Network engineer

Installs, maintains and supports computer communication networks within an organisation or between organisations.

Job description

Network engineers are IT professionals who design, implement, and troubleshoot computer networks. Every organisation and business, from health boards to industries, relies on network systems to communicate both internally and externally with suppliers, clients and users. Network engineers make sure these systems work faultlessly and efficiently, ensuring that all users have continual access and service. They need to thoroughly understand all the aspects of hardware and software that enable networks to function.

The work requires putting together several computers which are centrally connected to a parent computer, referred to as a server. Here all programs, files and information in general are stored. A network engineer also creates and sets up methods by which the network can be configured and managed.

They can be engaged in one or all of the activities related to this task. The type of work very much depends on the nature and size of the organisation. Typical activities include installing new server hardware and software infrastructures; allocating network resources; providing technical support to users with varying levels of IT competence; implementing and monitoring network security; diagnosing and fixing faults and problems; training users; and planning and implementing future IT development.

In a large organisation, such as one of the big investment banks, a network engineer could be responsible for one small aspect of the system. In a small organisation a network engineer could be the general IT troubleshooter and be responsible for all the above activities and more.

The ideal candidate

Network engineers need to have a very strong technical background, but more particularly a good knowledge of LANs (local area networks) and WANs (wide area networks) is essential. Problem-solving, teamwork and negotiating skills are key qualities. The ability to work under pressure is vital, particularly when systems fail, as vast sums of money can be lost every minute.

Starting out

Network engineers often start out in technical support roles and then progress to the position of network engineer.

Work activities

  • Installing new hardware, systems and software for networks
  • Installing, configuring, maintaining network services, equipment and devices
  • Ensuring that the network has been customised to satisfy a client’s requirements
  • Supporting administration of servers and server clusters
  • Managing all system back-up and restore protocol; developing and installing data retrieval system
  • Performing troubleshooting analysis of servers, workstations and associated systems
  • Documenting network problems and resolutions for future reference
  • Monitoring system performance and implementing performance tuning
  • Managing user accounts, permissions, email, anti-virus, anti-spam
  • Installing security programs to prevent unauthorised access to privileged data and information, and overseeing software and network security
  • Updating security programs and frequent changing of passwords.