Monthly Archives: October 2013

Should Juniper Networks Certification Be Your Next Step?

juniper, it certification exams, junos, networks technology So, you want a fulfilling and financially rewarding career in technology, perhaps software engineering or networking. Which certifications would you look at? We’ve discussed some entry level certifications here and here, yet, it never hurts to look outside the box.

Recently, Glassdoor have conducted a survey and compiled the list of the top 25 companies with the highest base salaries for software engineers. Any guesses who pays the most? While Cisco, Google, Yahoo!, etc. have made it high up the list, they have been outshined by the company many wouldn’t think of: Juniper Networks:

The full list is available on Glassdoor’s website.

With these figures, Juniper Networks is worth taking a closer look at. Are these people sitting on a goldmine or what?

Even if you aren’t ready to send out your job application to Juniper Networks, what’s not to me missed is Juniper’s Network Certification Program. Is this something to consider? Yet, let’s look at the company first.

Juniper Networks, Inc.

Founded in 1996 and gone public in 1999, Juniper Networks hit the ground running and started shipping its first product, the M40 Router, in September 1998. By 2000, it took 30% of the core router market, mainly at Cisco’s expense. And yes, these two companies have always been competitors, even though Cisco’s market share is at least twice as big these days.

Juniper has always been a solid company, since the time it was started by Pradeep Sindhu, a principal scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center back in the day. He brought in talented management, secured investments and developed innovative products, which led to Juniper having had of the most successful public offerings in history: during its first day as publicly traded company, Juniper’s stock grew by 190%.

Today, the company designs and sells high-performance Internet Protocol network products and services. Juniper’s main products include T-series, M-series, E-series, MX-series, and J-series families of routers, EX-series Ethernet switches and SRX-series security products. Junos, Juniper’s own network operating system, runs on most of their products.

Is Juniper really so great to work for?

We wish we had some personal experiences to share on this one! It certainly does not sound bad! In 2009, Fortune Magazine named Juniper among 100 Best Companies to Work for. The same year, the company ranked 4th in Fortune Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies list in Networking Communications category. From 2006 to 2011, Juniper kept receiving the Association of Support Professionals’ The Year’s Ten Best Web Support Sites award. Not bad, is it?

Yet, there is a query we all can’t stop thinking of: how do they manage to pay the highest salaries? While Juniper’s stock looks good, they aren’t the only ones doing well, right? And Cisco has more than double Juniper’s market share. So how can these guys afford it?

Experts tend to agree that paying salaries way above the industry average, Juniper attracts and retains talented professionals. A lot should probably be attributed to the company’s internal spending management, less ‘pizzazz’ and a little less of that Google-style office fluff: Juniper considers salary to be the primary motivation tool.

So, what about Juniper’s certifications?

The Juniper Networks Certification Program (JNCP) consists of 2 areas: Junos-based and platform-specific, multi-tiered tracks. The certifications validate your skills and understanding of various areas in Juniper’s technology.

Similar to Cisco Certifications, JNCP features various tracks, tiered from Associate to Expert level. Three tracks are based on the Junos operating system, while others cover various aspects Juniper platforms and equipment.

Each track comes in the following levels:

  • Juniper Networks Certified Associate
  • Juniper Networks Certified Specialist
  • Juniper Networks Certified Professional
  • Juniper Networks Certified Expert

The 3 Junos-based tracks/specializations are:

  • Service Provider Routing and Switching
  • Enterprise Routing and Switching
  • Junos Security

Besides Junos, JNCP includes a set of Product & Technology Certifications:

  • E-Series
  • Firewall/ VPN
  • SSL
  • IDP
  • Junos Pulse Access Control
  • Junos Pulse Secure Access
  • QFabric
  • Wireless LAN
  • WX Series

Here’s what is available as of today:


Product and Technology Tracks




























Juniper Certification Exams are administered worldwide by authorized testing centers (including Pearson Vue who administers Cisco Certification programs, by the way).

With Juniper’s technology, reputation, sales and revenue going strong year after year, their certification program becomes a sensible option for many of us. Stay tuned as we go over Juniper’s individual certifications and exams in our next post.

CompTIA A+ Certification: Your First Step Into the Big IT World

comptia a, it certification exams, it careerBeing at the very first stage of any journey is exciting. You get to choose your way, experience the successes and learn from some … not so successful moments. If you want your IT career journey to go smoothly, CompTIA’s A+ certification is the bullet-proof starting point for it. It validates the knowledge and skills in maintaining PCs, mobile devices, laptops, operating systems and printers.

Why A+?

A+ may be as basic of an industry certification as it gets. This brings you a couple of great news:

  1. No expensive classes or preparation materials. You can get pretty much everything you need online and on a budget, study on your own and do great on the exams. It’s more than realistic.
  2. Being A+ certified is your ticket to being considered for proper help desk/IT technicians’ entry level positions. Moreover, it opens the doors for taking next steps with CompTIA: Network+ and Security+. Why are we telling this now? Keep reading.
  3. It is worth pointing out that CompTIA’s reputation now is soaring all times high, with their certifications being required by leading companies, as well as US Government bodies, including the Ministry of Defense.

