How long does it take to prepare for the CCNA exam?

I get lots of e-mail promising various tricks for mastering the CCNA exam in a very short timeframe, and it makes me mad. Lately I’ve been seeing variations on a plan to “Prep for the CCNA in Two Weeks” or even shorter timeframes. This really bothers me, because it’s potentially a huge disservice to those who spend significant money on the course and the exam, only to find that their preparation was insufficient.

Undoubtedly there are a few exceptional individuals who are able to master the intricacies of CCNA in a short time period, but for the rest of us, it’s a good idea to plan on eight weeks to up to five months of preparation. Even Todd Lamle’s CCNA Fast Pass (one of the few “fast” CCNA resources I endorse) stresses that CCNA tests are not the sort of thing you can cram for.

Even my recommendation of “eight weeks to five months” is a wide window. The biggest factor going into a CCNA exam depends on your previous experience. If you have no previous hands-on experience with Cisco routers, it’s crucial that you spend time (maybe even a few weeks) just working on those skills. If you’re currently working with Cisco technologies with lots of hands-on experience, eight weeks might be enough — but consider that your hands-on experience probably doesn’t cover all aspects of the CCNA tests, so don’t allow yourself to become arrogant or complacent about test preparation.

Another factor is which exams you’ll take. It’s possible to earn a CCNA by taking the 640-801 exam, which is pretty intense, or by taking two exams, the 640-811 and the 641-821. Those two exams are no cakewalk, either, but each is shorter than the 640-801, and you can sit for the exams separately. For more detail on what’s in those exams, see our CCNA guide.

Need a roadmap for Cisco CCNA test prep? Here you go:

  • Decide which test strategy you’ll pursue – the 640-801 or the 640-811 and 641-821. You’ll study a lot of the same things regardless, but knowing the order and types of tests you’ll take will help you prioritize your study.
  • Purchase a quality study guide and other test prep materials. This can be done inexpensively, as noted in my post
  • Read the test prep books and take a few practice quizzes. Hone in on the areas where you had trouble.
  • Make certain you understand how to configure Cisco routers, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  • Shortly before you sit for the exam, consider buying a “refresher” guide like the excellent CliffsTestPrep Cisco CCNA. (Incidentally, this is where a lot of people go wrong – they get a guide like this and consider it sufficient preparation. Cliff’s notes might have been sufficient for learning King Lear in an hour, but trust me, there is a big difference between the CCNA exams and high school English Literature class.)
  • If you perform poorly on practice tests, keep studying. If you’ve already registered for the exam and are scoring poorly on the practice tests, then reschedule the exam– in most cases, rescheduling is possible as late as 24 hours prior to the exam.

I hope this post has been useful in taking the right approach toward the CCNA exams. As always, I look forward to your questions and comments – fire away!

In my next post, we’ll talk about test-taking tips and strategies, and how to make the most of the allotted test-taking time.

6 Essential CCNA Study Tools – on a $40 budget

Not too long ago, preparing for a technical certification like the CCNA exam meant spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on books, classes, and other training materials. Thanks to the rapid growth of online publishing, top-quality study resources are now available for a mere fraction of their former cost.

The CCNA exam itself costs between $150 and $250, so if you’re on a budget, the last thing you want to do is drop another $100+ on test prep materials.

These six resources will prepare you for the CCNA certification exam, on a total budget of less than $70 $40 (thank you, Cisco Press!).

1. Paul Browning’s Study Guide, Kindle Edition — $10
Paul Browning’s Cisco CCNA Simplified: Workbook and Lab Guide is an approachable, yet comprehensive, study tool for CCNA students. This study guide gets to the point without a lot of fluff or repetition. Cisco CCNA Simplified also features 27 lab exercises with full walkthroughs.

While you can find the dead-tree version of Browning’s study guide for around $40 used, budget-conscious Cisco students opt for the Kindle edition which retails for only $9.99. Don’t have a Kindle? Actually, you don’t *need* a Kindle. Instead, download Amazon’s official Kindle for PC program, use Amazon’s Cloud Reader, or choose from dozens of third-party software options.

