Not a year goes by without dozens of networking books hitting the market. As the needs of network administrators grow more complex, demand for new knowledge increases. Yet so many network administration books exist that it can be difficult to tell apart the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this article we’ve provided you with an extensive list of some of the top networking books and textbooks available.
We have included a mix of books that cover the fundamentals and those that cover more niche topics such as conducting WireShark packet analysis. So whether you’re looking for a grand overview or a detailed exploration of TCP/IP, there is a book that caters to your needs.
Taking guidance from text books and reference guides that are written for the Cisco Certified Network Associate and he Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert exams is a particularly good idea. Even if you don’t intend to sit these exams, or if you just don’t have career support from your employees to take these professional development courses, getting into the working practices and learning the terminology that these courses use will set you up for any future exam attempts. The text books on our list will also enable you to speak on equal terms with other networking professionals.
If you have been given the responsibility for a small network or if you are trying to create a network for your sole trader start up company, you will rapidly get up to speed with the technology of network systems with these guides on your shelf.
Our list is heavily slanted towards Cisco methods for the use, maintenance, and monitoring of network equipment. This is because Cisco Systems dominates not only the supply of equipment, but the development of networking methodologies. The reading list is also heavily biased towards the theories and protocols of the TCP/IP protocol. Again, this is in your interests because, although there are other networking methodologies, TCP/IP so dominates the network implementations of the world that you really need to be well versed in it.
If you buy up all of the guides on this list, you will get educated in network addressing, the methods of connection cables, switches, and routers together, ways to administer network equipment and the special procedures and considerations need to successfully employ wireless networks in your business. The advance topics of virtual LANs and virtual machines are also covered by this library of guides.
Every title seen below comes highly recommended.
The Best Networking Books Available
1. CCNA Routing and Switch 200-120 Official Cert Guide Library
For a long time, The CCNA has been one of the most respected IT qualifications a network administrator can obtain. CCNA Routing and Switch 200-120 provides the reader with Cisco’s official guide to routing and switching. Routing and switching is a concept that all network administrators need to be completely familiar with and this is something that the book makes easy. Though there are many third party courses that broach the subject online, this official guide is hard to beat in terms of its specificity.
One of its main strengths is that it provides the user with exam materials and exercises that encourage you to gain practical knowledge. It also encourages you to use the network simulator and network labs to apply your book-learning and put it firmly into practice. We advise getting this book whether or not you want to sit the CCNA exam, as it will help to improve your understanding of routing and switching.
2. CCIE Routing and Switching by Wendell Odom
CCIE Routing and Switching is another essential book on routing and switching that correlates to the CCIE exam. CCIE Routing and Switching has been designed as a companion guide to the CCIE, an exam for expert level network administrators. While this won’t get you ready to pass the exam by itself, it will help develop a solid foundation to learn more about the topic.
To get the most out of this book you need to combine it with extensive lab study. Overall the book is extremely readable. You can’t go wrong with Wendell Odom, a well-known Cisco network professional. You can see Odom’s Cisco pedigree from how thoroughly he explores individual concepts in the book.
One of the most useful sections of the book contains “do I know this already?” quizzes that appear at the start of each chapter. These are a great way to test your knowledge as you go through the book. They really help to cut to the chase on what topics you know well for the exam and which require more study.
3. TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1: The Protocols by Richard Stevens
Network administrators looking for a complete guide to TCP/IP should look no further than TCP/IP Illustrated. This book breaks down everything from how TCP works and how network administrators can call on other high level protocols like FTP and SNMP. There is a reason why this is considered one of the definitive guides on the topic. Richard Stevens devotes several chapters to teaching the heart of what TCP/IP is, right down to an algorithmic level.
While most readers are unlikely to need to know such information, its depth provides you with more than enough information to use TCP/IP within a live enterprise environment. Throughout the first half of the book, you’re taken through the basics of MAC, IP, ARP, ICMP and UDP. In addition, Stevens shows you pictures of the protocol in action through the use of popular platforms like Solaris and Sun OS. This book is recommended based on its detailed analysis of TCP/IP and nearby protocols.
4. TCP/IP Network Administration by Craig Hunt
Richards Stevens writing on TCP/IP may be more well known, but Craig Hunt’s TCP/IP Network Administration has become a staple resource in the library of many network administrators. Anyone who requires a textbook overview of what the key protocols are and what they do will be hard pressed to go wrong with this book.