Getting Certified

To achieve the A+ certification, you will have to pass 2 exams: CompTIA A+ 220-801 (A+ Essentials) and CompTIA A+ 220-802 (A+ Practical Application):

  • CompTIA A+ Essentials covers the fundamentals of computer technology, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware, as well as basic networking.
  • CompTIA A+ Practical Application tests the skills required to install and configure PC operating systems, as well as configuring common features (e.g. network connectivity and email) for mobile operating systems Android and Apple iOS.

Both of these exams consist maximum of 90 queries each – all of them being either multiple choice or performance-based. Both exams are 90 minutes long, so expect to have around 1 minute per query. While this may sound overwhelming, people who have gotten their certification claim both exams to be absolutely doable. With rather generous passing score margins, you have a room for mistakes (don’t enjoy it too much though): the 220-801 has the passing score 675 (on a scale of 900) and the 220-802 needs you to get at least 700 out of 900.

If you aren’t a native speaker and would prefer taking the exams in the language other than English, keep in mind that at the moment CompTIA also offers these exams in German, Japanese, Spanish , with Simplified Chinese expected to be added soon (it has already been announced).

What’s the deal with CompTIA certifications?

Over the years, CompTIA has boosted their reputation from being just an IT-certifying non-profit into a real industry certification trendsetter. Their certifications are recognized by the leading industry manufacturers, including Dell, Intel and Lenovo. The main advantage of CompTIA certifications is the fact that all of them are vendor neutral, unlike, obviously, Cisco, Microsoft, etc. They give you the knowledge of approaches, technology, tools in general – the understanding you need to become a professional – without tying you up to solutions from a particular vendor.

In the very beginning of the journey, when it’s very hard to be sure about the IT area where you will eventually end up, A+ sounds like a great start! Should you be interested in networking and routing, you can proceed with either CompTIA’s Network+ or Cisco’s CCNA Routing and Switching (we have discussed the difference between them a few weeks ago). So, we say that universal applicability of CompTIA certifications, and A+ in particular, make them a great choice that will truly open the door into the world of IT careers.

I’m Only Good at HTML and CSS. Any Chance I Can Get a ‘Grown Up’ Certification?

microsoft, html5, css, mcsd,  it certification examsSo you think you’re good at HTML? So good, in fact, that you are looking at all those serious CompTIA, Cisco, etc style certifications and wonder if there is one for you. But do you really need one in the first place? If so, Microsoft is your go-to destination… yet again.

Now, let’s take a closer look. You’re good at HTML and CSS, but your friends who specialize in other areas may be looking down at you. Come on, people who hold a CCNA or something may think you’re just fooling around instead of learning something ‘serious’, as everyone seems to know html these days. Many employers assume that html proficiency just goes without saying. Ever faced that? If you did, we can feel your pain.

Truth be told, while many people put ‘html proficiency’ on their resume, very few are actually great at it. If you are serious about it, you are definitely aware that many developers know HTML 5 and basic CSS. Very few of them, however, know them in depth and very few respect proper syntax and formatting. Many of them are stuck with the ‘bad habits’ and old ways coming all the way back from the HTML 4.1 days. So, if you see the difference, it is natural that you wish to set yourself apart and get a certification to validate your skills in proper XHTML and well-formed CSS.

Yet, the thing about industry certifications is that most of them are vendor-based. Take Cisco certifications, for example. They focus on Cisco solutions and products, although the scope does sometimes exceed the Cisco technology. And as HTML is so universal, no vendor cared to introduce the certification.

The times are changing however, as recently Microsoft has added a set of HTML and CSS exams to their spectrum. Microsoft’s exam 70-480, Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3, can be credited towards a MCSD (Microsoft Solutions Developer) certification, and gives the recognition and skills validation to all HTML5 heroes out there.

In fact, you should look into making MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using HTML5 Certification your ultimate long term goal, as it is based on HTML and CSS in more than one course. It takes you into the depth of Microsoft Apps, but it doesn’t look like a bad career, does it? As part of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 Technology, it will certainly require you to learn new stuff and widen your horizons, but it never hurts, right?

MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using HTML5 Consists of the following steps:

  1. Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3. Required Exam: 480
  2. Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using HTML5 and JavaScript. Required Exam: 481
  3. Advanced Windows Store App Development Using HTML5 and JavaScript. Required Exam: 482

As these steps suggest (whether or not you decide to go down the Microsoft road), to be competitive, you also need to be proficient in JavaScript. Ajax, PHP, ASP would be useful, too. Anything you need to develop the best website dynamic possible these days, to put it short.

There is a thing about HTML that explains why there isn’t a bunch of certifications waiting for you out there. You can showcase your awesome skills with a portfolio. With HTML, having a rocking project portfolio is key, but you probably know it. One cannot put networking skills in a portfolio, and subnetting is not exactly a portfolio-perfect case, right? So, these skills are best measured by exams. Speaking of HTML skills, however, you can show what you can do – and this is exactly what employers usually want to see. While we’re not trying to discourage you from taking those Microsoft exams (in fact, we are convinced that you should!), you should keep working towards your rocking portfolio.

The bottom line here being, as all things IT grow more sophisticated, so do the HTML standards. So, your intention to get a recognized certification isn’t to be looked down upon. And if anyone does, tell them about the exams Microsoft offers and your plans will no longer look like a joke. Yet, chances are that, besides keeping one step ahead of all the HTML and CSS trends, you will have to keep expanding your horizons by learning something new. Just like we all – and that’s the best part ;).