2. Join Cisco communities offline and online — $0
Take advantage of the expertise and camaraderie that exists at online expert hubs like ServerFault, StackOverflow, or Communities @ Cisco. Members of these online communities often enjoy helping others learn new concepts, so don’t be shy about asking. There’s a lot to be learned just browsing these types of forums, and reading about how other people solved their problems.

If you’re skeptical about online communities, you owe it to yourself to at least take a look. These sites, and others like them, are truly helpful and collaborative places for learning and advancement – very low troll-to-human ratios all around.

Depending on where you live, there are probably several technical groups and associations that hold meetups for network admins and engineers. Check LinkedIn, Facebook, and local media to find these groups. The “human networking” factor is also a great boost to your future job prospects after you earn the certification. Even if you don’t know anyone or if you are not an outgoing person, don’t be intimidated about going to these functions. You’ll find that there are essentially two types of people at these functions: (1) technologists like yourself, many of whom are advanced in their careers, and (2) human resources professionals who are there to scout talent. Both groups are worth knowing, and both will be happy to meet you.

3. Find tutorial and test prep videos online — $0
On YouTube, Vimeo, and other video sharing sites, it’s possible to find videos for just about anything. When it comes to Cisco CCNA exam prep, you can find everything from highly targeted 3-minute overviews to full-length, hour-long university lectures.

You’ll also find a noticeable number of videos that are little more than advertisements for expensive test prep courses. But after a little searching, you’re sure to identify a few good uploaders or video channels that really meet your specific need.

Personally, I prefer using Bing video search because it searches multiple video sites at once, and allows all the videos to be played in fullscreen directly from the results page. But you could also visit YouTube, Vimeo, or other video sites directly and use their built-in search features.

Here are a few examples showcasing the range of quality CCNA exam prep videos available online:

4. Get the official CCNA exam cert library from Cisco Press — $25 or less
This isn’t the cheapest solution, but it’s the one you shouldn’t go without. The Cisco Press CCNA Official Exam Certification Library (Exam #640-801), 2nd edition
— let’s call it the Cisco Press CCNA library for short? — is still the best go-to resource, and the real gem is it includes a practice test simulation with more than 400 questions, plus hours of video instruction.

5. Download and install a free network simulator — $0
Network simulator software can cost as much as $200, which puts it way outside of our budget. There are several free network simulators with enough functionality to meet the needs of a penny-pinching CCNA exam student. Personally I recommend GNS3, a full-featured network sim that is useful for much more beyond CCNA exam preparation.

Router configuration is a very important part of CCNA. If you don’t feel like you’ve mastered it after using GNS3, keep studying and look for other options. This is an area where it really makes sense to take advantage of online and offline communities. There are other low-cost or no-cost alternatives out there.

6. CCNA Exam Flash Cards — $5
Flash cards are a really useful method for refreshing and reviewing, especially during the final week before you sit for the CCNA exam. These spiral-bound flash cards
retail for $3.99 and include a CD-ROM version, covering hundreds of test questions.

Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)

The Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification is an entry-level certification that validates the holder’s ability to install and maintain a branch network of a small enterprise, including day-to-day operations and troubleshooting. CCENT holders are also trained in basic network security. CCENT covers basic networking knowledge and skills. General networking theory, routing and switching basics and an introduction to advanced networking technologies are included in this certification program. CCENT holders are expected to be familiar with a wide range of networking environments, from home offices to small businesses.

Who should get CCENT certification?

The CCENT certification is most appropriate for entry-level network support technicians. The CCENT certification can serve as a springboard for a network technician to obtain higher certifications. This is an entry-level certification that only covers the basics of networking technology. CCENT is a general certification that builds a foundation for more specialized certifications later on in the holder’s career. CCENT was first announced in 2007 by Cisco.

What is the average salary and job outlook for a CCENT certification holder?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for even entry-level network technicians is expected to grow by over 20 percent between 2008 and 2018. Job prospects in this field are projected to be more numerous over the next decade, as well. Depending on the precise job title of a CCENT holder, the salary associated with this certification is between $30,000 and $70,000.

What pre-requisites and exams are required for CCENT certification?

