The Cisco CCNA Security certification is recognized throughout the networking and security industries as an indication of a candidate's knowledge of and ability to work with Cisco technology. Achieving this certification requires passing the Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security (IINS) exam. Michael Watkins is an expert on this exam, having co-authored the CCNA Security Official Exam Certification Guide. In this interview, Michael explains his best practices for preparing for and passing the IINS exam. Michael is a full-time senior technical instructor with SkillSoft Corp., with over 13 years of network management, training and consulting experience. For more information, check out our chapter excerpt from his book, as well as a collection of questions designed to test your knowledge in this quiz.
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How important is having CCNA certification to IT professionals? Why should they pursue it?Watkins: The new CCNA Security certification represents a big step forward in the Cisco certification program. For the first time, network professionals are able to show a depth of understanding on an advanced networking concept, like security. The CCNA Security credential allows individuals to better focus their networking career path, as well as giving them a way to represent their advanced knowledge and skills to would-be employers.
Have there been any recent changes to the CCNA exam, to adapt to changing technologies?Watkins: This certification represents a completely new certification for Cisco Systems and as such focuses on the latest hardware and IOS versions.
What do you think is the best way to prepare for the CCNA exam?Watkins: The ideal way to prepare for any Cisco exam is through a mix of knowledge and experience. To obtain knowledge about the underlying technologies and concepts, learners can turn to Cisco Learning Partners like SkillSoft who offer courses based on the official curriculum from Cisco. Then, once students have a solid understanding of the technology, they can use resources from Cisco Press to focus their efforts on the exam requirements. This mix of training and materials, along with practical, hands-on experience, will help to prepare candidates for this challenging exam.
Are there any particularly tricky or difficult sections of the exam? How would you advise test takers to tackle these areas?Watkins: I have found that most test takers find the environment simulations that appear on some Cisco exams to be the most challenging portion of any exam. While as a CCSI- and Cisco-certified professional, I cannot divulge the content of any exam, I would suggest that working through practical labs and gaining real-world, hands-on experience with Cisco gear will help any such questions go much more smoothly. Not to mention, this is a great way to reinforce conceptual learning.
From your extensive work experience with network management, what advice would you have for aspiring network managers looking to succeed with Cisco certification?Watkins: Cisco certifications can be quite challenging to attain, but as such they are extremely highly valued within the industry. I would encourage any network professional looking toward Cisco certification to undertake the process. Each year salary surveys underscore the value of Cisco certifications, and in an ever-competitive job market, showing an employer that you are willing to invest in your knowledge and your career through a Cisco certification is a great way to gain a leg up on the competition. When it comes to succeeding on the exams themselves, my best advice is to put in the time beforehand to truly know the products and technologies being tested, and then on exam day, keep moving forward -- don't get bogged down on any one question. I have seen too many students get thrown off by a few things they didn't know, and end up not having the time to complete the exam. Be careful not to let this happen to you.
Are there any supplementary resources that you would recommend to test takers and IT professionals looking for more information on the Cisco Security certification?Watkins: If you're looking for additional resources to prepare for the CCNA Security exam, I would first suggest official Cisco training through a certified Learning Partner like SkillSoft. SkillSoft offers live online courses that follow the official Cisco curriculum. In addition, I would suggest resources from Cisco Press, such as the Official CCNA Security guide. Once a candidate is ready to practice for the real exam, exam prep software from Boson does a wonderful job of emulating the real exam environment and presents the candidate with questions that match the topic areas and the complexity that they are likely to see on the real exam.