Certified Ethical Hackers, or Welcome to the Light Side

white hat hackers, black hat hackers, ethical hackers, it certification examsA few years ago, we started hearing about ‘black and white hats’: ‘Black Hat SEO’, ‘White Hat SEO’, ‘Black Hat Hackers’, ‘White Hat Hackers’… The last group is also known, officially, as Ethical Hackers. Not only is it a recognized job, Ethical Hackers seem to be the ‘it’ job of the moment, with an average salary having been on the rise throughout 2013, and now averaging around $100,000! So, if you are fascinated by all those DDOS attacks, breaking firewalls and stuff, you may have found your perfect job – without switching to the ‘dark side’.

So, let’s look at it closer

To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s start with the definitions. Ethical hacker is a qualified individual, usually hired by an organization to discover its online security vulnerabilities and threats by trying to penetrate networks and computer systems. By using the same methods as hackers, which are now more and more commonly called ‘Black Hat Hackers’ to make the distinction, ethical hackers ensure the system is free of vulnerabilities and potential threats. Ethical hackers’ jobs are on all times high now, with everyone from the White House and Ministry of Defense to your local bank striving to ensure stability of their computer systems and security of their data.

So, how do you become an ethical hacker?

Needless to say that hacking your high school’s online system is far from being enough to get the job. Moreover, unethical practices can close these doors for you forever (we’ll talk about unethical hacking later). Yet, officially your career would start with passing a CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) exam. To acquire the necessary knowledge, you may choose to either attend training at an accredited training center or self-study.

Should you opt for the latter, you will need to prove at least 2 years of information security work experience. If you don’t have the experience, your application may still be considered on the ad-hoc basis, yet, let’s face it: how can you be an ethical hacker with no infosec/IT experience? We strongly advise that you take a job in this field just to get some experience if you feel that being an ethical hacker is your calling.

Experienced professionals also recommend that candidates hold at least some basic IT Certifications: A+ and, preferably, Network+ or CCNA once you acquire more hands-on experience. Ideal candidates would also have a Security+ or a CISSP Certification under their belt.

Now back to the exam. The CEH Exam (with the currently used version being EC Council’s exam 312-50), has 125 multiple choice question, with the passing score being 70%. You’ll be given 4 hours to complete the exam. In the US, the exam is administered at EC-Council Accredited Training Centers, Pearson VUE, or Prometric testing centers.

Even if you do not see yourself as a full-time Ethical Hacker in the future and prefer to stick to a conventional information security career, taking the CEH exam may still be a smart career step for you. This certification helps professionals like you take an out-of-the-box look at the dark side of computer network security by unveiling the mindset, methodologies, and tools of a hacker.


What to keep in mind while you’re on your way…

If you do envision yourself as an Ethical Hacker, you are most likely tempted to go and ‘do it ‘ – hack something, get past some security levels, etc. – ethically or not. While this drive definitely proves that you have made a right career choice, resist the temptation of any illegal activity. Even small and seemingly innocent hacks can prevent you from pursuing your dream.

You can definitely play around with hacking your own website or a wifi network, but if you want to test your skills on someone else’s systems, be sure to get their written permission.

While you are on the way to your White Hat Hacker career, where you are staying on the light side, we trust, you may want to consider studying the hackers’ mindset. As exciting, fun and challenging as an Ethical Hacker’s job may seem to be, it’s still a job. And after a while, people tend to fall into pattern, keep doing what they do well… and lose their edge. The ‘Black Hat Hackers’, however, never lose their edge as they have a strong motivation of breaking in. So, you need to learn to think the way they think, to predict their steps, and… wear your white hat of Ethical Hacker with dignity and success.

Cisco Associate Level Certifications: No Prerequisites, But Where’s The Catch?

associate level certification, cisco associate level, ccna routing and switching, ccna service provider, it certification examsIn the previous post, we gave an overview of Cisco’s Associate level certifications that have prerequisites attached to them. Those are cool certifications, valued by both candidates and their employers alike. Yet, some CNAAs do not have any prerequisites, which seemingly allows for an easy boost of your IT career. But is it really this simple and where’s the catch? (we know that there’s always one – if not more). Each certification has its tricky moments – no surprise, right? – Let’s go over them.

CCNA Routing and Switching

There are plenty of reasons why CCNA Routing and Switching is one of Cisco’s most popular certifications. First of all, this certification opens the doors to a greater career potential.  The certification confirms candidates’ skills and ability to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks, as well as their in-depth understanding of routing and switching, and other aspects of network infrastructure, IP technology, wireless access, security and connectivity using WAN. The certification is popular among the employers, bringing you a definite salary increase if you have it on your resume.

To earn the certification, candidates have two examination options: to earn combined passing scores on 100-101 ICND1 and 200-101 ICND2 exams (Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices, Parts 1 and 2), or to pass the combined exam: 200-120 CCNA exam. The beauty of going with the first option is the fact that passing the ICND1 exam puts the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification in your pocket. So, basically instead of one certification, you get two, and many people are right to jump on this opportunity.