A person wishing to apply for the CCENT certification does not have to obtain any prerequisite certifications. CCENT is somewhat confusing in that it is not a requirement for any other certification offered by Cisco. The next certification higher in the Cisco scale than CCENT, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), is a prerequisite for many other certifications. This is the result of a historical accident: CCENT was born out of a revision of CCNA in 2007.

To become CCENT certified, a prospective holder must pass the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 exam (640-822 ICND1). The exam includes questions and topics on:

– networking fundamentals
– addressing Internet Protocol
– operating and configuring IOS devices
– fundamentals of routing and switching
– OSI and TCP/IP models
– connecting to a Wide Area Network
– Wide Area Network technologies
– basic wireless and security concepts
– configuring a variety of routing standards
– DHCP and NAT implementation
– simple network configuration.

What are the re-certification requirements for a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)?

A previous CCENT holder who wishes to become re-certified has a lot of options to choose from. Since CCENT is an entry-level certification, prior CCENT holders can achieve re-certification by choosing from various exams designed for other certifications. A CCENT is good for three years, and the holder must re-certify before the expiration date of his original CCENT certification, either by passing a more advanced exam or by re-taking the ICND1 exam.

The Cisco Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP Security) Exam

The Cisco Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP Security) is the replacement certification for the Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) certification. The CCNP Security will fully take effect in October 2011. Cisco ceased to offer CCSP exams to new candidates in April 2011. CCNP Security focuses on certifying the holder’s ability to perform the job role of Cisco Network Security Engineer. This job role is responsible for maintaining security in Cisco networking devices such as switches and routers. CCNP Security holders will also be able to support, troubleshoot, deploy and choose between Virtual Private Networks, Intrusion Detection Systems, Intrusion Prevention Systems and firewalls.

Who should take the CCNP security exam?

CCNP Security is meant for network security professionals. Fortunately for them, the market for these jobs is expected to be robust over the next decade. The United States Department of Labor projects that jobs in the database administrators, computer systems and network category will grow by more than 20 percent in the 2008-2018 decade. This breaks down to approximately 280,000 jobs created over that time period. Excellent prospects make the CCNP Security certification more desirable for professionals seeking to take their careers to a new level.

This a professional level certification designed for security experts and network security professionals. The predecessor to the CCNP Security, the CCSP, was recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS). The recognition pertained to the CNSS 4013 standard for training purposes. This advanced standard is designed for system administrators tasked with safeguarding networks. Candidates for the CCSP who met the standard were eligible to aid private entities in the protection of information. Additionally, they could assist federal agencies in defense of national security concerning information technology infrastructure.

Since the CCNP Security is a very recent development, it has not yet been recognized by the NSA or the CNSS. It probably will be so recognized in the future, due to the fact that the CCNP Security covers much of the same areas as the CCSP. The network security field has grown in recent years to include new threats, compliances and methods of protection. The CCNP Security certification will allow candidates who achieve it to combat new threats with greater sophistication and precision.

What is the average salary for someone with a CCNP Security certification?

According to the website SimplyHired, the average salary for a professional with the CCNP Security certification is $74,000 per year as of July 25, 2011. Spread out across multiple job titles, the CCNP Security certification fetches averages from $52,000 to $111,000 per year. The CCNP Security certification makes the holder stand out in the job market. Employers in technological industries are looking for new brains, and this certification broadcasts the holder’s skills loud and clear.

What exams do I have to pass to earn the CCNP Security designation?

There are three other certifications that can serve as prerequisites for the CCNP Security certification. Applicants must have a valid Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA Security) certification, a valid CCSP certification or a valid Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification with a passed Securing Network Devices exam. These prerequisites ensure the applicant has the necessary foundation to successfully complete the training programs and pass the examinations.

The CCNP Security certification requires the applicant to pass four examinations before obtaining it. These examinations are

– 642-647 VPN v1.0
– 642-617 FIREWALL v1.0
– 642-637 SECURE v1.0
– 642-627 IPS v7.0

Each exam lasts about an hour and a half. Examinees must answer between 60 and 70 questions. Exams are pass-fail and closed-book with no outside references allowed. The recommended training courses for the four exams are Implementing Cisco Intrusion Prevention System v7.0, Deploying Cisco ASA Firewall Solutions, Secure v1.0 Securing Networks with Cisco Routers and Switches and Implementing Cisco Intrusion Prevention System v7.0 respectively. The courses provide thorough grounding in all concepts associated with the exams and teach the applicant everything they need to know.

