Be Certifiable! The Basics Of MCSE And MCP
image source :

Be Certifiable! The Basics Of MCSE And MCP

It is not always who you know, but what you know. That is why obtaining Microsoft certification can be a valuable asset to your career. Of course, it does depend on what career path you want to take as to whether you want to get either MCSE training or MCP training or anything else for that matter. So what do those abbreviations MCSE and MCP stand for anyway?

MCP stands for Microsoft Certified Professional and MCSE is an abbreviation for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. What exactly does having a Microsoft certification mean anyway? We know that it looks good on a resume and opens new doors in your career. Did you know that being certifiable – in Microsoft anyway – sometimes will also boost your pay? Experience counts for a lot, but having a Microsoft certification or two does not hurt either!

So what does it take to be and MCP or MCSE? Lots of studying! The MCP courses and MCP exams are geared toward a more rounded technical professional. Candidates for MCP must pass one current certification test from Microsoft. Passing one of the exams demonstrates that the candidate has a consistent level of technical expertise.

With the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer path, there are MCSE boot camps that help prepare candidates for the MCSE exams. These MCSE boot camps are intense classes often packed into a full two week period instead of the traditional weekly MCSE training classes in preparation for the MCSE exams. This path is more involved. MCSE certification is standard in the IT field and prepares you for anything from the design of a system’s infrastructure to analyzing the company’s needs before implementing a design.

Unlike those individuals who take the MCP training to prepare for MCP exams, students of MCSE have a course of study that is more intense. Instead of one test to prepare for, they have seven tests that they are required to pass to get their Microsoft certification. Yikes! Seven! They have five main exams to take as well as two electives. The five required MCSE exams are broken down into four operating system exams and one design exam. The two electives typically deal with other issues in design and implementation not covered in the five core tests.

After learning a few basics, it is easy to see that the MCP or Microsoft Certified Professional is really just a stepping stone to bigger and greater things in the world of Microsoft certification. The individuals who go for the MCP have a leg up on those peers who have no technical experience. They will have a better grasp on technical issues and usually stay a step ahead of trends. The MCSE is more specialized and appeals to the techno geek with a penchant for design and implementation. They like knowing how stuff works. So market yourself and become certifiable!

Boost Your Career And Benefit From A Microsoft Certification Or Two Or Three!

You went to college and thought you were prepared for the job market. If you are going for entry-level work, yeah, you are prepared. However, to really get ahead, you need Microsoft certification, whether it is an MCP, MCSA, MCSE or any other string of letters. Quite a few people will go for multiple certifications to broaden their experience and scope of possible job opportunities.

Some of the Microsoft certifications require you have to have at least one year of practical experience in order to pursue a certification, namely an MCSE or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. It is important to have that experience that these certain certifications require because the training, like the MCSE training and the MCSE exams that follow, are very intense. In fact, some people will not only partake of the standard MCSE training, but also MCSE boot camps for more in-depth studies into their certification.

One standard benefit to having a Microsoft certification is that it is a great basic means of analyzing the aptitude of an employee. If you are a manager or owner in a business, you want some way to evaluate that employee’s skills. And if you are the employee, you know that your boss recognizes your abilities.

If you are on the hunt for a new job, then potential hiring managers and employers have a basis in which to assess your qualifications. Without that Microsoft certification on your resume, these employers would have no idea about your skills and most likely would consider someone else, someone with a certification, for the position you were aiming for.

If you do not have much hands-on experience in your field, but you do have the Microsoft certification to prove that you know the material, you would also have a leg up on anyone else applying for the same position that may have more hands-on experience, but no certification. For some reason, that certification, those little string of letters like MCP or MCSE, hold a lot of power.

Yet another benefit to holding a Microsoft certification or two is the money aspect of it all. Sure, you shelled out some major bucks to fund your education in those MCP courses or that MCSE training, but consider it an investment in yourself. With certification, you can bargain a higher salary and even reimbursement for your training!

Many professionals in the IT field or in a company in which you work in an IT department could benefit from Microsoft certification. Do you work as an Administrator for a network, mail or web server? Are you involved in the security of networks and the internet? Any of those positions and much more benefit with additional training and certification. Just think money! It is the biggest motivator. The more you know and can bring to a position, the more money you stand to make.

So think about going for your MCSE or MCP certification or any number of others available. More training; more knowledge; more money … sounds like a no-brainer! Go nuts and get certified today!


CCNA stands for Cisco Certified Network Associate – a certification for IT professionals that is issued by Cisco Systems, Inc., one of the most successful computer networking companies. Cisco manufactures and markets a wide range of devices for both enterprises and telecommunications carriers. Cisco is an abbreviation of San FranCISCO.

The Cisco Certified Network Associate is an apprentice, or foundation level (along with Cisco Certified Design Associate), within the three levels of certification that include Associate, Professional, and Expert. Basically, CCNA professionals are certified to install, configure, and operate LAN, WAN, and dial access services for small networks (100 nodes or fewer), including but not exclusive to use of these protocols: IP, IGRP, Serial, Frame Relay, IP RIP, VLANs, RIP, Ethernet, and Access Lists. The certification is valid for three years, after which recertification may be sought.

In order to hold a CCNA certification, a candidate has to pass either the Cisco Certified Network Associate Exam or a combination of Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies Exam and Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Exam. Main topics for these three exams include Planning and Designing; Design and Support; Implementation and Operation; Troubleshooting; and Technology. Other related topics may also appear on any specific delivery of the exam.

