several times since, this two-volume work explains almost everything you’ll ever need to know about routing and the TCP/IP protocol — including IPv6 — in a very readable fashion. Case studies reinforce the material and help place it in context.
As our own Kevin Dooley notes in the Auvik ebook on network topology, Routing TCP/IP is “a tad Cisco-centric,” which reflects its publication by Cisco Press. Nonetheless, it’s an essential resource on network protocols.
- Network Maintenance and Troubleshooting Guide: Field Tested Solutions for Everyday Problems
Where to look when you have a problem to solve? In this category, Neal Allen’s troubleshooting guide stands out from the pack.
With keen attention to real-world problems, rather than abstract theory, Neal focuses on giving you the knowledge and problem-solving strategies you need to detect and fix even the messiest of network problems.
And he does it all with copious references to the industry specifications that define how protocols should work. That makes it easy to identify Allen’s information sources and to follow up with further research of your own, if needed.
- UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook
Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Trent R. Hein, Ben Whaley
As network admins, we all know at least a little about Unix and Linux. But there’s always something new to learn about these ever-evolving OS platforms, which power a great deal of the servers, switches, and other hardware of many networks.
The UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook is a great resource if you need to brush up generally on your *Nix skills, or work through a network problem related to the complex inner workings of these systems.
The book has been updated a number of times as Linux and other Unix-like platforms have evolved, and it presents material in a concise, highly readable format.
- Cisco IOS Cookbook
Kevin Dooley and Ian Brown
On the topic of Cisco network administration, we highly (and humbly) recommend the Cisco IOS Cookbook — not just because one of its authors is also a contributor here at Auvik, but because it offers simple, step-by-step approaches for completing all sorts of tasks on Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System (IOS).
We’re not the only ones saying that, by the way. Third-party readers call this book “an excellent, accurate and razor-sharp configuration reference for Cisco router hounds,” “the best book for day to day management of Cisco networks,” and a source of “useful, relevant, easy to find answers.”
Does it cover every single ISO-related task in existence? Of course not. It’s only one book. But for the vast majority of Cisco work you do, it will serve you well.
- 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide
For the knowledge you need to thrive now and later in the wireless world, we recommend this O’Reilly guide from Matthew Gast.
To be sure, the 802.11 protocol specifications have evolved since the publication of this book in 2005. But the fundamentals remain the same, and those are what Gast focuses on. He delivers the conceptual know-how necessary to configure wireless infrastructure and software on both Windows and Linux. No matter which letters come at the end of the particular 802.11 specification you’re dealing with, this book makes sure you can work with it.
Also appealing is that Gast is careful to distinguish between the right and wrong places to deploy a wireless network. It’s easy to assume that the mobility and flexibility of wireless infrastructure make it superior in all situations. But as this book points out, it’s important to factor in security, cost, and performance considerations.
- Networking for VMWare Administrators
Chris Wahl and Steve Pantol
Published less than a year ago, Networking for VMWare Administrators delivers up-to-date overviews of all the key topics on VMware-based virtual networks. And while it’s not exactly written for the guy on the street, it doesn’t assume special expertise in network virtualization beyond the basics that every admin will have.
That makes this a great resource even for networking professionals without a lot of experience in virtualization, but who are eager to gain the knowledge they’ll need as virtual infrastructure takes over more and more of the networking landscape.
Amy Arnold, one of our favorite networking pros, agrees.
@ChrisWahl one of my favorite tech books to have read! 🙂
— Amy Renee (@amyengineer) December 9, 2014
- Practical Packet Analysis: Using Wireshark to Solve Real-World Problems
Of all the packet-sniffing and analysis tools out there, Wireshark is one of the best. And Practical Packet Analysis by network security pro Chris Sanders is the best guide to using it. It delves much deeper than the Wireshark documentation available with the source code and in online tutorials.
In detailed yet clear and concise prose, Sanders explains how to use Wireshark in real-world settings, not just to sniff packets, but to analyze traffic effectively.
- The CERT Guide to Insider Threats: How to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Information Technology Crimes
Dawn Cappelli, Andrew Moore and Randall Trzeciak
Speaking of security, no one wants to run the network that becomes the next victim of a major data breach à la Target or Sony, to name just a couple recent examples. To help stay out of that boat, we recommend grabbing a copy of The CERT Guide to Insider Threats.
As the title suggests, this book focuses on insider threats to network security, which — in our age of Bring-Your-Own-Device permissiveness — should be at the top of any admin’s list of security concerns.
It deals at length with the technical tools available to help detect and protect against breaches. But it also looks at the bigger picture of defusing insider threats, such as behavioral precursors among employees. And it covers mundane threats, as well as high-level attacks, from entities like organized criminal groups.
All in all, the book provides a richly comprehensive game plan for preventing network security breaches and handling them if they do occur.
- Time Management for Network Administrators
No matter how much you know about the technical aspects of managing a network, to flourish in your career, you also need to manage your time effectively and triage different priorities on the job. That’s the focus of Time Management for Network Administrators.
You won’t find generic time management tips here. Limoncelli’s book directly addresses the specific challenges that plague many network admins. It does an especially fine job of helping readers navigate the competing demands of long-term projects and all those little tasks (usually troubleshooting) that pop up throughout the day.
As a bonus, Limoncelli realizes that you’re a real person outside of work, and points out how the book’s tips on time management in your career can extend to your social life too.
UNIX / LINUX
STAYING SANE ON THE JOB
We’ve made our picks for best network books. Now tell us yours! What network reference books can’t you live without? Leave a comment and let us know.