The home page of the ITPRC Web site introduces it as “The Information Technology Professional’s Resource Center” (ITPRC, 2007). Originally created in 1999, the avowed purpose of the Web site is to provide a one-stop shop for IT professionals for technical information on data networking.
The purpose is laudable because data networking is a vital function which underlies many of the devices and systems that make our modern life convenient and efficient such as computers, ATMs, cell phones, airline reservation systems, and the like. Any resource which aids the understanding by the concerned professionals regarding this body of knowledge is beneficial to society as a whole, directly or indirectly. On the other hand, the subject matter of this Web site is so highly technical, extensive and rapidly evolving that it must be very difficult to maintain it and keep it abreast of developments.
The links in the home page are grouped into four main headings: (1) Career Management, (2) Technologies, (3) Operations and (4) Others. The ITPRC Web site may thus be considered as a portal that leads to other Web sites which might be of interest to the network engineer in the areas represented by the headings (Deitel, 2001, pp. 35-37).
The meat of this Web portal is the Technologies group of links. Under this group the link titles roughly correspond to the OSI reference model for network architectures (Martin, 1988). This is a conceptual model which is well-known to networking professionals and even those at the student level. They are greatly aided by this grouping scheme in organizing their searches for resources on the Internet.
For instance, under the heading Technologies, we find the links “Physical”, “Data Link” and “Content Network”, while the OSI model has the bottom layers “Physical”, “Data Link” and “Network”. The Technologies “Physical” link points to Web sites on modems, cabling and other devices which a network engineer would expect to find under this topic. The other ITPRC links under Technologies roughly correspond to areas covered by the remaining layers in the OSI model, namely the Transport, Session, Presentation and Application layers (Martin).
The Operations category of links provides information on organizations (business, government or NGO) which run networks, software tools for measuring network performance such as response times for messages sent over the Internet, and other software for monitoring security conditions or threats such as repeated hacking attempts.
The links classified under Others point to a treasure trove of information in the form of Web sites containing dictionaries, glossaries and FAQs pertaining to computer and networking terms. And if the researcher’s mind is having difficulties in untangling the complexities of networks, there is the Humor link to Web sites which provide comic relief.
A Helpful Chain of Links
Suppose I were a graduate student who sets out to understand the evolution of the Internet’s TCP/IP message routing techniques. In the ITPRC home page under Technologies I will click on “TCP/IP FAQ”. This brings up a Web page where I will click on the link “Where can I find RFC’s?” That leads me to the page on “The Definitive RFC Repository” which mentions the URL <http://www.rfc-editor.org/>. When I click on that URL – voila – out comes the RFC Editor Web site (RFC Editor, n.d.) which includes a search engine for all RFCs, from the earliest RFC dated 1969 to the latest one published in 2009. This is just one example of the richness of information sources that are accessible through the ITPRC portal. One could follow other chains of links to Web sites which eventually lead to the information sought after.
A Useful Professional Resource
The ITPRC has links to Web sites that meet a wide variety of the needs of data networking professionals. We have seen earlier how the portal could be useful to a graduate student. For an engineer on the job, it has links for finding information related to workaday matters such as the latest viruses circulating on the Internet.
For a technology manager who is about to embark on an upgrade of the enterprise network, the industry news links would be useful starting points for learning about developments that could keep his company at par with or ahead of its competitors. Thereafter he could direct his staff to conduct in-depth research on the technology behind the new product offerings and the likelihood that the products have been thoroughly debugged.
The network professional looking out for an opportunity to advance his career in another company would find the “Job Databases” links invaluable.
The links to some of the sites are no longer valid. Under the “Book Sites” link, the very first two Web sites no longer exist. The third Web site, “Half Price Computer Books”, does not live up to its title. You have to keep on clicking a number of Web sites in succession before you come up with any site that offers substantial discounts on computer books.
The ITPRC site is a very useful portal for the data networking professional in the sense that beginning with just one Web site he is directed to the sources of tons of information in the data networking field.