There are also some recommended training programs that may be taken before the above-mentioned examinations. These programs include Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies (INTRO), Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices (ICND), and Additional Training (CCNA Prep Center Pilot). These trainings incorporate topics such as fundamental knowledge and comprehension of networking; how to select, connect, configure, and troubleshoot the various Cisco networking devices; sample questions, simulations, e-learning modules, labs, tips, etc.

CCNA / CCNP Home Lab Tutorial: Assembling Your Cisco Home Lab

A CCNA or CCNP candidate who wants to be totally prepared for their exams is going to put together a home lab to practice on. With used Cisco routers and switches more affordable and plentiful then ever before, there’s really no excuse to not have one!

With the many different models available, there is some understandable confusion among future CCNAs and CCNPs about which routers to buy and which ones to avoid. You can take almost any set of Cisco routers and put together a home lab; part of the learning process is taking what equipment you have available and putting together your own lab! For those of you preparing to start your home lab or add to your existing one, this article will list the routers I use in my Cisco pods. You certainly don’t have to have all this equipment, but this will give you some good ideas on how to get started.

The most versatile router you can get for your CCNA / CCNP home lab is a 2520. These routers come with four serial ports, one ethernet port, and one BRI interface for ISDN practice. This mix of interfaces means you can actually use it as a frame relay switch while using the ethernet and BRI ports for routing. (There is no problem with using a lab router as both your frame relay switch and a practice router; for a frame relay switch sample configuration, visit my website!)

My pods consist of five routers and two switches, and three of the five routers are 2520s, due to their versatility. A recent ebay search showed these routers selling for $99 – $125, an outstanding value for the practice you’re going to get.

I also use 2501s in my home labs. These have fewer interfaces, but the combination of two serial interfaces and one ethernet interface allows you to get plenty of practice.

A combination that works very well is using three 2520s; one as my dedicated frame relay switch, one as R1, and another as R2. Add a 2501 as R3, and you can have a frame cloud connecting R1, R2, and R3, a direct serial connection between R1 and R3, an Ethernet segment that includes all three routers, and an ISDN connection between R1 and R2 if you have an ISDN simulator. That combination will allow you to get a tremendous amount of practice for the exams, and you can always sell it when you’re done!

2501s are very affordable, with many in the $50 range on ebay. It’s quite possible to get three 2520s and one 2501 for less than $500 total, and you can get most of that money back if you choose to sell it when you’re done.

With four routers to work with, you’re probably going to get tired of moving that console cable around. An access server (actually a Cisco router, not the white boxes we tend to think of when we hear “server”) will help you out with that. An access server allows you to set up a connection with each of your other routers via an octal cable, which prevents you from moving that console cable around continually. For an example of an access server configuration, just visit my website and look in the “Free Training” section.

Access server prices vary quite a bit; don’t panic if you do an ebay search and see them costing thousands of dollars. You do NOT need an expensive access server for your CCNA / CCNP home lab. 2511s are great routers to get for your access server.

One question I get often from CCNA / CCNP candidates is “What routers should I buy that I can still use when I’m ready to study for the CCNP?” The CCIE lab changes regularly and sometimes drastically when it comes to the equipment you’ll need. During my CCIE lab studies, I found that renting time from online rack rental providers was actually the best way to go. Don’t hesitate when putting your CCNA / CCNP home lab together, wondering what will be acceptable for the CCIE lab a year or so from now. None of us know what’s going to be on that equipment list, so get the CCNA and CCNP first – by building your own Cisco home lab!

CCNA / CCNP Home Lab Tutorial: The VLAN.DAT File

CCNA and CCNP candidates who have their own Cisco home labs often email me about an odd situation that occurs when they erase a switch’s configuration. Their startup configuration is gone, as they expect, but the VLAN and VTP information is still there!

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Let’s look at an example. On SW1, we run show vlan brief and see in this abbreviated output that there are three additional vlans in use:

SW1#show vlan br10 VLAN0010 active

20 VLAN0020 active

30 VLAN0030 active

We want to totally erase the router’s startup configuration, so we use the write erase command, confirm it, and reload without saving the running config:

SW1#write erase

Erasing the nvram filesystem will remove all configuration files! Continue?

[confirm] [OK]

Erase of nvram: complete00:06:00: %SYS-7-NV_BLOCK_INIT: Initalized the geometry of nvram


System configuration has been modified. Save? [yes/no]: n

Proceed with reload? [confirm]

The router reloads, and after exiting setup mode, we run show vlan brief again. And even though the startup configuration was erased, the vlans are still there!

Switch#show vlan br10 VLAN0010 active

20 VLAN0020 active

30 VLAN0030 active

The reason is that this vlan and VTP information is actually kept in the VLAN.DAT file in Flash memory, and the contents of Flash are kept on a reload. The file has to be deleted manually.

There’s a little trick to deleting this file. The switch will prompt you twice to ask if you really want to get rid of this file. Don’t type “y” or “yes”; just accept the defaults by hitting the return key. If you type “y”, the router attempts to delete a file named “y”, as shown here:

Switch#delete vlan.dat

Delete filename [vlan.dat]? y

Delete flash:y? [confirm]

%Error deleting flash:y (No such file or directory)

Switch#delete vlan.dat

Delete filename [vlan.dat]?

Delete flash:vlan.dat? [confirm]Switch#

The best way to prepare for CCNA and CCNP exam success is by working on real Cisco equipment, and by performing lab tasks over and over. Repetition is the mother of skill, and by truly erasing your VLAN and VTP information by deleting the vlan.dat file from Flash, you’ll be building your Cisco skills to the point where your CCNA and CCNP exam success is a certainty.