This is a review of the textbook for the Cisco Networking Academy Switched Networks course. The book contains the same information about networking concepts, protocols and devices as the curriculum that you can access online. You can purchase the Switched Networks Companion Guide from the Cisco Press website.

The book contains eight chapters, one appendix and the glossary. Here’s a brief description of each chapter:

  • * Introduction to Switched Networks – Discusses converged networks, frame forwarding and switching domains among other introductory concepts related to switching.
  • * Basic Switching Concepts and Configuration – Guides the student through the initial step when the switch is taken out from the box up to the point where security features and remote access is configured on the switch.
  • * VLANs – Introduces VLAN including its definition, benefits and types. Also VLAN trunks and DTP are introduced. A good portion of the chapter is allocated to VLANs and trunks troubleshooting and VLAN design considerations.
  • * LAN Redundancy – Introduces Spanning Tree Protocol with all its flavours: 802.1D, 802.1w and 802.1s. Actually this topic is described in detail and includes operation, configuration and troubleshooting. In addition, you will also learn about First Hop Redundancy Protocols (HSRP and GLBP) in this chapter.
  • * Link Aggregation – Discusses LACP and PAGP.
  • * Inter-VLAN Routing – Looks at the methods used to implement inter-VLAN routing. Configuration templates for the routers and switches, troubleshooting techniques are demonstrated while you go through the chapter.
  • * DHCP – Discusses DHCP, both v4 and v6. Detailed operation and configuration explanations of DHCP are provided.
  • * Wireless LANs – Describes operation, security and configuration of wireless LAN in detail.

Each chapter is split into several sections:

  • * Objectives – Covers the concepts that will be discussed over the chapter. Actually, the objectives are not described clearly. The reader will have to identify the chapter objectives by answering a few questions. Obviously, without reading the chapter, you will not be able to figure out the objectives. I found this a good practice to have readers figure out the objectives by themselves.
  • * Key Terms – Lists the key terms discussed in the chapter, including the page number reference where you can read about them. In the PDF version of the book, once you click on a particular key term, you are directed to the chapter section where the term is discussed.
  • * Summary – A summary of what has been discussed in the chapter.
  • * Check Your Understanding Questions – These are 10-20 questions at the end of the chapter to help you find out how well you understood the topics discussed throughout the chapter. The correct answers are provided in the appendix.

Some parts of the chapters are marked so that readers will know that they should pay attention to those sections or follow the specific steps provided.

For instance, throughout the chapters, you will see “How To” notes on the side of the page. This means that you should follow the exact steps described there. For instance, one situation can be a configuration template. You should remember to follow the exact steps shown in the “How To” section. This makes sense as sometimes there is a particular order on how the commands should be entered on CLI.

Other sections will mention that a Packet Tracer simulation follows. Of course you cannot try that unless you use the curriculum. This is good for situations when you want to go through all the Packet Tracer simulations and you want to have them pop up while you browse the book.

Another thing that I find very useful is how the processes are described. For instance, for every step of BPDU Propagation and Process, you have a different diagram. Usually you get the same diagram with numbers on it near the devices. Each number represents a step of the process. Below the diagram is an explanation of each step.

The diagrams are clear and the fact that different colours are used lets the reader focus easier on what’s being discussed with regards to that diagram.

The questions at the end of each chapter are presented in such a way that they summarize the chapter’s content and by answering correctly, you will prove that you understood the concepts discussed throughout.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Switched Networks Companion Guide as it thoroughly covers Spanning Tree topics (operation, configuration and verification), First Hop Redundancy Protocols, Dynamic Host Control Protocol, link aggregation (LACP and PAGP) and wireless LANs.

Although you can find everything in this book in the curriculum, it is intended for those who do not have access to the curriculum all the time. With the Companion Guide, you can access the content of the Switched Networks course without being connected to Internet.