How do I maintain my CCNA Security status?

All professional certifications offered by Cisco have a three-year time limit. To re-certify, holders must pass one of several exams offered by Cisco before their current professional certification expires. Achieving any of the certifications listed as re-certification options automatically extends the CCNP Security holder’s active Associate and Professional certifications to the expiration date of the last one obtained.

Understanding Communication Protocols: FDDI, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and Token Ring

Computer networks are complex, involving multiple layers of hardware, software and protocols governing the transmission and reception of data. The network must simultaneously integrate many functions while maintaining compatibility of device connections. Network architecture is the name for the design principles that go into creating and building a computer network. Designing a network involves both logical and physical considerations.

Network architecture relies on different communication standards, or protocols, to connect the various devices on a network. Some of the most popular technologies include Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, token ring and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI). These technologies have made network interfacing and design more sophisticated. Using these technologies allows network architecture to build robust frameworks that transcend the limitations of old paradigms.


Ethernet consists of physical cabling and protocol standards that govern the transmission of data through the cabling. Basic Ethernet design involves all devices on a network communicating over a single cable. A local area technology, Ethernet works best connecting devices over very short distances.

A computer sending data along an Ethernet cable has to address it so the right device intercepts it. Every device reads a packet sent along an Ethernet channel, but only the device matching the address can use it. Ethernet has built-in collision detection, which protects the network from colliding packets. Additionally, Ethernet devices “listen” to the cable to make sure no other device is transmitting. It is like a reconnaissance team giving the all clear to proceed.

Fast Ethernet

The Ethernet design first created by Robert Meltcalfe at Xerox Corporation in 1973 could only support up to 10 megabits per second (Mbps). Fast Ethernet can transmit data at the rate of 100 Mbps. Fast Ethernet started to be deployed on a large scale in the 1990s when higher local area network (LAN) performance was needed by businesses. A major advantage of Fast Ethernet is the ability to coexist and integrate with existing installations. The result has been for most networks to include both Ethernet and Fast Ethernet. Using so-called “10/100” adapters is what makes this possible. The adapter detects whether the cable is Ethernet or Fast Ethernet and adjusts accordingly.

Token Ring

Developed by International Business Machines, token ring is a widely used alternative to Ethernet and Fast Ethernet. In contrast to the wait-and-see approach to data transmission used in Ethernet, token ring utilizes an orderly method of strict rules. Data is transmitted through a ring of computers, from device to device until it reaches its intended destination.

The transmission process occurs through a token, which is special permission given to a device to transmit. The token races around the ring of computers until it finds one that wants to transmit. The transmitting computer gets rid of the token, replacing it with a data frame which completes its own journey around the ring, returning to the transmitting computer. Finally, that computer removes the frame and creates a new token, which re-starts the process.


FDDI is an optical communications standard, capable of transmitting data at the rate of 100 Mbps at a distance of up to 200 kilometers (around 127 miles). Network architectures that use FDDI serve thousands of end-users, linking vast areas of smaller networks and transmitting huge amounts of data. FDDI sends digital data over fiber-optic cables, which are capable of transmitting enormous data loads at high speed. They are analogous to the spine that serves as the conduit for the human body’s nervous system.

CCNP Wireless Certification Overview (Cisco Certified Network Professional Wireless)

The Cisco Certified Network Professional Wireless (CCNP Wireless) certification is track of CCNP that focuses on wireless networking. A professional level certification, the CCNP Wireless specializes in wireless networking technology using Cisco products. Cisco began offering this certification in September 2009 in response to industry demand. The CCNP Wireless certification formalizes the holder’s knowledge and skills with regard to Cisco wireless networks. All aspects of implementing, designing and operating wireless networks built using Cisco products are covered by this certification. Wireless networking theory and principles are used to build a solid foundation that CCNP Wireless holders use to assess and meet business wireless networking needs. The certification aims to validate the holder’s ability to successfully translate those needs into a practical installation.

Should I take the exams for CCNP Wireless certification?