What to expect from the exams? We’ve discussed ICND1 in the Cisco Entry Level Certifications blog post. However, if you plan to take the 200-120 exam, it is worth giving you an extra warning that the exam is far from being an easy ride, and many claim that passing both ICNDs would be an easier way to go. Yet, if you have your reasons (for example, employers who know what the exam is like can give some extra incentives to their employees who pass it; plus getting Cisco Associate-level certification after sitting one exam instead of two), then our advice is to set aside more than enough time to study. Consider the pros and cons and way to go.

CCNA Data Center

While Cisco keeps all its certifications rather job-role-focused, CCNA Data Center is most certainly a winner here, allowing candidates to maximize the investment in their education and professional skills. CCNA Data Center helps candidates and their employers increase the value of their data center network, step up the data center design, save costs on equipment installation and further maintenance.

Yet, this certification stands out for reasons more than its focus, and causes some complains from candidates for being too pricey.

To become CCNA Data Center certified, candidates need to pass 2 exams: 640-911 DCICN and 640-916 DCICT, the price of which, as of now, exceeds USD 500. Many candidates claim this amount to be too high, and it’s hard to disagree!

It’s worth remembering that for many CCNA Data Center is not their first certification. Many realize that they want to move on with their career in Data Center when they have at least CCENT under their belt, as well as a few years of industry experience (not to mention that the exams are way too complicated for absolute beginners). So, the cost adds up to CCNA’s. Also add the price of preparation materials, some equipment, necessary to those who can’t play all these Nexus  and other ‘toys’ at work to get practical experience, books, etc (and the need to recertify their CCENT/CCNA for some), and CCNA Data Center turns out to be very expensive!

Some see the solution in making the 640-911 DCICN exam optional for those who already have a valid CCNA. Cisco, however, state the requirements for a certification are coming from a very detailed and extensive research involving customers, partners and experts in the industry, who have put in at least several month of work, so, according to the company, this is the best (and extensively researched) way of making it work. It better be!

So, the certification is challenging and pricey. And, with SimplyHired reporting average CCNA Certified Data Center operations support salaries start from $67,000 (as of October 2013), the choice is yours.


CCNA Service Provider

Cisco’s Certified Network Associate Service Provider (CCNA SP) certification focuses on the latest trends of the Provider industry core networking technologies. The Certification targets service provider network engineers, technicians and network designers. It validates the ability to configure and implement baseline Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation networks.

The certification allows for significant skills upgrade for those willing to move up from the ‘beginner’ level to a solid ‘experienced’. The certification validates that you are capable of providing fully integrated, personalized voice, video & data solutions and can make high quality services available at all times.

The certification requires candidates to pass 2 exams: 640-875 SPNGN1 and 640-878 SPNGN2. Yet, the tricky part is that Cisco do not have any ‘official’ books or study guides to prepare for these exams. Your options would be to either sign up for their course (which most people only do if they are lucky enough to have an employer who’d pay for it), or just use the exam topics and course syllabus, and keep looking for information from different sources. And here your main challenge would be to make the right choice of what exactly you need to study and what would be extra (and on this stage, no one would blame you for doing through brain dumps or investing in one of those Pass4sure sets, which are actually good!).

The good news is, however, that a lot of exam topics are actually covered in the basic CCNA exams. So, having another CCNA or CCENT might be helpful again.

If you are preparing for your Associate-level certification, do note an interesting disclaimer on the Cisco website: Updated ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA Composite exams can be applied towards the achievement of several Cisco associate-level certifications. Please visit the Associate-level Exam Logic Tool for more details. Who knows, maybe your CCNA/CCENT can help you out once again? Be sure to check the requirements and possible exam combinations before you sign up for your next exam.

Cisco Associate Level Certifications, Part 1. Prerequisites: YES.

cisco associate level, ccna, ccda, it certification exams, ccna security, network design engineer, ccna voiceLet’s face it: our certification choices aren’t always based on our ‘true calling’. More often than not, they are a better career move or, simply enough, the most accessible option to get a timely career boost. When speaking of Cisco’s Associate level certifications (Cisco’s most popular certification level), it is often about being allowed to take this step – depending on whether or not you meet the necessary requirements. Some Associate level certifications have the prerequisites while some others don’t. So, looking at all the CCNAs, it would make sense to break the certifications into 2 groups: those that have prerequisites and the ones that don’t.

Today, we’ll look into those obviously more ‘complicated’ CCNAs that require previous Cisco certifications. You’ll need a valid Cisco CCENT, CCNA or any Cisco CCIE as a prerequisite to proceed. As of October 2013, this list includes the following Cisco Associate level certifications (yet, as always, we encourage you to double check with the official website for details). So, today we’ll look into:

  • CCDA
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Service Provider Operations
  • CCNA Voice
  • CCNA Wireless

CCDA: Network Design Engineer

Until recently, you wouldn’t need a CCENT to achieve the Network Design Engineer certification. Yet, having added the CCENT as a prerequisite for this program, Cisco seem to aim for candidates’ improved understanding of routed and switched networks, and previous background in this field should be helpful on the exam (640-864 DESGN).

This certification validates your understanding of network design for the Cisco converged networks, primarily based on Borderless Network Architecture. Cisco certified Network Design Engineers can design infrastructures consisting of routed and switched networks, including LAN, WAN, wireless, and broadband access for a wide range of organizations: from businesses to international NGOs and government offices.

