Computer Network Technicians - What They Do

Computer network technicians establish, operate, maintain and co-ordinate the use of local and wide area networks (LANs and WANs), mainframe networks, hardware, software and related computer equipment. They set up and maintain Internet and intranet Web sites and Web-server hardware and software, and monitor and optimize network connectivity and performance. They are employed in information technology units throughout the private and public sectors. Supervisors of computer network technicians are included in this unit group.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Maintain, troubleshoot, repair and administer local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), mainframe networks, computer workstations, connections to the Internet and peripheral equipment
  • Evaluate and install computer hardware, networking software, operating system software and software applications
  • Operate master consoles to monitor the performance of computer systems and networks and to co-ordinate access and use of computer networks
  • Provide problem-solving services to network users
  • Install, maintain, troubleshoot and upgrade Web-server hardware and software
  • Implement network traffic and security monitoring software, and optimize server performance
  • Perform routine network start up and close down and maintain control records
  • Perform data backups and disaster recovery operations
  • Conduct tests and perform security and quality controls
  • Control and monitor e-mail use, Web navigation, and installed software
  • Perform shell scripting or other basic scripting tasks
  • May supervise other workers in this group.

Job titles

  • computer network technician
  • supervisor, computer network technicians
  • Internet Web site technician
  • Web technician
  • data centre operator
  • LAN (local area network) administrator
  • LAN (local area network) technician
  • network administrator
  • network support technician
  • system administrator
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of a college or other program in computer science, network administration, Web technology or a related field is usually required.
  • Certification or training provided by software vendors may be required by some employers.

Essential Skills


  • Read short passages on product labels, for example, read handling instructions on labels of hazardous goods, such as cleaning solutions. (1)
  • Read log book entries, for example, to learn about malfunctions and how they were handled, and system upgrades to hardware and software. (2)
  • Read emails from coworkers, colleagues, clients and suppliers, for example, read requests for information about accessing data and recovering deleted files. (2)
  • Read text entries in forms, such as comments on request-for-service forms to learn about problems users are experiencing. (2)
  • Read company emails, memos and bulletins, for example, about planned shutdowns of Internet servers so that they can prepare for service interruptions. (2)
  • Read information about upcoming conferences and webinars to update skills. (2)
  • Read files documenting past file server and operating system problems and how they were solved. (2)
  • Read product reviews online to research and compare products for purchase. (3)
  • Read articles, editorials and features, both paper-based and online, to keep up with current trends and to learn about new technologies. For example, they read articles about data security trends and updates to software programs. (3)
  • Read blogs and forums to locate troubleshooting and other technical advice. (3)
  • Read manuals, both paper-based and online, to look up troubleshooting solutions, updates, and information about configuring hardware and software including routers, modems and smart switches. (4)
  • Read and interpret letters of understanding, agreements and contracts, for example, they read software licensing agreements to understand usage rights and restrictions. (4)
  • May read lengthy audit reports, for example, supervisors may read consultants' reports for opinions on current equipment and proposed upgrades to systems. (4)

Document use

  • Locate and enter information in staff contact lists for email addresses and phone numbers, shift checklists and timesheets. (1)
  • Locate information on product and equipment labels, for example, locate product codes, specification and serial numbers on electronic equipment. (1)
  • Enter information into lists and tables, for example, enter information into service logs about work performed and problems experienced. (2)
  • Locate information in assembly drawings to locate parts and installation sequences for devices, such as drives and sound cards. (2)
  • Locate data in graphs, such as histograms to identify the most frequent reasons for trouble calls. (2)
  • Locate information in lists, tables, and other information in databases to track projects and connect with co-workers. (2)
  • Locate information in and create spreadsheets to compare products and costs, and to track inventories. (3)
  • Locate information in and create network diagrams to illustrate network operation, and to compare old and new networks. (3)
  • Locate information in forms, for example, read work order requests for information about software and hardware malfunctions, maintenance requirements and special instructions. (3)
  • Enter information into forms, for example, enter names, dates, passwords and restriction and access codes into account application forms. (3)
  • Locate and interpret information in schematics, for example, architectural features and layouts, such as routing paths of routers and ports in network schematics. (3)