Wireless networking professionals such as network administrators, network architects and network engineers derive tremendous benefits from holding the CCNP Wireless certification. Individuals seeking these positions can rest assured of ample opportunities in the years ahead. The United States Department of Labor forecasts strong growth between now and 2018. Jobs are projected to increase by more than 20 percent between 2008 and 2018. In fact, the precise percentage of employment growth is expected to be around 30 percent, a phenomenal gain for this field. CCNP Wireless holders will likely find plenty of jobs available for them in the future.

What is the typical salary of someone with CCNP Wireless certification?

CCNP Wireless is a sub-track of the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification. According to the market research firm Payscale, CCNP Wireless holders can command reasonably high salaries. The salary range can be large, as large as a difference of more than $60,000 with some positions, but the highest salaries pay over $100,000 annually. CCNP Wireless holders can leverage their skills to advance their careers in this kind of environment.

What do I need to do to earn CCNP Wireless status?

An individual who wishes to apply for the CCNP Wireless must have one of two prerequisite certifications. He or she must have an unexpired Cisco Certified Network Associate Wireless (CCNA Wireless) or a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification in any track to qualify for the CCNP Wireless.

To obtain the CCNP Wireless, four exams must be passed. These exams are the 642-731 CUWSS, 642-741 IUWVN, 642-746 IUWMS and 642-736 IAUWS. Each exam is 90 minutes long and consists of 50 to 60 questions. The training courses for the exams each last five days. They sequentially train the student in setting up a wireless network, integrating various features such as Voice over Wireless Local Area Network services, mobility services and securing the wireless network against various threats.

How do I renew my CCNP Wireless certification?

All professional certifications from Cisco remain in force for a period of no longer than three years. After the three years are up, the certification expires, and the former holder loses all of the associated professional benefits. He must achieve re-certification to regain his former status. The former holder can choose from four options. Passing any professional level exam before the CCNP Wireless expires will re-certify him, as will passing any of the current CCIE exam offerings. Alternatively, he could pass currently offered Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) practical or written exams. Finally, he could pass the board review and interview requirements for the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) certification, which automatically re-certifies the holder for all lower class certifications.

Understanding Network Protocols

This article provides an overview of the following network protocols and technologies: PPP, TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, netBEUI, FTP, HTTP, NFS, SMTP, ICMP, Telnet and SSH.

Network design has advanced as computer technology has expanded and grown more powerful. Networks allow linked computers to share data. This basic functionality belies a complex interaction of a multiplicity of different rules, hardware, programs and connection standards. The most foundational aspects of networks are protocols. Network protocols define the conventions for communication between network devices such as a computer and a router. Multiple protocols exist, and each one came about because of improvements in basic design or as innovations in response to intractable problems.

Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP)

This is more properly described as a protocol suite than as a single protocol. Though considered to be part of Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), PPP can be thought of as a protocol suite within the suite of TCP/IP. PPP facilitates IP transmission between network devices sharing a direct link. Through a series of link phases, a secure connection is established over which data may be transmitted. PPP actually works as an intermediate-level packet structure. It enables the transmission of higher-level protocols, such as TCP/IP, across a diversity of link environments. PPP is most commonly used for dial-up networking between modems.


TCP Connection State Diagram.
TCP Connection State Diagram. Photo Credit: Niklas Gustavsson
Transfer Control Protocol and Internet Protocol are actually two separate protocols. They are described in one phrase because they are widely used together. TCP/IP can be better understood by referring to the Open Systems Interconnection Model (OSI Model). TCP represents the third layer, Network, while IP represents the fourth layer, Transport. Thus, TCP/IP refers to situations were TCP is used to transmit information across IP networks. IP moves data from node to node, and TCP moves data from client to server. TCP also provides redundancy in that it detects errors or lost data. TCP will retransmit data until a successful transmission is completed.



Internetwork Packet Exchange/Sequenced Packet Exchange (IPX/SPX) is the legacy networking protocol for Novell NetWare. However, it has evolved and is now used in Microsoft NT, Lotus Notes, Vista and Microsoft XP environments. IPX/SPX was eventually replaced with the more popular TCP/IP for NetWare, although IPX/SPX enjoys broad usage in other network environments. IPX is easy to configure and works well with small networks. It enables datagram services in packet-switched internetworks. Similar to IP, it has several key differences. SPX facilitates transport-layer services in conjunction with IPX’s routing capabilities. IPX addresses are hexadecimal numbers consisting of a network address and a hardwired node address.


