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Flashback to when you were in the 2nd standard…all neat and tidy uniforms…sitting in your small chairs…the teacher asks you “Where is Air?” and the whole class echoes with the answers of proud two-feet-tall scholars “Air is everywhere”!!!

Let’s get back to the present… when pretty much the same thing can be said about computers. Millions and millions bytes of ‘data’, ‘information’, ‘messages’, ‘codes’, etc. are created every minute throughout our little planet. And as long as ‘information’ exists in the ‘Information Technology’, industries will always require people to move it. Welcome to the vast world of Computer Networking.

OSI and More
In the area of computers, the goal of the International Standards Organization (ISO) has been to establish global standards for communications and information exchange. The ISO’s major achievement in this area was to define a set of standards, known as the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model in the year 1984. Almost the entire field (and hence the industry) of computer networking revolves around the layers of the OSI reference model. To get into the field of computer networking it is very essential to know the basics (which would involve a thorough study of the OSI model) and then further specialization.

What it Involves
Any job in this field involves configuring, managing, securing and troubleshooting (in some way or the other) of one or more networking components/devices – the components being anything from stand-alone workstations to applications servers to routers & switches to firewalls to backbone servers…. the list is long!!!

JAM: These certifications are appropriate for people wanting to become Systems engineers, Technical support engineers, Systems analysts, Network analysts or Technical consultants.

What you need to do to secure a good job?
Train for one or more of these activities and then (as much as I would hate to admit) the need of ‘an approval from the West’ and obtain certifications by passing exams set by the companies who are giants in that particular area.

For example: One of the networking areas is the administration of Networking Operating Systems. Microsoft rules this market with the Windows NT series of operating systems with Sun Microsystems (Solaris) and Novell (Netware) being the others. All these companies have their own certification exams like Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE)…Sun Certified System Engineer in a Solaris Environment (SCSE)…Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) etc. The Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) is the exam to give to certify for Linux Operating system.

What does it Involve
Implementing and administering a desktop operating system
Designing a network infrastructure
Analyzing the business requirements for the system architecture
Designing a system architecture solution that meets business requirements
Deploying, installing, and configuring the components of the system architecture
Managing the components on an ongoing basis, monitoring and optimizing the components Diagnosing and resolving problems regarding those components.

Cisco Systems
The other area is that of the networking devices like hubs, switches, routers, etc. The big brother here is Cisco Systems. They have their own series of certification exams ranging from a lower associate level, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) to the highest, most difficult and; for the lack of a better (or worse) word; dreadful Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE). Cisco certifications are about installing, configuring and maintaining Cisco networking devices. However, since Cisco has a monopoly in the market of networking products, Cisco certifications are considered a valuable asset in the field of network designing and management.

As a Cisco professional, the job involves anything between installing, configuring and operating LANs, WANs and dial access services for smaller networks (upto 100 nodes) as a CCNA to managing bigger networks (upto 500 nodes) along with the knowledge of different networking protocols & technologies; like IP, IGRP, IPX, OSPF, RIP, BGP, VLSM, ISDN ISL, X.25, 802.10, FDDI, Access lists, Route Distribution & Summarization, etc.

CCIE Certifications
The CCIE certifications are considered pretty much the last line of networking certifications. They are awarded in three networking fields- Routing & Switching, Communication & Services and Security. These certifications delve deep into the areas of IP and IP routing (BGP, OSPF, ISIS, EIGRP, IGRP, and RIP), Optical, DSL, Dial, Cable, Wireless, Wan Switching, Content Networking, and IP Telephony, Optical, Cable, Dial, WAN Switching, DSL, Content Networking, Wireless and layer two technologies such as ATM and Frame Relay, Switching, Quality of Service, Multicast, and ISDN.

The exams also deal with Cisco Device Operation, General Networking Theory, Bridging and LAN Switching, Desktop Protocols, QoS, LAN & WAN technologies, Network Security, etc.Apart from these there are other certification courses in fields of network designing, security, voice and video transmissions, wireless data transfer, IP telephony, etc. (I told you about the iceberg, didn’t I???).

