In the next 30 seconds, you might make a decision that will dramatically affect how successful you will become in the IT industry. If you make the wrong decision, you'll likely find yourself struggling to land a job in the field, being passed over for promotion, and ending up in all sorts of undesirable circumstances. If you make the right decision, you'll put yourself in a position to become tremendously successful in a fast-growing industry. What is this seemingly huge decision?
The decision is whether you will take the initiative to set up a home network.
Many of you have already set up a network. If you have, don't stop reading! I'll give you some information that will help you get the most out of what you've already put together. And if you haven't created a home network yet? This article is designed to spur you to do so and reap all the associated benefits.
Here are six reasons you need a home network now—but you can be sure that there are likely dozens more.
1. The ability to put into practice what you’re learning in the books. Certainly you've heard the term "Paper MCSE." How did that term originate? We're not 100 percent sure, but there's a good chance that someone noticed that a lot of MCSEs were getting their certifications by simply studying a few books ("paper"). They didn't have the hands-on experience and lacked knowledge of seemingly simple concepts. They couldn't implement what they knew in their heads, which often rendered them relatively worthless in the field. Don't want to end up like them? Build your network now.
2. A chance to blow stuff up without it costing you your job. Not many employers will want you to do testing on the company's LAN. The moment you start to think to yourself "Nothing bad can happen if I just test using NT as a DHCP server, right?" is the moment that you need to start checking out the classifieds for a new job to replace the one you're about to lose. Everyone (experienced or not) needs a place where they have the freedom to try some new things without running the risk that they'll affect their company's network. Your home network is that place.
3. Test the things you’re unsure of. Sam at work says one thing. Alice says another. You read an MCSE study guide that contradicts both Sam and Alice. How do you find out who's right? Test it yourself. Want to do that on your company's network? Hey! Aren't you paying attention? I covered that in number 2!
4. Stay current with new technology. Windows 2000 is out. Whistler is in beta. Yet your company still thinks that Windows 95 is a cutting-edge business OS. In the meantime, your skill set is perilously close to becoming obsolete. How do you fight the "My company refuses to upgrade" blues? Upgrade your home network instead. You can get evaluation editions of most of Microsoft's latest software for very reasonable prices. (For tips on free stuff, go to http://www.certtutor.net/freestuff/. Download all those betas and evaluation copies and ramp yourself up for the technology of the new millennium.
5. Get Internet access for all of your PCs. If you have multiple computers and you want them all to have an Internet connection, you'll need to set up a home network. Besides the obvious benefit you'll gain by doing this, you’ll likely get some real hands-on experience with TCP/IP, RRAS, ICS, NAT, and more. It's one thing to think you know all about routing. It's another to set up a routed network. And most people don't get the chance to do this at the office, which leaves you with only one option: Set up a home network now.
6. Play network games. You didn't think it was all going to be serious, did you? You can have quite a bit of fun with your network, too. Invite all of your friends over and have fun blasting and blowing up each other. And you thought this networking thing was dull, huh?
So, have I convinced you yet? If you're ready to set up a home network, I’m asking you to do one thing. Post a short message on CertTutor.net Live! (http://www.certtutor.net/forums) telling the world that you’re going to take the plunge and set up a network. Why am I asking you to do this? I can tell you in one word: Accountability.
It's easy to say, "Yeah, setting up a home network sounds like a good idea. I really should do that." Then you'll get home and get lost in one of the dozens of more important things that you have to do and that idea gets swept under the rug. Don't let that happen to you! Make the decision now and let the rest of the forum participants in on it. It will help to keep you motivated to do something that will make all the difference in the world.
(Author’s Note: Special thanks to Bob Muir, Gregory Smith, and Melissa Wise for contributing to this article.)