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David Billings - click to email Welcome to the introduction of the Guilford Technical Community College CCNA Study Guide pages. Let's learn Cisco CCNA! This series will cover the topics necessary to help you learn and pass the Cisco CCNA routing and switching exam(s). I'm extremely excited about the fact that this series will take GTCC beyond the world of Linux, Microsoft and Windows, in fact, there are a number of new courses starting over the next couple of years that will make GTCC a complete educator in all Operating Systems and the security of network connectivity between those systems. What I really hope is that all the current MCSAs and MCSEs out there will join me for this ride. Remember that learning never stops, and it also never hurt anyone's career to get up to speed on something new. You may not need it now, but you will need the understanding of routing and switching tomorrow.

Cisco certification can also improve your understanding of the internetworking of more than just Cisco products: You will develop a complete understanding of networking and how different network topologies work together to form a network. This is beneficial to every networking job and is the reason Cisco certification is in such high demand, even at companies with few Cisco devices. Cisco is the king of routing and switching, the Microsoft of the internetworking world. The new Cisco certifications reach beyond the popular certifications, such as the MCSE and CNE, to provide you with an indispensable factor in understanding today's network - insight into the Cisco world of internetworking. By deciding that you want to become Cisco certified, you are saying that you want to be the best - the best at routing and the best at switching. This course can lead you in that direction.

A lot of readers may already be familiar with Cisco and what they do. However, those of you who are new to the field, just coming in fresh from your MCSA or MCSE, and those of you who maybe have 10 or more years in the field but wish to brush up on the new technology may appreciate a little background on Cisco.
In the early 1980s, Len and Sandy Bosack, a married couple who worked in different computer departments at Stanford University, were having trouble getting their individual systems to communicate (like many married people). So in their living room they created a gateway server that made it easier for their separate computers in two different departments to communicate using the IP protocol. In 1984, they founded cisco Systems (notice the small c) with a small commercial gateway server product that changed networking forever. Some people think the name was intended to be San Francisco Systems but the paper got ripped on the way to the incorporation lawyers - who knows? In 1992, the company name was changed to Cisco Systems, Inc.

I've decided to start this set of Study Guides with an introduction that isn't as technical as you might like, but does give you the background that you will need to get started. First of all, getting your CCNA will not make you a superpower of the network world. In fact, there may be a long while between getting your CCNA and anyone actually allowing you to touch their router. This is to be expected based on the importance of maintaining a reliable network infrastructure. However, the CCNA is a great stepping stone in two major ways. First, it will give you the opportunity to learn more about network infrastructure, including both background knowledge and configuration details. Second, it will allow you to begin differentiating yourself from your peers when looking for a job. While you may not get to actually configure a router right away, it will at least show that you have the aptitude and interest. Given that Cisco controls over 92% of the router and switching marketplace, learning a bit about it certainly can't hurt. The best part is that if you're already an MCSA or MCSE, you'll have much of the requisite networking knowledge to make much of studying for your CCNA a breeze, basically a review with some interesting new material.

During your studies you will want to research subjects to find explanations and understanding of various subjects. While studying for my Microsoft certifications I found a lot of web sites which had information for me. While studying for may Cisco certifications I found the Cisco site the best and only site needed as a source for information. Cisco has everything you could possibly need for research in language for the beginner to the Super Geek - explanations, examples, definitions, scripts, papers, etc - it is all there. Get used to going to for your answers. The Cisco Logo on the top right of each study guide page is linked to the Cisco web page. Develop the habit of going there. It is valuable to your career.

The first major obstacle that you may have already thought of is the fact that gaining access to a Cisco router is a little trickier than finding an old PC to install Windows 2000 on. The good news is that there are a number of ways of going about this that I'll discuss in a moment. The two main pieces of equipment that you'll be expected to know something about are the Cisco router, as well as the Cisco switch. My suggestion first of all is not to worry too much about the switch. I'll cover the configuration in enough detail to get you through that without needing to spend a dime. However, the router is another story. You will need experience with the router commands to learn this properly. I don't condone memorizing commands to regurgitate on a certification test. I have found that the Cisco CCNA is about three times more difficult than any Microsoft MCP certification.  Cisco has set the pass/fail level high.  If you do not know switching and routing you will not get certified and cannot get a job and keep a job. If that's what you're looking to do, you won't have very much success on the job. You'd only be fooling yourself and polishing your resume.

It would be ideal if you could gain access to two routers to practice everything - another reason why simulation software is a good idea.

This series of Study Guides will of course start with an overview of networking, protocols, concepts and so forth, so you don't need your router just yet. However, you should be aware that understanding the fundamentals is absolutely critical, so don't skimp through the TCP/IP or OSI or switching materials because you can't wait to get your hands on the router. To be truthful, the router commands are really a small part of the CCNA.  Cisco really wants to make sure that you know what you're doing prior to even touching the router.

So what's next? Well, I'm going to end this introduction by listing the official exam objectives as listed on the Cisco site and show you something about Cisco certifications. After that we'll start the real stuff by taking a look at internetworking concepts and a re-introduction to the OSI model.

Welcome on board all future CCNAs!

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