  • Write short notes and reminders, such as "To Do" lists, lists of installation task descriptions in service log books, and reminders to co-workers about performance tests that need to be done. (1)
  • Write emails to co-workers, for example, when they notice something suspicious while checking an alert or monitoring software, or to ask IT to do a switch reset. (2)
  • Write text entries into incident forms, for example, descriptions of problems and the steps taken to resolve them as part of incident reports. (2)
  • Write emails to customers, supervisors and suppliers. For example, they respond to questions from customers, or ask suppliers about new products or technical solutions to problems. (2)
  • Write text entries into forms that are mostly computer-based including work orders, logbooks, and customer work orders. (2)
  • Write instructional guides, for example write guides to help inexperienced users install and update software. (3)
  • Write proposals detailing technical requirements, steps that need to be completed and timelines. (4)
  • May write reports, for example, system audit reports in which they describe the quality of networks, web service and messaging systems, and make recommendations for improvement. (4)


Money Math

  • May buy parts, supplies, tools and equipment using money from petty cash. (1)

Scheduling, Budgeting and Accounting

  • Calculate expense claim amounts, for example calculate charges for using a personal vehicle by multiplying distance traveled by per kilometre rates, and adding amounts for meals, hotel rooms and incidentals. (2)
  • Calculate quantities of network hardware and peripheral equipment, for example cables, routers, switches, hubs and other materials needed for new installations and equipment updates. (2)
  • Manage inventories and databases of network hardware and software and data storage capacity, for example, inventories of equipment including routers, cables, switches and hard drives. (2)
  • Create and adjust schedules, timetables and timelines, for example, develop schedules for data backups, software update runs, diagnostics testing and equipment maintenance. (3)
  • Calculate invoice amounts, for example calculate professional fees for services using hourly and daily rates. They add costs for supplies, apply discounts and taxes, and calculate totals and sub-totals. (3)
  • Calculate unit and net prices, for example, network administrators calculate prices of individual pieces of networking software and equipment offered in bundled packages. They calculate net prices for equipment after corporate discounts. (3)
  • May create operational budgets, for example, network and system administrators calculate operating costs for networking, messaging and website systems. They consider costs for staffing, overhead, supplies, goods, services and special projects. (4)

Measurement and Calculation

  • Use binary code on mainframe, and translate numbers into and from binary, decimal and hexadecimal numbers, for example, use binary to check IP addresses match. (3)
  • Calculate capacity requirements for computers and networks, such as bandwidth requirements for networks to determine the quantities, sizes and types of cables, routers, switches and hubs required. (3)

Data Analysis

  • Compare counts and readings to standards and specifications to verify that network systems and computer workstations are working properly. (1)
  • Collect data and develop statistics to describe the performance of computers and networks, for example, analyze data on input and output operations to identify changes in the usage and performance of mainframes and network systems. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate time needed to complete work tasks, such as software upgrades and data backup. (2)

Oral communication

  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers, for example, methods for troubleshooting problems that come up, or procedures for switching server systems during scheduled maintenance operations. (2)
  • Explain projects to clients using terms and descriptions the client will understand, for example, how Wi-Fi access will be set up for employees on phones and computers. (2)
  • Answer questions and give instructions to computer and network users, such as questions from users about changing access codes and recovering deleted files. (2)
  • Ask clients and network users for information to solve problems they are experiencing, for example, they are unable to send an email or open an attachment. (2)
  • Train clients about using their network using online training sessions and video conferencing. (3)
  • Attend meetings with managers and co-workers to update progress on projects or to collaborate with other teams, for example, discuss difficult-to-solve problems or methods for improving an email system. (3)
  • Discuss the technical aspects of computers and networks with co-workers, colleagues, suppliers, and network and computer users, for example, discuss malfunctions of networking hardware and software with co-workers and give instructions for repairs. (3)
  • May give instructions to workers they supervise, for example, computer network supervisors give instructions to carry out recovery operations and system shutdowns. (3)
  • Negotiate difficult situations with clients and network users who are upset or angry about disruptions to service. (3)
  • Make presentations to managers, management committees, boards of directors and colleagues, for example, present plans for proposed website architecture to managers and management committees. (4)


Problem Solving

  • Discover they do not have enough supplies for maintenance and upgrade activities, for example, not enough cables for setting up workstations. They contact alternate suppliers and create temporary set-ups to run workstations until the correct cables arrive. (2)
  • Find they are unable to maintain efficient network operations because co-workers and users are not following security, storage and backup procedures. They send out memos about the risks of such activities, implement additional security controls and speak to the individuals involved. (2)
  • Discover that the physical worksite does not match the layout shown in drawings. They advise customers and supervisors of the problem and complete other work until the needed drawings are available. (2)
  • Figure out how to solve difficult problems, such as a credit card machine that cannot communicate with the server, by asking co-workers and searching online for solutions. For critical problems they may have to find a way to work around the problem or come up with a temporary solution. (3)

