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Network engineer: Job description

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Network engineers are responsible for implementing, maintaining, supporting, developing and, in some cases designing communication networks within an organisation or between organisations.

Their goal is to ensure the integrity of high availability network infrastructure in order to provide maximum performance for their users, such as staff, clients, customers and suppliers. Networks can include:

  • computer;
  • voice;
  • firewall.

Network engineers may work internally as part of an organisation's IT support team, or externally as part of an outsourced IT networking consultancy firm working with a number of clients.

Other job titles used to refer to this kind of work include:

  • network support;
  • support engineer;
  • IT support engineer;
  • helpdesk support;
  • network administrator;
  • first-line support;
  • second-line support;
  • security engineer;
  • network architect;
  • VoIP engineer;
  • Cisco engineer;
  • systems engineer;
  • systems support engineer.

Typical work activities

The work is influenced by the size and sector of the employing organisation.

In a large investment bank for example, a network engineer may have specific responsibility for one area of the system. In a small company, the engineer may be trouble-shooter for almost any IT related problem that arises.

There are different types of network, such as:

  • LANs - local area networks, linking a limited area such as a home, office or small group of buildings;
  • MANs - metropolitan area networks, linking a large area such as a campus or city;
  • WANs - wide area networks, which link nationally or internationally;
  • WLAN - wireless local area network;
  • GANs - global area networks, combining all of the above with satellite mobile-communication technologies;
  • SAN - storage/system/server/small area network;
  • CAN - campus/controller/cluster area network;
  • PAN - personal area network;
  • DAN - desk area network;
  • VoIP - voice over internet protocol network.

Tasks usually include:

  • establishing networking environment by designing system configuration, directing system installation, defining, documenting, and enforcing system standards;
  • the design and implementation of new solutions and improving resilience of the current environment;
  • maximizing network performance by monitoring performance, troubleshooting network problems and outages, scheduling upgrades and collaborating with network architects on network optimisation;
  • undertaking data network fault investigations in local and wide area environments, using information from multiple sources;
  • securing network system by establishing and enforcing policies, and defining and monitoring access;
  • the support and administration of firewall environments in line with IT security policy;
  • updating job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities, reading professional publications, maintaining personal networks and participating in professional organisations;
  • reporting network operational status by gathering, prioritising information and managing projects;
  • upgrading data network equipment to latest stable firmware releases;
  • configuration of routing and switching equipment;
  • configuration of hosted IP voice services;
  • basic configuration of firewalls;
  • remote support of on-site engineers and end users/customers during installation;
  • remote troubleshooting and fault finding if issues occur upon initial installation;
  • capacity management and audit of IP addressing and hosted devices within data centres;
  • liaising with project management team, 3rd line engineers and service desk engineers on a regular basis;
  • speaking with customers via email and phone for initial requirement capture.

Further information

Written by Laura Blackledge, University of Leeds
March 2014

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