CCNA Security
As the title suggests, CCNA Security certification program is closely focused on the security aspect of Cisco networking technology and equipment. This includes development of a full security infrastructure, analysis and recognition of threats and vulnerabilities of a network as well as mitigating these threats. CCNA Security curriculum (and exam) is highly focused on core security technologies, installation, troubleshooting and continuous monitoring of all network devices, with the integrity, confidentiality and availability of data and devices being the top priority at all times.

As Cisco introduce IPV6 to most of their certifications and relevant exams, CCNA Security candidates supposedly have the understanding of the new protocol thanks to their CCENT or CCNA R&S certification. However, CCNA Security exam (640-554 IINS) puts a way bigger emphasis on the new protocol. So, even if you have passed the latest CCNA R&S certification, don’t expect this part to be a breeze: it won’t. Keep in mind that the 640-554 exam goes way deeper into the IPV6’s ins and outs. Don’t just scan that part of the study guide: give it the time it deserves.

To prepare for the exam, the Cisco people recommend taking their Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security (IINS) course. Even if you don’t plan to follow this advice, you may want to look it up for preparation details and guidance.

CCNA Service Provider Operations

This Cisco certification may be found similar to CCNA Service Provider, the one that does not have any prerequisites (and obviously is more popular). The two certifications do share a lot of topics, however, CCNA Service Provider Operations is more upscale in its perspective, focusing on combining process with technology, as opposed to being fully Cisco equipment-centered.

Another thing that sets CCNA Service Provider Operations apart from similar certifications is ITIL being one of its cornerstones. This allows candidates to significantly broaden their horizons, as well as to have a wider choice of study materials, with the ITIL study guides being a must for successful exam preparation.

CCNA Service Provider Operations is a great option for those willing to expand their knowledge and validate their skills of a Tier I support engineer, including troubleshooting and fixing issues within carrier class IP NGN core network infrastructure. The certification curriculum includes but isn’t limited to incidents/failures, configuration issues, implementing changes, and a variety of performance management procedures along with NMS tools & protocols.

CCNA Voice
If your ideal job includes administering a voice network up to the high Cisco standards (and paychecks of the same level), then Cisco Certified Network Associate Voice (CCNA Voice) is perfect for you – especially if you have the prerequisites it calls for. CCNA Voice validates your associate-level skill set for specialized positions in voice technologies, such as voice technologies administrator, voice engineer, and voice manager. The certification also confirms candidates’ skills related to VoIP technologies: IP PBX, IP telephony, handset, call control, voicemail solutions, etc.

The CCNA Voice certification is very popular among employers as it proves candidates to be proficient in working with the Cisco Unified Communications Manager. This application is widely used by large organizations such as governments, colleges, transnational corporations and big businesses. Moreover, CCNA Voice Certification assesses your expertise in the Cisco CallManager Express (CME) and Cisco Unity Express (CUE) solutions, mostly used by organizations with less than 2,000 employees, including a variety of businesses, small school districts and other organizations.

To pass the exam (640-461 ICOMM), you will need to spend sufficient amount of time on the CCNA Voice Lab setup and its various configurations as they turn out to be the main obstacle on the way to success for many candidates.


CCNA Wireless

Cisco Certified Network Associate Wireless (CCNA Wireless) will prove your proficiency in configuring, implementing, supporting and troubleshooting wireless LANs using Cisco equipment – from a small business to full-scale enterprise network. To pass, you need to meet the requirements, as well as study all aspects of configuring, monitoring and troubleshooting basic tasks of a Cisco WLAN in SMB and Enterprise networks. Explore the study guide for details and do keep in mind that many people who had passed the exam referred to it as being ‘harder than it looks’.

Summing up, Cisco attached prerequisites to these certifications as they are tricky and require additional knowledge, supposedly provided by CCENT or CCNA R&S or CCIE certifications you may already have under your belt. Earlier, we discussed that the new CCENT makes a good foundation for further certification steps, and this is exactly what these steps are. These Associate’s certifications are a little upscale and, truth be told, most of the times they are better paid (we’ll have a separate blog post on IT Certifications and salaries levels soon).

Summing up, these are truly rewarding steps to expand your career horizons on the Cisco Associate level. Yet, even if you aren’t so much up for the challenge, there’s something on the CCNA level still available for you: prerequisite-free certifications. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this overview.

Cisco Entry Level Certifications: Where it all begins

What you need to know about CCENT

cisco, entry level,  it certification exams, certification, ccent, updates, cctFor most candidates, their Cisco track beings with CCENT and the ICND1 exam. Passing this exam gives you your first Cisco certification and puts you halfway through your CCNA, opening the doors to a career in networking. Needless to say, embarking on this journey is absolutely worth it (think better jobs, delicious promotions and sweet paychecks).

As we mentioned in our previous article, Cisco have significantly upgraded (and by saying Upgraded we mean Complicated) CCENT this year, making it prerequisite for most tracks. The fact itself shows that the program and the current ICND1 exam are no longer of ‘introduction’ level.

While the materials the exam covers are available in the blueprint, it is worth pointing out that Cisco has bumped up the depth of knowledge required for all of them, including the usual OSI, TCP/IP, subnetting (you better get used to solving subnetting problems in a blink of an eye, or otherwise they’ll steal too much time on your exam).