It walks through using Linux, Solaris, and BSD as well as other topics like routing configuration, DNS, and network servers. A few chapters specialize in troubleshooting and security. For this reason, TCP/IP Network Administration compliments TCP/IP Illustrated well. Hunt doesn’t shy away from addressing more advanced topics, either. He also addresses more daunting protocols like RIPv2, BGP and OSPF.
TCP/IP Network Administration may not have the readability of TCP/IP Illustrated, but it provides enough detailed information to hold its own. It is worth mentioning that TCP/IP Network Administration also acts as a syntax lookup resource for key functions like dhcpd and pppd. As a specialist administration resource, this book is highly recommended.
5. Network Maintenance and Troubleshooting Guide: Field Tested Solutions for Everyday Problems by Neal Allen
It is no secret that troubleshooting is an integral part of running an enterprise-grade network. Troubleshooting is the process of checking your network for faults and working towards the optimization of your service. Neal Allen’s Network Maintenance and Troubleshooting Guide offers perhaps the most thorough look at troubleshooting on the market.
Rather than concentrating solely on the theoretical, Allen opts to provide the user with solving the day-to-day problems network administrators encounter. In terms of technical content, this book takes you through the process of using the OSI model for troubleshooting, and takes a look at the MAC layer and IPv4, IPv6 protocols.
What really this book apart from the troubleshooting crowd is that it emphasizes the importance of creating network documentation. Allen shows you how to create documentation that doesn’t just help you to solve problems, but also prevents them from occurring in the first place.
6. Practical Packet Analysis: Using Wireshark to Solve Real-World Problems – Chris Sanders
At one point or another, almost every administrator has heard of WireShark. WireShark is one of the most popular packet sniffing tools in the world. As a result, anyone considering using WireShark is in need of a copy of Practical Packet Analysis: Using Wireshark to Solve Real-World Problems.
Practical Packet Analysis is a book for anyone looking to learn not just how to capture packets, but how to use these packets to tell what processes occur on their network. The book includes 45 scenarios that relate to real-world problems. This encourages the reader to develop their knowledge of WireShark in a way that can be applied to live administration.
Chris Sanders takes the reader through the process of using packet analysis to identify and address key issues like poor connectivity and malicious attacks. Even if you’re confident that you know how to use WireShark, this book is worth considering because it can help you take a more sophisticated reading of your live network.
7. Computer Networks – Andrew Tanenbaum
Whether you have a pedestrian or thorough understanding of networking, Andrew Tanenbaum’s Computer Networks is a must have. One of the most noticeable appeals of this book is that it’s easy to read. It may not be as technical as some of the heavier titles on this list, but it offers a substantial exploration of networking without making itself too cumbersome to read.
Throughout the book you’ll be taken through the history of TCP/IP to the physical makeup of the ISO/OSI model. If you choose to pick up a copy of this book, the 5th edition is the most up to date copy as of time of writing. It includes a chapter that focuses on network security, an area that is of immense importance within any SME or large enterprise.
8. 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide by Matthew Gast
Wireless networks are indisputably part of every business that operates online today. As such, you need an extensive guide to wireless networks to refer to in order to completely understand the topic. Matthew Gast’s 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide is the perfect companion for managing a wireless network. It mixes a layman’s approach to the topic with the detail you’d expect to find in a more technical title.
Gast takes you through the process of configuring and monitoring your wireless service in a way that’s extremely easy to follow. The book takes you through the 802.11 protocol and wi-fi, right down to the the quicker 802.11g. Gast has written the book to accommodate users on both Windows and Linux, so it is suitable for administrators looking to work in a cross-platform environment.
This book is a must have if you want to build up your knowledge on deploying a wireless network and conducting network monitoring on a long-term basis. It covers everything from selecting access points to keeping your network secure. If consistently maintaining your uptime is important, then 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide is well worth consideration.
9. The Cert Guide to Insider Threats: How to Prevent, Detect and Respond to Information Technology Crimes by Dawn Cappelli, Andrew Moore, and Randall Trzeciak
Part of maintaining a dynamic network is managing external threats. The Cert Guide to Insider Threats has been written with this purpose firmly in mind. The book uses findings obtained from the CERT Insider Threat Center to provide the reader with real-world insights into managing cybersecurity attacks. The book boasts an impressive body of data from more than 700 historic cases.
The Cert Guide to Insider Threats lends itself towards an enterprise environment because it provides administrators with the knowledge to inform staff of the key tells of a malicious threat and details a variety of responses to take.
The book recognises that managing external threats is not simply a case of hardware and software alone, but staff as well. It focuses on helping administrators mobilise staff to prevent malicious activity from taking root and to take prompt action in those cases where it does. The Cert Guide to Insider Threats is the perfect choice for network administrators working in a large enterprise with a lot of staff.
