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Four reasons to earn Cisco's new CCENT certification

While the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is the most well-known introductory certification offered by Cisco, it can be a serious challenge for many Cisco networking newcomers. Recently, Cisco introduced the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification. What can earning this cert offer you? Let's find out.

What is the CCENT?

Introduced in June 2007, the CCENT is a stepping stone to the CCNA certification. It covers topics that you would expect an entry-level technician to know, including the OSI model, DNS basics, NAT, routing, and router configuration.

This certification's only requirement is a single exam: Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (640-822). The 90-minute test involves 50 to 60 questions, and it costs $125.

The topics covered by this exam are impressive. This test can even serve as a hiring tool; a help desk technician or junior network administrator could take it to prove his or her basic level of network knowledge.

What topics does the CCENT cover?

Essentially, the CCENT covers the more introductory and theoretical half of the CCNA topics. Here's what test 640-822 covers:

  • Data network operations: Test to see if you know these terms: LAN, WAN, OSI model, and VoIP. You should be able to understand network diagrams and traffic flow.
  • Implementation of a small switched network: Can you connect the right cables and switches to create a basic network? How does switching work? How do you secure and troubleshoot your network switches (e.g., port security, autonegotiation, duplex, basic troubleshooting tools, etc.)?
  • IP addressing and services for small branch offices: This includes small network IP addressing, NAT, DHCP, DHCP, and troubleshooting.
  • Implementation of a small routed network: How does routing work? Can you configure RIP, manage the Cisco IOS, secure and troubleshoot your Cisco routers?
  • Understanding of wireless LANs: Do you have an understanding of wireless standards, wireless terms, wireless security, and common wireless issues?
  • Securing the network: Do you have an understanding of security policies, securing hosts and applications, and fundamental network security practices?
  • Understanding of WANs: Do you know how to connect to a WAN? Can you configure basic serial connections to a WAN?

If you feel comfortable with these topics, you have a good chance at obtaining your CCENT.

How does the CCENT compare to the CCNA?

You can obtain your CCNA certification by taking one of two paths:

  • One test: You can just take test 640-802 — a single test that incorporates both parts of the ICND course material.
  • Two tests: You can take tests 640-822 and 640-816. By passing test 640-822, you would earn the CCENT. Then by passing test 640-816, you would have both your CCENT and your CCNA certifications.

Four reasons you should get your CCENT

If you already have a Cisco certification, you can go ahead and skip this section. But if you don't have any Cisco certifications, the CCENT is most likely the best possible place for you to start. Here are four reasons why:

  1. The CCENT demonstrates your networking knowledge in a tangible way. Getting a Cisco certification shows that you know something about networking; networks make computing possible and connect every person in the world. Why not start out with a certification that applies broadly to just about any IT job or task?
  2. Earning the CCENT requires passing only one test. Earning a cert by passing just one test will boost your confidence and get you ready for the longer certification paths such as the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification.
  3. A certification helps prove your knowledge to your boss. We would all like to think that everyone respects us just because we are smart, but having a piece of paper on the wall couldn't hurt, could it? It reminds your boss and coworkers of your expertise every time they come into your office. Plus, it couldn't hurt come time for your compensation review, right?
  4. The CCENT is a stepping stone for the CCNA. Passing the single CCNA test can be very difficult — it's much easier to take two smaller tests that you can more easily prepare for. By passing the CCENT test, you're halfway on the road to earning your CCNA.

Summary

While I'm not that crazy about the CCENT acronym, I do believe that the cert is a valuable entry-level certification that you'll be hearing more about. Have you been thinking about getting a CCNA, but it seemed too daunting a task? Why not start working on your CCENT today?

David Davis has worked in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.

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