Some subjects, like IPv6, VLANs, IVR, EIGRP and OSPF have been migrated from the old CCNA curriculum to be included in the CCENT. Originally published by Todd Lammle, these are the topics newly added and removed from the CCENT. Don’t freak out.

Topics REMOVED from the CCENT in March 2013:

  • Securing the network
  • Understanding challenges of shared LANs
  • Solving network challenges with switched LAN technologies
  • Wireless LAN’s
  • Using Cisco® SDM
  • Configuring serial encapsulation
  • Enabling RIP

Topics ADDED to the ICND1 Exam:

  • Implementing VLSM
  • Scaling the network with NAT and PAT
  • Managing traffic with ACLs
  • Implementing VLANs and trunks
  • Routing between VLANs
  • Implementing single area OSPF
  • Introducing basic IPv6
  • Understanding IPv6
  • Configurating IPv6 Routing

This information is great to keep in mind when going through the brain dumps and evaluating what you need to spend more time on.

CCT – Can It Be A Stepping Stone For You?

Sometimes overlooked among other Cisco’s ‘cool’ certifications, CCT (Cisco Certified Technician) is actually very worth looking at. It stands separately from other certifications, having its separate exams and not being on par with CCENT/ICND1. The program mainly targets technicians who plan to diagnose, restore, repair, and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites, working closely and efficiently with Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC).

While having a CCT certification isn’t a prerequisite for CCENT or CCNA, knowing the material covered in this certification may be very helpful to network experts. Compared to CCENT and CCNA, CCT is more focused on hardware and is somewhat less heavy on theory, leaving its students with extremely solid understanding of Cisco products and services (which is very helpful for a successful Cisco career in the long run).

Available for a few different tracks, this program is customized to target your specific career needs. Currently Cisco offers the following specialized CCTs: CCT Data Center (required exam: 640-893 DCTECH), CCT Routing and Switching (640-692 RSTECH), CCT TelePresence (640-792 TPTECH).

Although not as coveted as CCENT and CCNA, CCT may be a good place to start for network expert wannabes as it will make further CCNA easier. Also, those who have taken the exams for both certifications claim that CCT exams are a lot easier than the ICND1.

So, if you want to give your career a Cisco boost but aren’t sure are up for the CCENT challenge, CCT may be your solution. (OR, alternatively, you may think about the CompTIA as vendor neutral certifications if you just need to start somewhere, but that’s totally off topic now).

So what is it gonna be for you: getting CCENT certified straight away or will you make a stop at CCT?

Roadmap of Cisco Career Certifications and 2013 Changes

cisco, it career, roadmap, changes,  it certification exams,  ccent, ccda, cct, ccnp, ccde, ccie2013 has been a year of all kinds of changes and updates to the Cisco IT Certification program. This post kicks off the series of articles where we’ll go over all levels of certifications, from Entry to Architect, in detail. Yet, it wouldn’t make much sense without a general overview first, right? Especially for those of our readers who are new Cisco wannabes, this should help minimize the frustration. And this is what we’re here for.

This is no secret that Cisco has significantly revamped its certification program, especially CCENT and CCNA, earlier this year. Originally announced in late March, the changes and new CCNA tracks were fully implemented this fall.

So, these are the Cisco certification levels we’re looking at now:

Entry Certifications

  • CCT (CCT Data Center; CCT Routing & Switching; CCT TelePresence)

Associate Certifications

  • CCNA Routing and Switching
  • CCDA
  • CCNA Data Center
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Service Provider
  • CCNA Service Provider Operations
  • CCNA Video
  • CCNA Voice
  • CCNA Wireless

Professional Certifications

  • CCDP
  • CCNP
  • CCNP Data Center
  • CCNP Security
  • CCNP Service Provider
  • CCNP Service Provider Operations
  • CCNP Voice
  • CCNP Wireless

Expert Certifications

  • CCDE
  • CCIE Collaboration
  • CCIE Data Center
  • CCIE Routing & Switching
  • CCIE Security
  • CCIE Service Provider
  • CCIE Service Provider Operations
  • CCIE Voice (Retiring February 13, 2014)
  • CCIE Wireless

Architect Certification –  CCAr


What has changed in 2013?

If you are collecting information about CCENT and CCNA from message boards and brain dumps, be sure you’re looking at the updated 2013 data. This is important as CCENT and CNAA appear to have been changed the most.

What we hear may be sad news to many out there: CCENT (ICND1; exam 100-101, which can also be part of your CCNA R&S) has gotten harder – significantly. Subjects added, especially the labs, go more in depth and cover a lot more aspects (including lots of IPv6 stuff) compared to the old CCNA. CCENT Certification hasn’t been a joke before and it has gotten much further from being one now! This certification is also now a prerequisite for most CCNA certifications (except CCNA R&S, CCNA Data Center and CCNA Service Provider).

The Associate level programs, according to Cisco, have been redesigned to better fit the industry needs and the roles networking professionals need to fill. Yes, it means even more practical hands on stuff. To achieve advanced technology certification in an accelerated manner, you now need to pass only two required exams.

As upper certification levels haven’t been affected by the changes to such a degree (we’ll go over them in separate articles), another change to the Cisco certification structure would be the new recertification timeframes.