10. Cisco IOS Cookbook: Field-Tested Solutions to Cisco Router Problems – Kevin Dooley and Ian Brown
Many administrators find themselves scratching their heads when working with Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System. Fortunately Kevin Dooley and Ian Brown have designed the excellent Cisco IOS Cookbook to provide you with the key ingredients needed to configure routing protocols without making glaring mistakes.
The book takes you through configuring interfaces, IP routing protocols, authentication, DHCP, NTP and backup links. Likewise it provides you with enough information to enable you to manage your router and control the traffic that passes through when your network is live.
This book is a must have if you’re in a network environment with Cisco routers. Even if you’ve been successfully going it alone, Cisco IOS Cookbook will provide you with hacks to make sure your configurations run much more smoothly. In other words, you won’t find yourself clunkily putting together your own configurations and starting from scratch 100 times!
11. Nmap Network Scanning: The Official Nmap Project Guide to Network Discovery and Security Scanning – Gordon “Fyodor” Lyon
Another crucial tool within many network administrators’ toolkits is Nmap. Nmap is a network monitoring tool used to scan large scale networks and address security concerns. Nmap Network Scanning by Gordon Lyon is the official guide to this tool. It takes the user through the core principles of port scanning right through to network security, discovery, and security auditing.
As this an official Nmap guide, it takes the user through every feature of the platform. This means it is ideal for those who are looking to learn all they can about how Nmap works and how to get the most out of it in terms of network monitoring. If you haven’t encountered Nmap before, then this guide will give you everything you need to know to monitor your network effectively.
It is worth noting that the first half of the book can be downloaded for free online. We recommend downloading this whether you decide to purchase the full version or not. For administrators considering deploying Nmap, this guide is invaluable. The only issue is that images within the book are blurred on a number of pages. However, this doesn’t detract from the book’s overall value.
12. UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook – Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Trent Hein, Ben Whaley, Dan Mackin
Given the centrality of UNIX and Linux systems to modern networking, its very important to have a guide that specifically addresses them. The UNIX and Linux Administration Handbook is an essential guide to conducting network administration on UNIX and LINUX systems. It is a guide suited to those looking to develop a more specialist approach to network administration on these potent operating systems.
We’ve selected this book specifically on account of its broad perspective. It breaks down the key elements of network administration such as system administration, storage management, network design ,and virtualization.
What really helped the book make a name for itself is its in-depth look at cloud computing. In fact, if you’re working within an environment that has deployed or is considering deploying cloud solutions, then this book is worth a read for that reason alone.
13. Networking for VMware Administrators by Christopher Wahl and Steve Pantol
Over the past few years, virtualization has become one of the most prominent emerging trends on the network administration scene. Networking for VMware Administrators acts as an authoritative guide to working within a virtualized network environment. Christopher Wahl and Steve Pantol take the reader through the minutiae of configuring and troubleshooting a virtualized network.
Even if you’ve been working with VMware for a substantial amount of time, the depth of this book is such that you’ll definitely pick up a few nuggets of information you didn’t know about along the way.
This book has been designed to act as a companion guide for users trying to get to grips with VMware. Administrators in need of such a guide would be well advised to pick up a copy. It provides all you need to know to function within a virtualized environment.
14. Internetworking with TCP/IP Vol.1: Principles, Protocols, and Architecture by Douglas Comer
Finally we have Douglas Comer’s Internetworking with TCP/IP Volume 1. This book earned a place on this list as it provides an excellent entry-level look into all things TCP/IP. It also takes the reader through other important protocols like IPv4, IPv6, DNS and DHCP. These are all protocols that administrators are required to be intimately familiar with.
Even if you are very experienced with TCP/IP, the depth of Comer’s writing will help develop the knowledge of experts just as much as beginners. Network administrators seeking a clear and concise guide to TCP/IP should pick up a copy of this book. Undoubtedly, this is the most in-depth look at TCP/IP available on the market today.
Develop New Skills
We hope the resources above help you develop your knowledge around network administration and function more effectively in your current environment. If you want to be at your best, then this list will serve as a solid starting point. Though it can be tempting to get all of your information from online articles, these books provide comprehensive and in-depth study that cannot be replicated in a blog post.
Setting aside some time to read up on these topics every day can have a remarkable effect on your knowledge. The most important thing to remember is that developing your skills should be an ongoing process. New technologies and practices emerge all the time, so keep your eyes open for new releases that could enhance your knowledge.