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How you can Learn about Computer Networks (without messing up your own)

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 As an entrepreneur or business leader, you have plenty of responsibilities already: You must juggle budgeting, managing, and planning for growth. When your business is small and just starting up, that last task is even more important ― especially considering that you have fewer employees to help guide your decisions. You may need to pick up some of the technical work to help when you don’t have the personnel.  This means you should strive to have a better knowledge of the tech used in your network.

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Tech is the backbone of modern businesses, and without a streamlined network, employees are unable to be as productive as possible. As a business leader, you must make decisions regarding your computer networks ― but unless you have a background in tech, you might find this task close to impossible. So how can we do this without unintentionally affecting your work network?  Currently, there are options to help you learn the basics of networking without the hassle of tinkering with your existing setup. One of the best and customizable options available is GNS3.

What Is GNS3?

In the simplest terms, GNS3 is free, open-source network simulation software. Anyone can download it and use it; in fact, you can access it here. Though it is available at several common download site, You can get directly from their website with just a registration.

GNS3 mimics real networks that run router software such as Cisco Internetworking Operating System (IOS) images in an emulation program. Your interaction with the simulated router looks and feels like a real router. GNS3 provides an easy graphical environment. This lets you can build complex lab topologies, integrating Cisco routers and learning network systems to improve your business.

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More specifically, GNS3 relies on a series of individual programs to produce the emulations and simulations required for networking practice:

  • Dynamips does much of the heavy lifting, emulating the Cisco routers using your Cisco IOS.
  • Qemu emulates various operating systems, including Cisco ASA, PIX, and IDS as well as Windows and Linux.
  • Virtual PC Simulator doesn’t emulate machines, like those programs above, but it provides network commands like a Windows or Linux program.
  • PuTTY is a telnet, which allows one computer to log into another ― an essential step in networking.
  • WinPcap provides the capability to send and receive packets through the simulation.
  • Wireshark allows you to peek inside packets that are in-transit to ensure that they are following the correct protocol.

There are a few benefits to using GNS3 as opposed to tinkering with a live network. From a business standpoint, you can experiment with various intricate configurations without investing in expensive network hardware. Additionally, you can sample various network vendors without committing to their services. This has been added improvements over GNS3’s lifetime.  So you save costs with reduced hardware if the software is supported and can be emulated. There are caveats to this though since there is certain hardware that cannot be emulated.  Also, the images and software used are not provided by GNS3, you will need to have your own images to run in it.

Who Uses GNS3?


In terms of professionals, anyone interested in constructing their own network solutions can benefit by playing around inside GNS3 first, so business leaders, as well as aspiring tech workers, tend to tinker with the software before building their networks in earnest. Learning how to use GNS3 software is somewhat difficult, but it is not impossible given a prior familiarity with tech concepts.

Mega-corporations and startups alike stand to gain from employees utilizing the program. In fact, GNS3 is proudly used by many well-known organizations, including:

  • NASA
  • IBM
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Chevron
  • Pfizer
  • Verizon

GNS3 users span some of the largest and smallest companies around the world, and as evidenced by the list above, they are not limited to the tech industry ― or any other industry, for that matter. Therefore, no matter your business, you should consider becoming familiar with it.

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Moving on From GNS3

Working with GNS3 is also essential for those who wish to pursue network engineering as a career. Various vendor certification exams test aspiring networkers on their configuration abilities, and GNS3 provides candidates exactly those vital skills. Even graduate computer science programs teach networking concepts using GNS3, so understanding the software beforehand could provide a useful edge in education and career.

Once you can use GNS3 to generate a functioning network that suits your business needs, you are a step closer to mastering the art and science of network engineering. The skills you learn from GNS3 will continue to be valuable, for your business will grow and change, necessitating alterations to your network.