Renewal and Recertification Timeframes

If you decide to settle on your already achieved certification and do not intend to go up another level any time soon, keep in mind that Cisco Entry, Associate and Professional level certifications last for 3 years. When this time is up, you will have to renew it. Meanwhile, all CCIE and Specialist certifications last for 2 years. And in you’ve made it all the way up the Cisco scale and are now Cisco Certified Architect (no words are enough to express the respect you deserve for that!), your awe-inspiring certification will need to be renewed after 5 years.

A gentle reminder that if you do not register and pass your Cisco recertification exam before your certification expires, you will have to repeat the entire certification process. Now, you do don’t want to challenge yourself this much, do you?

And for those of you planning to recertify, here’s your Recertification Roadmap:

Data Center CCNA Data Center CCNP Data Center CCIE Data Center
Routing & Switching CCENT CCNA Routing and Switching CCNP CCIE Routing & Switching
Security CCENT CCNA Security CCNP Security CCIE Security
Service Provider CCNA Service Provider CCNP Service Provider CCIE Service Provider
Service Provider Operations CCENT CCNA Service Provider Operations CCNP Service Provider Operations CCIE Service Provider Operations
Video CCNA Video
Voice CCENT CCNA Voice CCNP Voice CCIE Voice
Wireless CCENT CCNA Wireless CCNP Wireless CCIE Wireless


Specialist Recertification Roadmap


  • Cisco Unified Presence Specialist
  • Cisco Unity Design Specialist
  • Cisco Unity Support Specialist


Data Center      

  • Cisco Data Center Application Services Design Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Application Services Support Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Design Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Support Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Support Specialist

Operating System Software     

  • Cisco IOS XR Specialist


  • Cisco ASA Specialist
  • Cisco Firewall Security Specialist
  • Cisco IOS Security Specialist
  • Cisco IPS Specialist
  • Cisco Network Admission Control Specialist
  • Cisco VPN Security Specialist


  • Cisco Video Network Specialist
  • Cisco Rich Media Communications Specialist
  • Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist

Retired Certifications

This year, Cisco has retired 6 certifications:

  • CCIE Storage Networking
  • Cisco Data Center Networking Infrastructure Design Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Networking Infrastructure Support Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Design Specialist
  • Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Support Specialist
  • Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist

All of these retired certifications have relevant replacement available, so you can easily find a new destination for your Cisco journey.

Which Cisco certification do you have your eyes on now? Feel free to tell us in the comments. And – although the road can get bumpy sometimes, remember to keep your eyes on the prize.

Which MCSE Should I Get?

cloud computing, microsoft certified solutions expert, mcse, it certification examsThe global push into cloud computing, that is sweeping across the IT industry these days, is seen and felt everywhere. Continuing their strategic push into cloud computing and integrated solutions, Microsoft has introduced a new line of certifications earlier this year: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE).

The news could cause some confusion with another Microsoft’s certification of the same acronym: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. In fact, it had been one of Microsoft’s most popular certifications for quite a while, and has been recently retired.

So, is the new one its exact replacement? Not really, as the old and new MCSEs aren’t to be confused. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly has changed.

The new Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) certification focuses on the ability to design and build technology solutions, which may include integrating multiple technology products and span multiple versions of a single technology, whether on-premises or in the cloud. The 8 certifications available in its framework have all been designed with this goal in mind. The previous Microsoft Certified System Engineer certifications focused on a much more specific job role.

Created as the flagship of the new certification framework, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert offers a set of interdisciplinary certifications, united by the company’s focus on cloud computing, business intelligence and advanced database administration.

There are 8 certifications available now, all of them consist of 5 steps, and therefore, require 5 exams. For all programs, recertification is required every 3 years (and we get the feeling that these MCSEs will be around for quite a while, so you may want to keep this information in mind).

With many candidates now asking ‘Which MCSE should I get??’ you certainly know that you are the only one who can answer this question for yourself, depending on the interests, skills and career goals you have. Yet, let’s take a look at the new MCSEs to get a better picture. Here they are.

MCSE: Server Infrastructure

Your next career step: computer support specialist and information security analyst.

This certification validates that you have the skills needed to run a highly efficient and modern data center, with expertise in identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage, and networking.

MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure

Your next career step: desktop and device support, and data and applications manager.

This MCSE will prove your skills in deploying and managing desktops and devices that provide access from anywhere, while maintaining security and compliance. It also validates your skills in desktop virtualization, remote desktop services, and application virtualization.

MCSE: Private Cloud

Your next career step: server administrator, systems programmer, network manager.

This certification validates your expertise in managing and implementing Microsoft private cloud computing technologies. With Windows Server and System Center, you will build your Microsoft private cloud solution to optimize IT service delivery and gain the automation and flexibility you need for your IT infrastructure, now and in the future.

MCSE: Data Platform

Your next career step: database analyst, database designer.

MCSE Data Platform certification puts you in a position to demonstrate your broad skill sets in building and administrating enterprise-scale data solutions both on-premises and in cloud environments.

MCSE: Business Intelligence

Your next career step: BI & reporting engineer.

With this one, you will prove your skills and the knowledge of techniques needed to design, build, and deploy solutions that deliver more data to more people across the organization.

MCSE: Messaging

Your next career step: network and computer systems administration.

