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Principles of Network and System Administration Paperback – February 13, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0470868072 ISBN-10: 0470868074 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 646 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 2 edition (February 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470868074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470868072
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A well-written and important book, "one of the best in the genre", says our reviewer.

Textbooks are not always just for the classroom. Sometimes, they're for holding up bookcases, large pots with plants in them and for keeping doors/windows open. Occasionally, they are the treasure chests of information a soul requires to do something for the betterment of self, system and/or network.

This little book will improve all three. Principles of Network and System Administration is neither big nor flashy, but it is probably one of the best works in the genre. It builds on an extensive body of work by others in the field and pulls the information together in such a way that the material is easily comprehended and absorbed. Burgess' writing is clear and engaging, something few textbooks achieve.

Burgess approaches both network and system administration from the perspective of "those principles and ideas of system administration which do not change on a day-to-day basis..." (from the Preface). The first principle Burgess sets out has to do with permissions:

Restriction of unnecessary privilege protects a system from accidental and malicious damage, and infection by viruses, and prevents users from concealing their actions with false identities. It is desirable to restrict users' privileges for the greater good of everyone on the network.

Burgess pays particular attention to the effects of given actions on the networked community, whether that network is a LAN or the Internet. We live in an age of networks, where what one user does most certainly and directly affects others on-line. This theme runs throughout the book, particularly in discussions of security, access to resources, data separation and permissions. The balance between individual users' rights and the needs of the community must be carefully weighed and balanced by the system/network administrator.

Highlights

Security is thoroughly discussed in two consecutive chapters. "Chapter 9: Principles of Security" covers a gamut of topics ranging from the physical security of a system to an overview of some common network attacks. Burgess nicely sums up the four basic elements of security (privacy, authentication, trust and integrity) and binds them to the underlying principle of security: "The fundamental requirement for security is the ability to restrict access and privilege to data."

By access, the author means those events that can corrupt/remove data, i.e., electrical storms, accidents and the like. If these events don't have access to data (because the data and/or backups are stored separately from where the effects of these events are likely to be felt) the data is partially secure; if users' privileges are guarded and enforced, the data is more secure still.

Burgess pays perhaps more attention than many of his author colleagues to the human factor in system and network administration, the sociology of computer users. He raises the question of security vs. user convenience, pointing out that inconvenient security measures will be more likely to be circumvented by users than be effective.

The same principle applies to overly conspicuous security measures in the face of an accomplished cracker. Security measures must be taken, but to make them obvious frequently serves as a temptation for the malicious user to get around a barrier to what (being so well-protected) may just be very valuable information. Then again, the pay-off for such a user may merely be bragging rights. The system's administrator is advised to verify such claims first, deal with the situation methodically and avoid panic altogether.

Chapter 10 deals thoroughly with security implementation, from analysis of network security, to WWW security, to intrusion detection and forensics. Again, the specifics of methodology are not the issue, but the reasoning used in setting up protected systems appropriately is. A Word of Caution

If you don't come to systems administration from a scientific/mathematical background, you'll want to have a good math reference or two while going through "Chapter 11: Analytical System Administration". There are several references to statistical and calculus formulae that are better understood, and even implemented, if the reader has a faint idea of what Burgess is doing with the numbers.This is not to disparage the chapter at all. Evidence collection is a requirement of systems administrators if policies are to have any relationship to (or bearing on) user behavior or that of hardware and software performance over a period of time.

Little Extras

In addition to his focus on Linux/FreeBSD, Burgess also shows a strong appreciation for, and understanding of, the value of cfengine as the system administrator's "best friend". While its entries in the index are inaccurate, cfengine is well-delineated on pages 144-145, and again on pages 158-159. Especially nice is his description of how cfengine can be used simply by setting up its time classes to work as a user interface for cron, as a sort of front end with a variety of scripts as required. Pages 385-392 cover the use of cfengine in programming/automating tasks.