Decision Making

  • Choose to replace hardware and upgrade software, for example, choose to upgrade security monitoring and containment software when their computers and systems fail to detect viruses during test runs. (2)
  • Decide on computer purchases based on need, cost and budget. Make purchasing decisions, such as cables, compact disks, routers and switches. They seek approval for purchases of more expensive equipment, such as servers. (2)
  • Decide on the level of urgency of problems reported by users based on various factors including complexity of the problem. (2)
  • May select job tasks and assignments for staff they supervise, for example assign customer service activities to technicians who are comfortable giving instructions and answering questions. They consider the complexity of job tasks and the skill and training required by workers. (2)
  • Choose configurations for computers and networks, for example select the configuration of local and wide area networks to meet operational and business requirements. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • May evaluate the work performance of workers they supervise. For example, network and system administrators assess workers' technical skills by observing them as they carry out job tasks, inspecting the quality of their work and monitoring their productivity. (2)
  • Assess the suitability of network hardware and software, for example, assess the suitability of exchange server software by reviewing data on compatibility with other software programs, adaptability to specific business needs and capability to block spam and manage mail. (3)
  • Assess functionality of networks, for example evaluate the functionality of business intranets by examining security and performance data to identify transfer rates, incidence of error and failure readings, and number of unplanned shutdowns. They use their assessments to make recommendations for changes to enhance performance. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

  • Sequence their own job tasks. They integrate their activities with co-workers and colleagues to carry out job tasks, such as data recovery and the installation of software and hardware. They plan a variety of activities, such as monitoring, testing and upgrading networks, supporting network users and responding to their questions. They reschedule job tasks to accommodate emergency troubleshooting of system failures.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember the features of new or updated software to answer questions from clients.
  • Remember solutions for solving networking or software issues in case similar problems occur with the same or different clients.
  • Remember client network set up to more efficiently answer client questions or deal with client issues.

Finding Information

  • Ask coworkers, colleagues and supervisors for information or help with troubleshooting. (2)
  • Refer to work orders and log book entries to learn more about customer requests and problems they are experiencing. (2)
  • Find information about networking equipment and software by reviewing magazines, trade publications and suppliers' websites. (2)
  • Participate in online technical support forums and consult other network technicians, software and hardware specialists and consultants. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use electronic office equipment, such as printers, scanners, fax machines and copiers. (1)
  • Use presentation software to create slide presentations. They insert and format text, tables, graphs, pictures and diagrams. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software to track costs and produce invoices. (2)
  • Use communication software to exchange email and attachments with co-workers, colleagues, clients, network users and suppliers, and to manage distribution lists and schedule meetings. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access articles to stay current on industry trends and practices. (2)
  • Use the Internet to locate information about network software and hardware set-ups, and to visit software developer and technical support websites. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access blogs and forums where they seek and offer advice about industry and product trends, troubleshooting, and other technical information. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by suppliers, employers and schools. (2)
  • Use video conferencing and online training sessions. (2)
  • Use advanced features of word processing software to write, edit and format a variety of documents. (3)
  • Create and modify spreadsheets to organize data on network performance and usage. They use macros, insert calculation functions, merge cells, import and export data, and create graphs. (3)
  • Use cloud technology to share, transfer and backup data on remote networks. (3)
  • Use the Internet and intranets to make changes and complete repairs to software remotely. (3)
  • May use advanced features of project management applications to record activities, assign tasks to workers, schedule activities, balance workloads and print reports. (3)
  • Use operations and infrastructure management software to monitor the performance of servers, networks and devices including routers, network attached storage, virtual hosts, Linux servers and Windows servers. (4)
  • Use operating system software to manage network users' accounts and to establish access rights for group folders. (4)
  • Use software to configure a variety of computer and network peripheral hardware. (4)
  • Use advanced technical skills to create and modify databases that manage data on network computers using data-embedded graphical representations of complex systems, such as workflows, processes and business infrastructure. For example, when a client is experiencing a problem, the computer network technician will already have the history of their computer in the database. They can use this to explain how a network operates to a customer or create a visual to compare a new network to an old network. (5)
  • Design and set-up new computer networks after assessing computer system and network needs. They install and configure operating systems to create networks. (5)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Computer network technicians coordinate and integrate job tasks with co-workers, such as programmers, technical support staff, system analysts, other network and web technicians and supervisors.

Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is critical for computer network technicians as information technologies are constantly changing. They need to maintain current knowledge of networking applications and security practices. If employed by larger companies, they may be sent to conferences and for training to update their skills. Computer network technicians access online training, for example, Microsoft has certification programs. Computer network technicians also attend trade shows and webinars. (4)