Cisco Networking Simplified

Author: Paul L. Della Maggiora, Jim Doherty, Paul Della Maggiora
List Price: $29.99
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ISBN: 1587200740
Publisher: Cisco Press (09 June, 2003)
Edition: Paperback
Sales Rank: 41,229
Average Customer Rating: 4 out of 5

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Customer Reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5
Good for a novice, but not as your only reference.
Everything about Cisco Networking Simplified screams accessibility: the landscape layout, the softback cover, the illustrations drawn without a ruler that literally take the sharp edges off of computers, servers, and switches (router icons, fortunately, are already round). A note on the cover indicates for the curious that the book is in full color. Each short chapter is broken into "at-a-glance" subsections on each topic, headed "Why Should I Care?" and "What Are the Problems to Solve?"

This book is clearly written for two types of people: executives from a non-technical background who get flustered when speaking to network engineers, and networking novices looking for a friendly introduction to the subject before they begin serious study for, say, the CCNA.

When I first opened Cisco Networking Simplified, I was a bit put off by the intensity with which I felt the authors and illustrator were trying to convince me just how down-to-Earth they are. The organization of the book is such that it's so easy to flip through, the pithy explanations so easy to digest, that one might grow quickly suspicious that here is a book designed more to make the reader feel at ease than to actually teach her anything.

But one would be wrong. CNS is a good basic reference book. It's short because it sticks to the essentials. It's weirdly-inked illustrations do make the concepts clearer. And the friendly tone never gets smarmy. On the contrary, Maggiora and Doherty anticipate a newcomer's reaction to the material well enough to know when to be terse, and when to insert whimsical asides. The unofficial eighth (political) and ninth (technical religion) layers of the OSI model and the use of ISDN to mean It Still Does Nothing are fun tidbits, well-placed, and perhaps even useful as mnemonic devices. The paragraph explaining that "routers switch and switches route," is appropriately illustrated with two people scratching their heads. That the authors make room for "Algorhyme," Radia Perlman's poem describing the Spanning Tree Algorhythm (which she also wrote), shows that they know the difference between cute and distracting, and cute and relevant.

There are some problems, though. For example, the discussion of classful addresses is outdated. The class A, B, and C system is presented as the solution to a problem caused by unanticipated Internet growth. That may have once been true, but now the time when the class system was itself perceived as the next wave of that problem has already come and gone (gone, because outside isolated or masqueraded networks, class addressing has been replaced with CIDR). An executive who reads this book and then asks his engineers whether the company has been assigned a class A, B, or C address isn't going to get a lot of respect. A more serious problem is the confusing definition of the term DCE. On page 209, it's "data circuit-terminating device." On page 210, it's "data communications equipment." The first definition is more popular according to a google search, but makes less sense (where does the "E" come from?). Perhaps both definitions are somehow valid, but in a book like this, it shouldn't be the reader's job to figure out which one. And IDSN gets two detailed pages with illustrations, while the more popular (in the U.S.) DSL gets little more than a paragraph.

Also, to call this book Cisco Networking Simplified is not really accurate. A better title might have been: Cisco Presents: Networking Simplified. Cisco has no special claim to, say, IP addressing, which is discussed in some detail. Of course, to write a basic networking book without discussing IP would be silly, and Cisco makes a lot of products that deal with IP addressing. But so do a lot of other companies.

In short, I recommend this book (three of five stars), but with caveats. Technically-minded people who already have some experience in the networking field will probably be put off by the coloring book look and feel (but then, it wasn't written for them). Novices who are reading this book as the first step on their way to certification may find that, ironically, it provides much more information on certain subjects (voice-over IP, for example) than may be sought. It's hard to imagine anyone reading this book straight through of their own volition. It's a beginner's reference. If you're confused by a topic as it's dealt with in another networking book, you can be fairly sure that if CNS covers it, then CNS contains the simplest explanation of that topic that you're likely to find.

Rating: 5 out of 5
An excellent addition to your IT library...
Cisco Networking Simplified, published by Cisco Press, ISBN# 1587200740, Pages=288, Paperback, no CD-ROM included

When most folks hear the word Cisco, the first thoughts that come to mind are routers and the Internet. But what this book does is introduce you to so much more. You'll see that Cisco networking as a whole includes a vast array of hardware, software, telecommunications gear, protocols, and cutting edge technologies. Authors Paul Maggiora (CCIE, a former Cisco employee) and Jim Doherty (a current Cisco marketing manager) bring Cisco networking direct to you with an illustrated approach to learning a myriad of internetworking topics. If you're the type of person who prefers a visual approach to learning, the colorful illustrations and easy-to-understand diagrams should make you feel right at home.

Before obtaining this book, the question I had was "what does this book have to offer?" As I found out, a little bit of everything. For example; are you interested in learning more about optical networking, ATM, broadband networking, or how frame-relay works? Are you interested in network security, hackers, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems? Perhaps you'd like to understand what being a network administrator is like with respect to bandwidth monitoring, routing, switching, or high-availability networking? Other topics of interest include: explanations of how information is moved along that "information superhighway" we've all heard about, what Storage Area Networking is, how you can create networks without wires, and why your organization may be utilizing VPN's or MPLS. You'll find the answers to these questions and hundreds more in this book.

I believe the target audience for this book is "rookie" technical or help-desk staff that have some experience with computer networking, although those readers who are completely new to this area of computing shouldn't be "bulldozed-over" with tons of technical jargon. Seasoned IT professionals shouldn't pass this book up as being too easy either, because we all need a good refresher course on the basics from time-to-time, and that's the niche that this book fulfills.

A common complaint among IT professionals is that many books written nowadays are filled with "real-life" situations the author has experienced. I find that many of these situations aren't useful to me, and find myself rather distracted from understanding the books intended content. "We just want the facts" is what many technicians and networking professionals are saying. Thankfully, this book gives you nothing but the facts accompanied by clear and concise explanations.

The only criticisms I have of the book are that it didn't contain specific references to additional information and that it wasn't bigger! It was so easy to read and understand that when I finished studying it I thought, "Well what about this technology, what about that protocol, where's the best place to go for more info?" Published in June 2003, I've found it contains many of the hottest topics out there today including IPv6, ECDN (Educational Content Delivery Network), IP convergence (voice+video+data), VoIP (voice over data networks), disaster recovery planning, and web content caching - just to name a few. Overall, I was very pleased with the books contents and the formatting of the text and illustrations made for excellent knowledge retention. I've seen that the authors have previously released other networking titles, so you may want to check them out if you're looking for additional technical details on topics covered/not-covered in this book.

Cisco Networking Simplified won't prepare you for any Cisco networking certification tests, but you know what? I've always said that you can't comprehend advanced networking functions and methodologies if you don't have a clear understanding of the basics and fundamentals. This book is a good starting point.

On a rating scale of 1-5 (worst-best), I'd give this book a 5. I truly believe that the very reasonable cost of this book will be some of the best money (under $30.00) you'll ever spend on an addition to your IT library bookshelf.

Disclaimer: This is an honest review and I do not benefit from it in any manner.

Rating: 4 out of 5
An easy read
A really easy read. A little like reading a comic book on networking - Except this comic doesn't shy away from touching complex concepts. Pretty extensive in its coverage of the applications of networking.

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