Home Network Admin Lab

Maybe someone can give me some friendly pointers here.

In the very near future I am going to begin looking for a new job in IT, so I want to create a home network lab to brush up on my skill set. The problem though is that while I've got an AS in network admin, I've been out of the loop (and practice) for the past six years since I've been working in another field (avionics). So, my goal is to get a couple virtual boxes going on my main rig to run services for my laptop and get re-familiarized with MS Server and IT in general.

What type of network, services, applications would people recommend I reacquaint myself with? I am shooting for a government IT job (since they are plentiful) which means MS environment and big enterprise level HW/SW.

So far my idea is to run a couple AD servers, do some routing, manage some users and configure some roaming profiles, maybe even desktop virtualization... I know where to begin, but's the more advanced stuff that I can't even remember right now is what I need to work on.

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!


What you can do is very simpel, build a network from the ground up.


-Router (to seperate your network from that of your lab\

- Cheap 100 mb/s managed switch (so you can practice with network routing)

- Second hand Enterprice Workstation (to get formiluair with the hardware of company's and run your vm's)

- Nas Storage ( so you can practice with storage and mounting it from the network)

- 2x Clients old pc's (so you can practice with client pc's and the problems that they give ;) )

Thanks for the idea on the NAS, most networks I've worked with haven't really had one since there were only like one or two servers just providing email to 20-30 clients. A managed switch is a good idea too.

Any recommendations on what NAS HW/SW to run on the cheap?




Things to know in Enterprise level IT:-

Routing and VLANS

MS Exchange

Active Directory - Specifically Group Policy

NAS is useful, but I would think you're more likely to encounter a SAN which is a different thing altogether.

ESX VM Server or HYPER-V

DNS (maybe)

IIS or another webserver (maybe)

Windows XP / 7 / 8 & Office 2007 / 2010

It all depends on what level of role you are looking to get. (1st, 2nd or 3rd Line)

I am fairly good at DNS, routing, AD and WinOS. I will definitely check out the enterprise level virtualization software and exchange (I could never figure exchange out, so I guess it's time).

What would I be looking at as far as a SAN? Just a vitualbox in the File Server role?

At this point I am shooting for tier II, but I'd take tier I to get my foot in the door. I've got quite a few years under my belt, but it's all small networks where things like virtualization and complex domain policies are not needed.


A SAN system is similar to NAS in that at it's core it's a bunch of hard disks connected to a network, however the network it's connected to is it's own network running it's own communication protocols not your normal tcp/ip chatter. The network is also generally fiber optic end to end rather than CAT5 or 6 and it will use switches specific to SAN networks to join the units containing hard drives to each other. Beyond that i can't give you any more info as i have never encountered one myself. That said if you're aim around 2nd Line then you won't have to worry about SANs. I would focus on Exchange / AD / File System Permissions and it would hurt to brush up on basic firewall knowledge i.e. ports and protocols. That's about all you can do as what else you need to know will depend on what else the company or organisation are using and you won't know that till you get there. Good Luck, oh one more piece of advice, be confident in what you know and if you don't know, don't bullshit :0) 

Yeah, I guess a SAN is a bit outside of what I can do at home then.... Ports and protocols are another good one. I just ebay'd a managed switch and a firewall for $50 after shipping, so I should get some good use out of those.

And yeah, good point about BSing, that's the worst thing you can do. Critical thinking and the ability to adapt is where it's at. Those skills have landed me nearly all the jobs I've had, so I'm sticking with what works ;)


Please for the love of god don't work for the government. Government jobs aren't there as a result of market demand, they are there as a result of force and coercion.

The only ethical reason to work for the government in the IT capacity is to Snowden.

Eh, corporate America is just as complicit in the economic ills of this earth, so where does that leave me if I want to make an "ethical" choice, working on a cooperative farm? That won't provide healthcare to my family, or further humanity past the 18th century. Maybe if we could get some Kim Stanley Robinson sort of economy going (a la Red/Green/Blue Mars) then yeah, I'd be all for that. But we're not there yet...

Not to mention that the other reason I am looking towards the gov't is that they actually pay us what we are worth. Private industry pays IT peanuts for the most part, that was the whole reason I stayed out, even though I had the skill set.