Mathew J. Heath Van Horn, PhD

Hello friend,

We have written this book to help anyone, even you, learn fundamental enterprise network principles through hands-on activities.  The book starts by providing you with step-by-step instructions to create your own virtual environment on any modest PC or laptop running Windows.  After setting up your own learning space, we will walk you through many real-world networking concepts that culminate with you building your own enterprise network.  Once you are comfortable with creating computer networks, we will then show you how to attack your own network and then how to defend your network against those attacks.

The projects in this book are not advanced networking techniques.  The projects are designed for anyone to learn more about computer networks.  We found that many websites and helpful guides spoke to those who already knew much about computers and computer networks.  This book is intended to remove the mystery of computer networks and put the fundamentals right into the hands of people like you.  People who have a desire to learn but are unsure they can learn this stuff.  Believe me, you can.

This book does not go deep into theory.  You can learn the theory from any Wikipedia page or a textbook from the library.  Theory abounds us, but what is missing are the fundamentals of putting the theory to use.  The focus of this book is having you do the things that other authors talk about.  You won’t have to read pages of theory, analyze best practices, answer questions, or read case studies.  After this introduction, you will be getting your hands dirty and start to make things happen.  And you are going to be great at it!

I am Mathew J. Heath Van Horn.   I am a  military veteran, a church leader, a husband, and a father of five.  I am also a kutte-wearing Harley rider and gratefully serve as a professor of cyber security.   I’m no genius; I just work hard and learned through my many failures.  I grew up in a farming town in rural Minnesota.  I didn’t want to be a farmer so I joined the Air Force where I spent the next 23 years learning everything I could.  I then turned around and taught recent high school graduates the fundamentals of electronics repair, establishing voice and data communications, computer programming, and the theoretical principles of cyberspace.  These fundamentals included building computer networks, attacking them as a hacker, and defending them.

Upon retiring as a Cyber Operations Officer, I taught underprivileged New York City college students for five years in upstate NY.  Many of the students I encountered did not enroll in college to pursue a career.  In fact, their number one answer to my new student poll about why they were attending college was “I have nothing else to do.”  When I asked why they wanted to learn cyber technologies, the common response was “I like to play games on my phone.”  Not exactly the highly motivated students desired by professors.  However, I firmly believe that anyone can learn these concepts, and I will do anything I can to teach them.

These students opened my eyes that there are people who believe they ‘can’t’ instead of believing they ‘can’.  Lecturing these students with theory was not going to make much progress in their success.  So I flipped teaching on its head and focused on developing as many hands-on learning labs as possible.  “Learn by doing” became my mantra.  I taught students who initially couldn’t write a term paper or even perform basic mathematical functions a wide variety of cyber skills.  Microsoft Office was our starting point, and from there, I taught students how to build and repair computers and use Windows and Linux operating systems.  I then developed classes to teach them programming languages, wired and wireless networking, computer hacking, and defense.  Students who first stepped into my class believing they couldn’t do anything were now graduating from my classes and getting jobs earning $65,000-$90,000 annually.  Oftentimes earning more than their parent’s combined income!

I wish I could say every student was a success, but some students just held onto that defeatist attitude, and I couldn’t break them of it.  However, I can say that every student who put in the effort required by hands-on learning mastered the material and found great work opportunities.  I teach my students how to ‘Karate chop’ a board on the first day of class.  No student has failed to break the board.  However, some students took 2 failures before they succeeded, and others took 30 failures before they did it.  Learning involves a lot of trying and failure before you see success.

True failure involves only one factor: giving up trying.

You will fail in completing the labs in this book.  However, you will try them again (sometimes again, again, and yet again…) and you will find what you did wrong, fix it, and get it to work.  All of these labs were tested by networking novices.  Our youngest tester was 12 years old and did nothing more on a computer than play Roblox.  He started doing the labs because he wanted to see what everyone else was doing so he said, “I want to try!”

I recruited college students to help build these labs.  Most of these students had vague notions of networking theory, but some had no idea when they started.  My fellow professors asked why I wasn’t using graduate students to help with this book.  Remember, I have doing this for nearly 40 years.  This means that even though I think I am explaining something, I skip over fundamental concepts the students don’t have and the explanations fall flat.  I call this ‘speeding’, but there is probably some fancy pedagogical term for my actions.  I hate it when I speed and I encourage my learners to call me on it.  Anyway, for this effort, I specifically chose students for their enthusiasm and their abilities were largely secondary.

