Thursday, 10 May 2018

Which website is best for Cisco CCNA Exam preparation?

Cisco CCNA Exam, CCNA Exam Preparation, Cisco CCNA Guides

As far back as I can remember in my data networking career, Cisco has had a certification program. Back in the late 90s, it wasn’t hard to figure out what to study or where to begin. Fast forward to today and getting started in the world of Cisco and data networking can be quite a daunting task. Whether you’re trying to build the right skills to succeed on the job or need to guide your staff to the certs they need to succeed, you must first understand what areas of certification Cisco offers.

There are four major Cisco certification paths:

1. Career Certifications

2. Specialist Certifications

3. Technician Certifications

Each of these areas has a specific purpose in the Cisco ecosystem, so it’s important to consider the skills required in each path and how they relate to your team or the job you’re fulfilling. In this post, we’ll look at each of these four areas and discuss where they are most appropriate. We’ll give special attention to the Cisco Career Certifications and the multiple tracks within this path, as these are the most popular certifications that candidates pursue today.

Technician Certifications (CCT)

The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) is one of Cisco’s newest. A CCT is qualified to diagnose, restore, repair and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites. Cisco has a Technical Assistance Center (TAC) and CCTs work closely with TAC engineers to help resolve support incidents. In these situations, the CCT is the person in the field and the TAC assumes the senior position, providing instructions and direction from Cisco.

There are three focal areas of the CCT certification:

1. Data Center

2. Routing and Switching

This program is ideal for entry-level network admins and those starting out with Cisco because it’s a cross between some of the skills covered in the Cisco Career Certification program and some of the hands-on skills developed during field experience and on-the-job training. This path is also great for individuals working in desktop support who want to cross over into network support roles. I recommend the CCT Data Center, as it’s an area that’s in high demand for employers and holds increasing value in IT organizations.

Specialist Certifications

Many companies partner with Cisco and build their entire business on offering Cisco products along with the value-add of network integration and support. These organizations are part of the Cisco Partner Program. Within this program, Cisco defines a number of certifications and specialization categories that a partner can achieve.

The various certifications and specializations come with certain requirements. For example, Gold Partner status requires an organization to have a minimum of 12 unique certified full-time employees, four of them being CCIE certified, and at least one Business Value Practitioner. In addition to these requirements, a Gold partner must specialize in four areas, two of which (Advanced Enterprise Networks Architecture Specialization and Advanced Security Architecture Specialization) are required. There are seven specializations in total:

◈ Collaboration
◈ Data Center
◈ Internet of Things
◈ Network Programmability
◈ Operating System Software
◈ Security
◈ SP

I wouldn’t recommend pursuing these certifications until your organization becomes a Cisco Partner and defines the requirements most beneficial to your department.

Career Certifications

The Cisco Career Certification Programs is one of the most well-known certification programs in the industry. Of the career certifications, the most popular is likely the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). The following diagram is a commonly used graphic that depicts the Cisco Career Certifications from a very high level.

At the base are entry-level certifications, which cover the broadest scope of information. Next would be the associate level certification, followed by the professional, expert and architect levels. As you move up the pyramid, the number of certified professionals decreases and the focus tightens.

If you split out these certifications, you’ll see that within these five layers there are actually nine unique certification tracks to pursue. Some tracks have overlapping exams, making it appealing to achieve more than one certification.

The various certification tracks include:

1. Cloud
2. Collaboration
3. Data Center
4. Design
5. Industrial/ IoT
6. Routing & Switching
7. Security
8. Service Provider
9. Wireless

Not all tracks cover the same levels. For Design, Routing & Switching, Security and Wireless, individuals start the program by passing the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) exam. The other programs start out directly with an associate level exam. All tracks have an associate level certification, but the Industrial and Internet of Things (IoT) tracks lack a professional level certification. At the professional level, applicants typically need to pass three to five separate exams related to a specific job role, product, or technology focus. For example, the CCNP Security requires passing four exams:


Each exam focuses on a specific task that would be performed in the network. SISAS covers the implementation of Cisco Secure Access Solutions in a network, whereas SENSS focuses on implementing Cisco Edge Network Security Solutions such as the ASA Firewall.

The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is one of the most coveted certifications in the industry. The CCIE is about hands-on ability, so individuals must complete a written qualification exam and then pass an eight-hour lab.

Beyond the CCIE is a rather new certification known as the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr). This is a board examination with a heavy price tag. An initial fee of US$3,750 is paid to review the candidate’s qualifications and conduct the initial interview. Once a candidate is approved, they must submit a final fee of US $11,250.00 to receive the architecture challenge documentation and schedule a live Board Review. This certification is not for everyone. It requires significant time in the industry and is only valuable to certain organizations.

So, where should you start?

If you’re looking to start a career in IT or want to skill-up greener members of your IT staff, I recommend the CCENT certification. This certification is beneficial because it builds on IT fundamentals that will be applicable moving forward.

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