Your MCSE: Messaging will demonstrate that you can move your company to the cloud, increase user productivity and flexibility, reduce data loss, and improve data security for your organization.

MCSE: Communication

Your next career step: network and computer systems administration.

This MCSE validates expertise in creating a consistent communications experience for your organization and connecting your colleagues to people around the world.

MCSE: SharePoint

Your next career step: systems or network analyst.

MCSE SharePoint ensures you get recognition for your expertise in helping a company organize, sync, collaborate, and share information across the organization.

Even if you are undecided as to which MCSE is right for you, you can still start working on your exams. As you have probably heard, they are tough and do take time for preparation. Yet, the good news is that 6 out of 8 MCSEs share the same 3 exams. So, unless you are considering MCSE: Data Platform or Business Intelligence, you can start studying for exams 70-410, 70-411 and 70-412. These 3 focus on the server infrastructure and Windows Server 2012, the knowledge of which is a must for a number of jobs.

Explore the MCSE section of the Microsoft website to make up your mind. Last but not least, Microsoft has a sweet offer for those of us who aren’t that lucky with the Certification exam the first time around. Until the end of May 2014, you get a free second chance to succeed on your exams. Looks like there’s no better time than now to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. Visit this page for details.

CCNA or Network+?

ccna, network, cisco rooting and switching, comptia, it certification examsMany network professionals are faced with the dilemma as to which industry certification to take, especially in the very beginning of their career. The choice usually boils down to the 2 leading certifications: Cisco’s CCNA Routing and Switching and CompTIA’s Network+.

Let’s take a closer look at them to reply the query: CCNA or Network+? Is it worth having both? If yes, then why and in which order? But first, what’s the difference between the two?


  • CompTIA Network+ Certification: demonstrates one’s knowledge of networking features and functions, including network technologies, installation and configuration, media and topologies, management, and security.
  • Cisco’s CCNA Routing and Switching Certification: validates the candidate’s ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks.

Not to jump to any conclusions just yet, but the descriptions suggest Network+ being a fundamental certification, with CCNA R&S validating more advanced knowledge and proven hands-on experience.

Vendor Relationship

The biggest difference between these certifications is the fact that Network+ has been developed as a vendor neutral certification. It provides candidates with knowledge and understanding of networking in general, and you can apply this knowledge to most networks.

CCNA, on the other hand, was specifically designed for Cisco’s networking technology and products. Although the program does cover other networking topics too, the difference and the focus are obvious.

Exam Difficulty

Many network specialists tend to choose Network+ certification because it’s said to be easier to pass. In truth, it does provide more basic knowledge and understanding of concepts compared to CCNA. Similarly, those who have passed Network+ with flying colors may be seriously disappointed if they expect the same level of difficulty from CCNA.

Let’s face it: CCNA isn’t a joke. It is hard. This is why it is so valued by employers. Even though it is an ‘entry level’ test, you should have 1-3 years of networking experience to attempt it. CCNA requires lots of studying, as well as practical experience (and you should really get your hands on some Cisco routers and switchers, even if those low end ones – to have some experience with their technology. It’s not something to get away with looking up a few articles online). In contrast, many users share their experience of passing Network+ after ‘reading a book or two’.

Yet, don’t be fooled into thinking that Network+ is a no-brainer, because it isn’t. CompTIA recommend having an A+ certification and nine months networking experience before trying to pass Network+ certification. But it’s always good to know that at least somebody didn’t have much trouble with it, right?

Keeping Your Experience in Mind

If you don’t have much networking experience and want an entry level yet professionally recognized certification, Network+ is a smart way to go. It is a very well-organized and structured program that aims to fill the knowledge gaps most people have in the beginning of their networking career.

Network+ teaches you what networking technology is. It may be a good foundation for Cisco’s CCNA (or Microsoft, or other vendor specific certifications for that matter), which teaches you to configure and troubleshoot this technology. So, if you are a beginner, don’t look in the CCNA direction for now. Your time will come.

For those who have a few years’ networking experience and understanding, CCNA may be a very logical and career boosting way to go. It is a very in depth study of networking as a whole, including routing, protocols, network design and more. Even companies that don’t use Cisco equipment value the CCNA for the depth and complexity of the certification. It is nearly impossible to achieve a CCNA without hands on lab experience, and this practical experience, combined with advanced knowledge, is extremely valuable.

Industry Penetration

As the Network+ is vendor-neutral, it is recognized by almost all companies. Many of them, including Dell, HP, Ricoh, Sharp and Xerox require it.
Highly valuable as they are, Cisco’s certifications occasionally cause some frustration. ‘What if I invest in my certification, and my next employer does not use Cisco technology?’ some candidates think. While this is a valid point for any vendor-based approach, Cisco have made a name for themselves – not only in terms of their technology, but with regards to the quality and level of their certifications, too. Last but not least, with well over 50% of market penetration of Cisco technologies, chances are that your next employer will use it.


Whichever certification you opt for, you need to start with evaluating your career goals, as well as the current level of experience and knowledge. Even those who have years of experience under their belt should remember to clear their schedule for lots of studying time, since the exams are tough. Yet, hard as it all may be, your effort will definitely pay off, whether you choose the foundational Network+, or CCNA certification as a more advanced option.