How To Become A Cisco VPN Specialist

There’s quite an emphasis on security in today’s networks, and that’s reflected in Cisco’s certification tracks.  Cisco offers a CCIE Security track and the Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) intermediate-level certification, but there is no real equivalent to the CCNA on the security side.  Instead, Cisco offers several different Security Associate certifications.

The good news is that you’ve got a lot of security specializations from which to choose; the bad news is that you’ve got a lot of choices!  In choosing a specialization, take some time to choose a certification that will be of practical use to you in your current position or in your “dream job”.

One of the more popular Security Associate certifications is the Cisco VPN Specialist certification.  This two-exam track consists of a Securing Cisco Network Devices (SND, 642-551) exam and a Cisco Secure Virtual Private Networks (CSVPN, 642-511) exam.  To earn the Cisco VPN Specialist exam, you must hold a valid CCNA certification.

What should you expect on these exams?  On the SND exam, expect to be grilled on basic security features on both switches and routers, as well as VPN 3000 concentrators, PIXes, and IDS/IPS Sensors.  You’ll need to be ready to configure and troubleshoot basic AAA configurations, access-lists, syslog, AutoSecure, and much more.  You should also be solid with IPSec.

IPSec will also be part of your CSVPN exam.  As you’d expect, you’ll also be expected to be quite good with the VPN 3000 Concentrator series, including browser configuration, creating users and group, the Windows VPN Software Client, and more.

This is a demanding certification that is an excellent addition to your resume and your skill set.  For the latest on this and other Cisco certifications, you should regularly visit the Learning & Events section of Cisco’s website.  As a Cisco certification candidate, it’s your responsibility to stay current of any additions and changes to Cisco’s certification paths – and it’s good for your career!

How To Become a Cisco CCNP

Congratulations on your decision to earn your CCNP certification!  As a CCIE, I can tell you that Cisco certifications are both financially and personally rewarding.

To earn your CCNP, you first have to earn your CCNA certification.  Then you’re faced with a decision – take the three-exam CCNP path, or the four-exam path?   They’re both quite demanding, so let’s take a look at each path.

The four-exam CCNP path includes the Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks exam (BSCI), Building Cisco Multilayer Switched Networks exam (BCMSN), Building Cisco Remote Access Networks (BCRAN), and Cisco Internetwork Troubleshooting (CIT) exam.

The three-exam path combines the BSCI and BCMSN exams into a single exam, called the Composite exam.

I’m often asked what order I recommend taking the exams in.  After earning your CCNA, I recommend you begin studying for the BSCI exam immediately.  You will find the fundamentals you learned in your CCNA studies will help you a great deal with this exam.  You’re going to add to your CCNA knowledgebase quite a bit when it comes to OSPF and EIGRP, as well as being introduced to BGP.

I don’t have a preference between the BCMSN and BCRAN exams, but I do recommend you take the CIT exam last.  You’ll be using all the skills you learned in the first three exams to pass the CIT. It’s a very demanding exam, and it’s a little hard to troubleshoot technologies that you haven’t learned yet!

The CCNP is both financially and personally fulfilling.  Once you complete your CCNA studies, take a little breather and then get started on your CCNP studies.  The more you know, the more valuable you are in today’s ever-changing IT job market.