If you want an entry into the world of computer networks then Comptia's Network+ exam is an excellent choice. Recognised throughout the world, it shows an employer that you have the skills to install, configure, and troubleshoot networks at a basic level. A company won't quite hand you the keys to the server cabinet with just a Network+ qualification, but it can gain you the work-experience you need to progress to higher levels.
Comptia updated the Network+ exams in 2005, and there could well be another update in the pipeline, now that Vista has arrived. Comptia recommend that you have a least 9 months network experience before trying for this qualification, but it's not mandatory.
To give you an idea of just what is involved for the Network+, here's how the exam is broken down:
- Media and Topologies (20 percent of the exam)
- Protocols and Standards (20 percent of the exam)
- Network Implementation (25 percent of the exam)
- Network Support (35 percent of the exam)
There is only one exam to take for the Network+ qualification, and it's 85 multiple choice questions. There is a maximum score of 900, but you only need 554 points to pass. The exam lasts 90 minutes. Here's an outline of the different areas of Network+. Bear in mind that you won't be studying to be an expert in all of these fields just yet. But you are expected to know the basics.
Media and Topologies
This is all about what networks are, the different types of networks available, and the hardware involved. You're expected to get to grips with Star, Bus, Mesh, and Ring networks; the different types of cables involved in setting up the network; and hardware like hubs, switches, routers, gateways, Network Interface Cards, firewalls, and a whole lot more besides.
Protocols and Standards
Now that you know what a network is, and some of the hardware involved, the next step is all about how computers and hardware on a network communicate. You'll be expected to know all about MAC addresses, Open Systems Interconnect layers, IP addresses, subnetting, TCP/IP, TCP/UDP, what Ports are, DNS, NAT, and a whole host of other baffling acronyms (there's over 200 of them in the Network+ reference list).
You'll now have a good understanding about network hardware, and the essential protocols and standards. Now it's time to study a wide-range of ways to set up and configure the network. You'll study Unix, Linux, Mac OS X, Netware, Windows, and Appleshare IP. You're expected to know how to configure a connection to these systems, as well as how to implement security measures.
Networks are complex beasts, and there's always something going wrong with them. You'll be expected to know what is involved in diagnosing and fixing network problems. The tools you'll need to know about are: trace, ping, arp, netstat, nbtstat, ip/if config, and lots more. You'll be expect to learn about the logical approaches to solving network problems, as opposed to just scratching your head and jumping straight in.
If you to want get a taste of the exam, here's a few sample questions that Comptia have released for Network+ (Answers at the bottom of this page.)
Q1. Which network topology provides multiple, redundant links?
Q2. What is the default protocol used on the Internet?
Q3. Which network device has the capability of amplifying and regenerating network signals but has no capability of routing or segmenting?
A. a cable
B. a repeater
C. a transceiver
D. a switching hub
Comptia's Network+ is not an easy certificate to gain, and involves lots of study. Which is why it's so highly regarded as an entry-level qualification. Once you pass this certificate, you can go on to become a well-paid network engineer. You're the server guy!