What Do You Need to Know to Become a Computer Network Architect?

What Do You Need to Know to Become a Computer Network Architect?

By William G. Perry, Ph.D.

Well designed and efficient computer networks are necessary for businesses and organizations to share resources and communicate with customers, employees and suppliers. Anything less hampers productivity and harms the competitiveness of an organization. Modern businesses, therefore, must hire or utilize the services of well-qualified computer network architects to build an effective information infrastructure that supports organizational goals.

Computer network architects understand what needs to be done to accommodate the required information flow and how to make use of existing resources to accomplish the task in an efficient manner. Network architects are responsible for the specific infrastructure design that makes sure information is properly distributed and used to make critical decisions that are necessary for the organization to meet its mission.

An example of the type of work a computer network architect might do is the establishment of the information infrastructure in a new manufacturing plant in a different city. Such a project is very significant and many of the challenges would be totally unique and remain undiscovered at the beginning of project. Factors that must be considered for successful deployment of the new network would range from power availability to the placement and quantity of network hardware.

The architects of computer networks have a global, as well as local, perspective. They understand business requirements outlined by systems analysts and how data and information must flow. Computer network architects understand hardware and software and usually have years of experience as a local area network administrator. Network architects know how to integrate system and hardware devices so that they function seamlessly.

The network architects, as suggested, understand the “big picture”. They must enjoy working with other people and have a keen interest in problem solving, communicating and continual learning. They must also be aware of industry trends, new equipment and software, as well as industry trends (i.e. the push for mobile computing). The computer network architect’s role, in a very real sense, is directly related to helping the organization to remain competitive.

Computer network designers would benefit from being skilled in the area of project management. This skill set requires an understanding of business processes, such as budgeting, sales and manufacturing, as well as an understanding of technical requirements. The projects that are managed by the network specialists vary in size but in every case the problems to be solved are critical to the mission of the organization.

The demand for people who design networks is high and would require a bachelor’s degree at a minimum and significant experience as a network administrator. Appropriate levels of certification (i.e. Microsoft, CISCO, etc.) would be highly desirable. The compensation for computer network architect tends to be higher than a local area network administrator primarily due the level of responsibility that is required.

Computer network architects are on a career track that is upwardly mobile. Individuals who have experienced success in this role, depending upon their background and the industry, might very well find themselves becoming Chief Information Officers for the entire organization.

Dr. William G. Perry is the publisher of The Learning Net ( http://www.thelearningnet.com ) and author of Top Jobs: Computer and Information Technology. Dr. Perry is an information technology specialist with significant experience as a university professor, author and contractor for various federal agencies. The Learning Net also publishes a computer security glossary ( http://www.computer-security-glossary.org ).

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