As an educator at Oslo College, Norway, Burgess demonstrates an alternate application of Principle 50, which states: "Every change or effect happens in response to a cause, which provokes it." Exercises at the end of each chapter are geared to grounding the reader in both theory and practice of network/system administration.

Appendix C contains introductions to, and brief code snippets of, several common scripting languages (PHP, HTML, Perl and CGI), as well as make. Useful if you're system administrator for a server!

Conclusion

Burgess has presented a work that pays great attention to the heuristics of system and network administration; technical and sociological issues are taken into account equally and are presented thoughtfully with an eye to teaching not what to do as a system or network administrator, but how to think about problems that arise in the practice. As a result, the author keeps the reader looking forward to what comes next and to actually implementing what he or she has learned.

(Stephanie Black,LinuxJournal.com, December 4, 2001) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Burgess' fine book...is a well-articulated introduction to a corpus of guiding principles for systems administrators...I consider this an important book...I think that Burgess will become part of the required reading for future (and current) system administrators." - Peter Salus, USENIX Association --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mark Burgess is a writer with many interests. His books span from fiction to hard science, and he actively writes philosphically in his blog about all aspects of modern information culture. He is an active public speaker on the international conference circuit, and is engaged in promoting science to a wide audience.

He is the Founder and original author of CFEngine. He was senior lecturer and then appointed full professor of Network and System Administration at Oslo University College from 1994-2011. He was the first professor with this title, and is largely responsible for defining the field. Mark Burgess obtained a PhD in Theoretical Physics at Newcastle University, for which he received the Runcorn Prize.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This work is a good one on the non-technical side of system adminsitration. It does not deal with stuff like HOW to install a system, but the WHYs, such as WHY you want to properly document your installations.
This sort of work has been needed for a long time, since "The Keys to Successful Unix System Management" went out of print. However, this work may be a bit too academic for many admins. They might find the recent "Practice of System and Network Administration" to be a bit better. If you can afford both, do so.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sojournalist on October 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Edited 11/22/02.
I bought this over a year ago and was not impressed, initially. However, I am re-reading it in light of new responsibilities, and I'm changing my opinion, slightly.
First of all, if you are a serious system administrator, you should own, read, and work to the principles outlined in this book.
With that said, there were two items that I felt detracted from the presentation.
First was, there was much text devoted to particular operating systems (both *nix and Windows). Whether you're dealing with Linux, Unix, or BeOS, it's the principles that matter, not the implementation.
The second was that cfEngine, a systems configuration engine, was used to demonstrate the principles. This works on Unix - and again, detracted from the overall presentation of the "Principles" in the title I bought it for.
So, bottom line, the book is worth a read. Spend some time working to understand and apply the principles in your environment. If you can implement some of the specifics of the author's techniques, that's all the better.
11/10/02 update: "The Practice of System and Network Administration" is in. Short verdict, it's worth the money.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Peter Salus, Login - June 2000 Another winner! I keep Nemeth et al. and AEleen Frisch at hand for referencing the systems admin tasks we all need to do. Burgess' fine book is something ``completely different.'' It is a well-articulated introduction to a corpus of guiding principles for systems administrators. And as we live in a world of heterogeneity, Burgess ``covers'' Unix, Unix-like, DOS, Windows, Mac, Amiga, and NT systems.
Burgess says that he wants to express a sound and logical way to approach networked systems. While I can find nits (that's a reviewers job, isn't it?), I consider this an important book. More and more talk of certification can only lead to a body of knowledge and a set of tenets that are 'required.'
I think that Burgess will become part of the required reading for future (and current) systems administrators.
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By Jill on January 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had order this for my oldest son for Christmas...it was mailed out to me in time to give it to him. I was what he had wanted and he loved it. Thanks
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4 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Debra Johnson on September 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is completely filled with nonsense. Did this guy ever take any classes or instruction on what is he writing about? What qualifications does he have? Spend you money on a real networking book from a qualified author.
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