Vendor-Neutral Certifications

As harsh as it seems, experience isn’t always enough. Author David Fells covers some of the more prominent vendor-neutral certifications available and shows which you might need to keep your career on track.

It is common knowledge that most IT professionals rely on three things to succeed in their respective career paths: communication skills, experience, and certifications. Measuring communication skills and experience is a task that requires hiring managers be excellent judges of character and have exceptional critical thinking and observational skills. The third piece of this puzzle, certifications, is another animal entirely. Certifications try to demonstrate an objective and comprehensive knowledge on a particular subject or set of subjects for the person who obtains it. Ideally, a certificate holder meets the recommendations outlined by the organization that provides the certification program and obtained the certification by use of knowledge obtained in training and practice of those skills.

The point is this: certifications are meant to validate skills and experience. So, what certifications do you need? This article is meant to provide a cursory examination of various vendor-neutral certifications available to IT professionals and discuss the importance of those certifications to hiring managers and solution providers.

While vendor-specific certifications are important today and will continue to play a key role in the future, a new certification model appears to be evolving, one in which solution providers look for vendor-neutral certifications first and add on technology-focused, vendor-specific certifications as needed. This means IT professionals should consider pursuing vendor-neutral certifications to get a foot in the door, then pursue vendor-specific certifications as required or recommended by the employer.

Of all the vendor-neutral certifications available, those gaining the most momentum are security related. Security is now more than ever the number one concern for businesses and solution providers alike, and broad security knowledge is considered a fundamental more than a specialty in our modern high risk computing world. Behind security based certifications are those that establish broad knowledge on a set of fundamental computing skills such as networking, hardware, and operating system basics. These certifications prove that an IT professional understands to some degree the inner workings of the technology he is working with, something that sets your everyday “tech” from a qualified problem solver.

{mospagebreak title=Linux Certifications}

In a study conducted recently by CRN magazine, vendor-specific certifications dominated their list of the fifteen most important certifications. In their list of the top fourteen certifications of growing importance, however, the situation was more favorable to vendor-neutral certifications, particularly those dealing with Linux and security.

Two of the most important vendor-neutral certifications are CompTIA’s Linux+ and the Linux Professional Institute Level 1 and 2 certifications. These certifications allow IT professionals to demonstrate a fairly comprehensive knowledge of installing, configuring, securing and administering Linux systems. The target professional is someone with six to twelve months hands-on experience with Linux operating systems for CompTIA Linux+ and LPI Level 1. LPI level 2 comes with the recommendation of at least two years in the field with Linux. The core value to these certifications is that they are distribution neutral, meaning that an IT professional who holds any of these certifications should be capable of working with any version of Linux with minimal training and supervision.

Linux certification holders are, according to the exam objectives, able to work in any Linux environment and successfully deploy and maintain Linux systems. The value of this certification to solution providers lies in this point, as it is not far fetched that a Red Hat Certified Engineer would have trouble building and maintaining a Debian distribution, and vice versa. This empowers solution providers to approach clients with the knowledge that they can choose the Linux distribution that is best suited to their business or that they can go into any network environment and work with any Linux-based system they may have without losing time (money) on the job, or the trust of the client.

{mospagebreak title=Security Certifications}

In the area of security certifications, there are several prominent programs available, the most notable of which is CompTIA Security+. The skills and knowledge measured by this exam, according to the Security+ Exam Objectives, was derived and validated through input from a committee and over 1,000 subject matter experts representative of industry.

The certification is intended to serve as validation of the technical knowledge required of foundation-level security practitioners, according to the objective sheet. Anyone holding the Security+ certification should know enough about fundamental security to perform basic security assessments and take measures to plan and implement security procedures in a business environment. The specific objective domains for this exam include general security concepts, communication security, infrastructure security, basics of cryptography and operational/organizational security.

In addition to the Security+ exam, professionals may pursue the Security Certified Network Professional certification. There are actually two flavors of this certification, the associate level and professional level, or SCNA and SCNP, respectively. SCNA tests the candidate’s knowledge of building trusted networks and SCNP tests knowledge of defensive security strategy.