Getting the Right Training
Now you might find the sudden urge to join your nearest Aptech/NIIT/Jetking….but be sure that you don’t end up spending forty to fifty thousand bucks (and most of the times equal number of days) at something that you could have learned sitting at home through proper courseware and pirated software from Lamington Road. No longer is it difficult to obtain official courseware for these certifications because Indian publishing houses like BPB, etc. now publish the official courseware that is widely available.

Most of these certifications are difficult, no doubt, but what you really need to clear these are places that have the proper infrastructure and an equally experience faculty that can help you become a professional. As far as the preparation time is concerned, it can take you anything from a week per paper (for MCSE exams) to ten days per paper (for CCNA & CCNP exams) to six-seven months (for CCIE); we are talking about total commitment here…at least eight-twelve hours a day!!!

If you do join some institute for classroom training it can cost you anything from Rs.30,000 for operating systems administration courses to Rs.1,20,000 for a CCIE bootcamp. However…be good and you’ll be paid good!!!

The Money Factor
System administrators get anywhere between Rs.6000 to Rs.30,000 a month; depending upon your knowledge, experience and versatility. Network engineers get anywhere between Rs.7000 (CCNAs) to about Rs.18,000 (CCNPs). And CCIEs, well…how about this…your chance of running into a CCIE in this world is 1 in 861112…and running into one in this country, 1 in 38.7 million. Believe me, if you are a part of the elite group of (the only) 8500 CCIEs of the world, you mint money!!! CCIEs in India get anywhere from Rs.1,00,000 to Rs.1,20,000 a month!!! Obtaining internationally recognized certifications also make the prospects of a job abroad brighter.

Every company, big and small, needs to establish their networks; some huge ones have offices (and hence computers/resources) spanning continents. All these companies, not to mention the networking and security consultancies need networking administrators and engineers. But, if you want to make it big in any of these fields, you better be ready to give it a thousand percent. “We have the best equipped lab in India with more than 20 routers & switches & have already produced 9 CCIEs this year. The scope for networking professionals in India and abroad is tremendous.

Especially with corporates looking for professionals specialized in fields like network security & management. The need of the hour is specialization & above all these courses do not necessarily require the participant to have an engineering background. What is needed are interest & an aptitude in the field of internetworking.”

Mr. Jagdish Madhavan
(CEO of RouterMania Technologies, which conducts high-end internetworking courses at Mumbai & aims to produce 100 CCIEs per year about the potential of networking professionals; this is what he had to say).

And if you think all these courses are only for the ‘designated engineers’ listen to this…

“Basically I want to be a security consultant…and I believe a security dude should know about most networking operating systems and their backdoors and should be aware of any security holes in them.” Ask this guy about the need of an engineering degree and he’ll be quick to point out that the only engineering skill needed to clear these exams are addition of binary numbers along with decimal to binary conversion (and vice versa)!!!

Sumit Ahuja,
A 22 year old, “dream” trance DJ, commerce graduate from National college and a dual-CCIE aspirant (Certifications held: CCNP, CCDP, SCSA, RHCE, MCSE, IBM Web Sphere) has to say

Links and Books
You know what, if you’re interested in getting in this field, and want to start with the basics, go and read “Computer Networks” and excellent book by the legendary Andrew Tanenbaum (legendary for more than one reason, one of them being that he was the teacher of Linus Trovalds…Linux-Linus…rings a bell?!?!?). The book covers all the basics and a little more of computer networks. See if it feels like your cup of tea. If it does then for the details of the certifications named above go check these sites:-

All the possible information about the certifications including the syllabus to official courseware to exam costs to job prospects, everything is available on these sites.

Networking, management as well as administration, is a diamond mine with companies all over the globe trying to expand across countries and continents. Proper knowledge and certifications can help you a lot in jumping into this bandwagon. Go get yourself a certification…”Mera Sapna, Sabka Apna”!!!

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