Network BIOS Extended User Interface (netBEUI) was developed from Microsoft’s Network Basic Input Output System (netBIOS). netBIOS, in turn, was created based on Disk Operating System (DOS) BIOS, which extended the basic system with local area network (LAN) capabilities. netBEUI extends the networking features of netBIOS by formalizing the frame format for arranging information in data transmission. netBEUI works very well when limited to a single LAN. To connect to an external network with TCP/IP, the server providing the connection must be equipped with both TCP/IP and netBEUI. The server can then be programmed to choose between TCP/IP for external connections and netBEUI for internal LAN transmission.


File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is the single best protocol for transmitting files over the Internet. It sets the standard for other protocols. FTP uses TCP/IP to transmit data, making it compatible with virtually every network system in existence. FTP downloads files from servers and uploads files to servers from personal computers. FTP is commonly used for compuer to computer file transmission. Since it uses TCP/IP, anyone can download FTP and start transmitting files if they know the network address of the destination.


HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the most widely used protocol to transfer audio, visual, graphics, text and other multimedia files over the Internet. HTTP runs over TCP/IP. Whenever a user starts a Web browser, it automatically uses HTTP to pull information from a server with TCP/IP. Hypertext is any text displayed on a webpage with a blue underlined link to another page. A user clicks on a hypertext link and the HTTP daemon, which is a part of all servers, detects and redirects the user to the new link. HTTP makes the Internet possible; TCP/IP merely fleshes it out.


Network File System (NFS) is a Unix protocol developed by Sun Microsystems. It treats remote files as if they were local files on a hard disk, allowing users to manipulate them. Importantly, users can access files across different types of computers. Using Virtual File System (VFS), which lies on top of TCP/IP, NFS lets computers act as clients when accessing remote files and also lets computers act as servers when another user is accessing their files. NFS obviously operates within a client/server framework. The advantage of NFS is letting users treat remote files as local files, which makes file sharing much easier.


Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is another ubiquitous Internet protocol like HTTP. SMTP facilitates the transfer of electronic mail or e-mail from computer to computer across the Internet. SMTP is used to send and receive messages between a mail client, usually an email application on the user’s computer and a mail server. SMTP interacts with Post Office Protocol (POP) or Internet Mail Access Protocol (IMAP) to retrieve e-mail from a mail server. Users need to configure both the POP or IMAP server and the SMTP server when installing and setting up an email application on their computer.


Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is one of the major protocols of the IP suite. ICMP is an error detection and diagnostic protocol, essential for any IP set-up. ICMP can support packets containing error messages, which alert users to problems with network connections. A ping command, for instance, uses ICMP to test an IP address’s availability. ICMP messages usually report problems with the integrity of datagrams. To prevent infinite regression, no ICMP messages are ever sent about ICMP messages. ICMP is architecturally layered on top of IP. Error control is critical when dealing with the Network OSI layer.


Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is rarely noticed by network administrators due to its simplicity. It operates at the second layer of the OSI model, translating IP addresses into physical hardware addresses. It does this to map an IP address to a link layer address whenever it is demanded. ARP links the IP and Ethernet network layers to facilitate data transmission. It is one of the most critical protocols for a network to use, and its simple operation and interface makes problems rare. ARP enables Ethernet adapters to transmit data between network devices by synchronizing different OSI layers to the same address.

Telnet and SSH

Telnet is a protocol that enables a user to connect to a remote computer. Most computer users have used telnet to connect to another computer. Command-line telnets exist on most computers; they are standard on nearly every Unix platform, Linux distro, and on Macs. Even Windows includes the program telnet.exe which can be accessed via the DOS command prompt interface. Another protocol that accomplishes the same task is Secure Shell (SSH). SSH uses much stronger cryptography than telnet to protect users against hackers and eavesdroppers. Telnet is older than SSH and uses minimal security to send and receive commands, making it more vulnerable. SSH is almost automatic, and telnet allows the user to pass some features onto the remote server itself.