The student’s unique perspectives helped make these labs into what you see, and they deserve all the credit I can give them.  Take note of the names of the writers and testers of each lab.  These students are simply great. I hope you get to meet them someday.

Keep the following in mind as you read this book:

  • This book does not focus on theory.  As our younger testers pointed out, “We can Google anything we want,  just help us do stuff!”  However, we recognize that the labs in this book can be a mystery without the theory.  So we recommend you pair this book with any Introduction to Networking website or textbook that caters to your learning style.
  • We used many testers and the labs worked great.  We used various desktops and laptops in our tests.  However, GNS3 can be tricky depending on the hardware in the machine.  If you are encountering problems, it could be a hardware problem, but that should be your last thought.  When we first started building these labs, we formatted our hard drives often, but now it is a rare occurrence.  Now major problems are usually because we tried something new and pushed the limits of GNS3 and issues were not due to lab complexity.
  • We found that people with the least experience should start with a fresh install of Windows.  This gave learners the best results in completing the labs.
  • We do not use punctuation at the end of the lab steps.  This is because punctuation could cause confusion among new learners.  In these labs, we focus on command-line interface (CLI) typing.  However, CLI commands rely on spaces, periods, and other symbols used by sentences.  By removing the ending punctuation, clarity emerged and learners were more successful.
  • RTFQ is an oft-used acronym that means “Read The ‘Full’ Question”.  It indicates that you probably missed something because you didn’t read slowly and carefully.  My kids have heard this so often that they apply it in their own lives.  On my daughter’s first day of high school, the teacher gave the class a pretest similar to this one and my daughter was the only one who got it right.  All because of RTFQ.
  • Occasionally you will see notes in the labs.  These were inserted because some lab testers had problems and others didn’t or there was a snippet of theory that helps explains the “why” of the lab at that time.
  • New learners found that 7-Zip worked the best in unzipping the files.  Windows Zip worked sometimes, so we suggest you download and install 7-Zip for work on these labs.
  • Other teachers wanted homework and grading recommendations for the labs.  We made these inclusions, but people need to keep in mind that cyber is a 1 or 0 profession.  I grade my student’s work based on a binary grading scale.  The student either got the lab to work or not.  There is no such thing as being “almost”, “mostly”, or “kind of” pregnant.  Networks are the same way, there is no such thing as “Computer A can nearly communicate with Computer B”.  They either communicate or not.  Therefore, the deliverables and homework are written with this all-or-nothing idea.
  • We used many screenshots to communicate the steps at the beginning of the book.  We first embedded the screenshots in the text, but our testers said frequent figures slowed down what they were doing.  So we moved most of them to a link that you can click on as you need them.  As the labs progressed, we used fewer screenshots since much of the material had already been covered.
  • Speaking of which, we generally do not repeat material.  Since this is an e-book, the learner can have more than one lab open at a time to refer back to other labs as often as you need to.
  • We want learners to learn a wide variety of skills.  Therefore, we deliberately used different techniques to satisfy common tasks.  This way learners gain topical networking experience and various tools and techniques in virtual and physical machines.
  • This book is intended to be a living document.  We are sure that both learners and teachers will be sending us feedback on things we missed or just general suggestions of material they think should be included.  Also, cyber changes rapidly, and these labs will not stay static as written; they just can’t.  We welcome comments and suggestions.  Furthermore, if anyone wants to submit a complete lab, we will evaluate its applicability and gladly incorporate it into the textbook and give the submitter full credit.

In conclusion, we used professional and novice inputs in building learning labs to reach the widest learner audience possible.  We want people to enjoy learning networking principles by doing rather than reading.  We hope you enjoy this textbook, and we know you can do it!


Mathew J. Heath Van Horn, PhD
Jacob Christensen, Student
Julian Romano, Student
Raechel Ferguson, Student
Dante Rocca, Student


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Mastering Enterprise Networks Copyright © 2024 by Mathew J. Heath Van Horn, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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