The program focuses on two key areas of security: Firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). Two exams must be passed to obtain the certification. The first is Hardening the Infrastructure exam, which covers contingency planning, tools and techniques, security on the web, router security and ACLs, TCP/IP packet structure and security, and operating system security. The second exam, Network Defense and Countermeasures, covers network defense fundamentals, security policy design and implementation, network traffic signatures, vpn concepts and implementation, IDS concepts and implementation, and firewall concepts and implementation. The exams are completely scenario based and require a truly in depth knowledge of the subject matter to pass, all but eliminating the possibility of “paper professionals” holding the certification.

The true value of security certifications is the trust of clients that goes along with them. Most business customers will not allow you to even enter their security space without seeing your security certifications; the technology is just too critical. Certifications help protect solution providers as well because if a mistake is made and a hole is opened up in a company’s security system, the solution provider could be held legally liable. Employing certified security professionals is one major step in the way of preventing that situation from arising.

Security certifications are especially important to small businesses who are already struggling to establish a reputation and an identity in a crowded IT market. They allow the solution providers to approach a potential client with proof that they possess the skills needed to deliver a secure network infrastructure.

Security is the number one concern for everyone in today’s computing environment and customers are understandably skeptical about the ability of solution providers to secure their networks. It is unusual for a week to pass without a relatively high profile security breach or Internet virus showing up in the news, and businesses are usually at the highest risk to these security threats. Solution providers who employ security professionals who hold vendor-neutral security certifications can work with confidence that all the key aspects of security will be evaluated and addressed appropriately, limiting liabilities in both reputation and money.

{mospagebreak title=CWNP Certification}

Last on our list of vendor-neutral certifications is the Planet 3 Certified Wireless Network Professional. The CWNP program is, as described by Planet 3, the industry standard for vendor-neutral wireless LAN certification. The CWNP program offers three levels of certification: fundamental, advanced, and expert. The fundamental level is covered by the CWNA (Certified Wireless network Administrator) program. This certification tests basic knowledge of RF technologies, wireless LAN technologies, implementation and management, troubleshooting, site surveys, security, and industry standards. Covering the advanced level is the CWSP (Certified Wireless Security Expert) exam. This exam indicates advanced knowledge of securing wireless LANs. Passing the CWNP exam is a prerequisite for taking this exam. At the advanced level, we also find the CWAP (Certified Wireless Analysis Professional) certification. This program focuses entirely on the analysis and troubleshooting of wireless LAN systems. As with the CWSP exam, passing the CWNA exam is a prerequisite for taking this exam.

At the expert level is the CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert) certification. To take this exam a candidate must have passed all three of the previously mentioned exams. This certification ensures that the candidate has mastered all relevant skills to administer, install, configure, troubleshoot, and design wireless networks.

Wireless networks are growing in popularity each day. They offer unparalleled versatility and accessibility, but they also offer unparalleled security risks. All information on a wireless network can be detected by any device operating in the same frequency spectrum. Securing wireless networks is quickly becoming a must have skill, and it seems a certainty that wireless security will become a core part of the other security certifications available to IT professionals. Holding a combination of security certifications, including traditional and wireless network security, is certainly the best way for solution providers to gain the trust of larger business clients who need diverse technologies to support increasingly diverse needs.

Costs

Vendor-neutral certifications are certainly not to be overlooked by IT professionals looking to enhance their market value or even those just looking for a new challenge. Training costs for vendor-neutral exams tend to be far less than training costs for vendor-specific exams. The cost of obtaining the CCSE (Cisco Certified Security Expert) exam is more than five times the cost of Linux+, and training courses for CCSE regularly cost more than $2000, where Linux+ training courses are offered online for under $500. Vendor-neutral certifications are growing quickly in importance and IT professionals should expect that trend to continue for years to come as technologies become more diverse and solutions more homogeneous.

[gp-comments width="770" linklove="off" ]
antalya escort bayan antalya escort bayan