The CCNA SP Operations Exam

The Cisco Certified Network Associated Service Provider Operations (CCNA SP Operations) certifies a support engineer’s technical comprehension and practical abilities. The certification focuses on an environment of normative repaire within the context of large, high-speed core network infrastructure using Internet Protocol Next-Generation Network technology. The CCNA SP Operations curriculum features performance management, change, configuration, incident and fault procedures. Network management system tools and protocols are also given attention.

Who should take the CCNA SP Operations exam?

Network professionals like network support engineers can use the CCNA SP Operations to give their qualifications external validity. The CCNA SP Operations is an associate level certification that specializes in troubleshooting and maintenance of a high-speed IP NGN core network system. This certification has no prerequisites, but it serves as a prerequisite for other certifications, such as the Cisco Certified Network Professional Service Provider Operations (CCNP SP Operations), which is the next level above associate.

How much will I earn with the CCNA SP Operations certification?

The salary offered for a CCNA SP Operations position will depend on variables like previous work experience, truly knowing the concepts rather than simply passing the exam and whether the holder’s expertise is relevant to the business or the position. CCNA SP Operations holders who fit their positions well can earn high salaries, sometimes in the six-figure range. Senior Network Engineers with any CCNA track can earn between $61,000 and $112,000, for example. The precise figure offered a first-time CCNA SP Operations applicant will vary based on the factors listed above. The salaries listed by PayScale are in range form because it takes time to move from one salary level to the next.

The job market for these professionals is expected to improve by a large margin between 2008 and 2018. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that 280,000 jobs in computer networking will be created in the next several years, a growth rate of over 20 percent. Prospects for professionals who hold a CCNA SP Operations certification are very positive.

How do I earn and maintain my CCNP SP Operations certification?

After achieving the CCNA SP Operations, the certification remains valid for three years. The holder must re-certify himself within those three years to maintain his status. He has multiple avenues to meet this goal. The easiest way is simply to pass the exam for any CCNA track. Alternatives involve moving up the Cisco pyramid, such as passing any 642-XXX professional level exam or any Cisco Specialist exam. Above these, the options include passing the written and practical exams for expert level certifications or even attempting to master the demanding architect level. The architect level is the highest certification that Cisco offers.

All About the Cisco Certified Network Associate Voice (CCNA Voice) Exam

The Cisco Certified Network Associate Voice (CCNA Voice) certification prepares the professional to operate and administer a voice network at an associate level. The certification will signify to employers that the professional is skilled in being a voice engineer, a voice manager or a voice technologies administrator. The certification will also ensure the professional can develop solutions for IP PBX, call control, handset and voicemail for VOIP technologies.

The CCNA Voice certification will involve implementing Cisco IOS Unified Communication. The candidate will receive access design covering mobility and Cisco Unified Communication architecture. Participants must earn the certificate by passing the 640-461 Introducing Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration (ICOMM) V8.0 or the Cisco CCNA Voice 640-460 IIUC advanced certification. The typical time to prepare for a CCNA Voice Exam requires four to six months. The exam is typically issued by Pearson VUE.

CCNA Voice certification will qualify a professional to implement this technology in large government organizations, corporations and colleges. Professionals also have the option to gain skills in the commercial arena. The CCNA Voice certification commercial option will train the candidate in skills suitable for companies with fewer than 2000 employees.

This may include retail businesses and small school districts. Cisco CallManager Express (CME) and Cisco Unity Express (CUE) are the primary technologies to learn to manage these networks. Candidates will be required to take the IIUS exam #640-460 to receive certification.

What classes should I take for the CCNA Voice exam, and what prerequisites do I need

Through several classes, candidates will gain the skills necessary to demonstrate proficiency in core Cisco switching and routing networks. Sample classes offered by Cisco include: Cisco Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1), Cisco Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2 (ICND1) and Introducing Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration (ICOMM) v8.0. Other classes may include the following:

•       An Overview of Cisco Unified Communications Solutions
•       An Overview of Administrator and End-User Interfaces
•       End Point and End-User Administration
•       Enablement of Cisco Unity Connection and Cisco Unified Presence
•       Enablement of End-User Telephony and Mobility Features
•       Cisco Unified Communication Solution Maintenance

Before beginning this course, candidates must have a working knowledge of converged voice and data networks. They must also have a basic knowledge of Cisco IOS gateways and a basic knowledge of Cisco Unified Communications Manager and Cisco Unity Connection. Analytical skills, logical thinking skills, mathematical ability and some networking abilities are required before studying to take the CCNA exam.

What will I learn by studying for the CCNA Voice exams?

Students will learn components, architecture, functionalities and features of Cisco Unified Communications.
System monitoring, moves, adds and changes are all taught in this curriculum. After completing the assignments, clients will be able to identify call signaling, media stream flows and the components of a Cisco Unified Communications solution. Students will also learn to discuss the administrator and end-user interface.

Students will also understand call flows in Cisco Unified Communications Manager and the Express version. Performing end-point and end-user administrator is also taught during these classes. Students will learn to describe all telephony features and how to maintain a Cisco Unified Communications solution. More information can be discovered on

Renewing your CCNA Voice certification

The CCNA Voice certification is valid for three years and then professionals must recertify. Recertification simply requires that you retake and pass the previous exam or achieve the next level of certification beyond CCNA.

Typical Salaries of CCNA Voice certification holders

Most professionals in this field will earn between $60,000 and $100,000 per year depending on the company, the economy and the area employed. Currently, the job market for CCNA Voice certified professionals is sound. There is a shortage of CCNA Voice networking professionals, so the demand is higher than normal. University students, helpdesk operators, IT professionals, network engineers, network support staff and system engineers are all eligible to pursue this certification.

Why Take the CCNA Security Exam?

The Cisco Certified Network Associated Security (CCNA Security) certification is meant to validate the knowledge and skills necessary to secure Cisco networks. CCNA Security enables the holder to demonstrate certain skills, including:

  • developing security infrastructure
  • recognizing vulnerabilities in and threats to networks
  • neutralizing security threats

CCNA Security places emphasis on core security technologies. It also focuses on installing, configuring and troubleshooting network devices to sustain the integrity of networks. Confidentiality and privacy of customer data are high priorities. CCNA Security centers around maintaining the competency in the technologies used by Cisco’s security structure. CCNA Security is designed for job roles like Network Security Specialist, Security Administrator and Network Security Support Engineer.

Job growth in Computer Network, Systems and Database Administrators, which includes security specialties, is expected to increase by over 20 percent between 2008 and 2018. Additionally, job prospects in this field are expected to be plentiful over the same time period. This provides ample opportunities for individuals who decide to upgrade their desirability by obtaining the CCNA Security certification.

Network Engineers with a CCNA Security certification can earn between $45,000 to $70,000 per year. Considering the prospects for job growth, wages are likely to remain favorable in the coming years. Other positions like Data Security Administrator can earn between $36,000 and $75,000 per year.

The CCNA Security certification is an associate-level, specialized certification, focusing on the security and integrity of Cisco networks and devices such as routers or switches. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS) both recognize that the CCNA Security coursework meets the CNSS 4011 training standard. By complying with this standard, holders of CCNA Security certifications have the required training to assist private sector entities and federal agencies. CCNA Security network professionals help protect the information of private entities and aid in the defense of the nation’s critical IT infrastructure.

Cisco has the ability to recognize candidates who have met the CNSS 4011 training standard. Candidates who have met the standard will receive a letter recognizing their accomplishment. Candidates so recognized can, in turn, use the letter as proof of their completion of the CNSS 4011 standard and incorporate it in their professional documentation.

To become CCNA Security certified, a valid CCNA certification must have been previously obtained. If this is not the case, any valid Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification is also acceptable. The CCNA Security certification is valid for three years. To become re-certified, one of several examinations must be taken and passed before the three-year period is up and the certification expires.

The CCNA Security certification requires applicants to pass the 640-553 IINS exam. To prepare for the exam, the recommended training class is Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security (IINS). Students must have taken a previous class, Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1), and have a working knowledge of Windows. The 640-553 IINS exam tests an applicant’s knowledge of securing Cisco routers and switches in addition to associated networks. The exam validates an applicant’s ability to install, configure and troubleshoot network devices to maintain the integrity of Cisco networks.