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CCNP-Security Study Wrap-Up digest

CCNP_Security This is a dump and re-edit of a post I put on LinkedIn regarding the methods I used to study the last few months. Hopefully my experiences help out others.

So I just recently wrapped up my CCNP security, here is what I did for studying:
GNS3 + ASA codes. I was fortunate enough to already be messing around with 802.1x before I went down the security route so the NA-Security and SECURE were fairly easy for me. IMHO – secure felt almost identical to the CCNA-S exam, but just more “switch-y”. For Firewall, I had taken a course in April of 2012 just on the firewall, so I gained a lot of experience on that. If you haven’t taken this course, GNS3 is really good. I also used this for the VPN course. What I think people will run into issues with is the IPS course. I was fortunate enough to be working with them at my last job pretty in depth and as a daily driver. The CBT Nuggets alluded to virtualizing it, but I honestly didn’t mess with it. I would think that if you got a good simulator like ucertify or the one on CBT nuggets you should be good. It’s basically a lot of knowledge of how Cisco’s sensorbase and the subscriptions work and how to write regex and the other types of types of engine signatures.

Now on to CBT’s. I used INE I had the unique opportunity to use both the INE CBT’s for their security track and also had access to the CBT nuggets ones. In a pinch, I would definitely direct someone to CBT nuggets if they could only afford one path. My NA-Security + 4 NP courses from INE ran 650 for pre-recorded CBT’s. I also had access to the all-IT library through CBT nuggets from my work.

INE Security bundle:
The videos were CBT and not streaming. This was REALLY nice because I travelled around a lot during my studies. What was annoying about them was that several of the modules from INE was that they were larger, harder to follow and the screenshot/consoles were harder to read. YMMV though. And this is just an over-arching statement, anectdotal without direct to point at evidence. I did feel that the guys teaching had some more “teachable moments” though because a couple of times the lab equipment during the videos was hoarked and you got to watch these CCIE guys troubleshoot stuff and fix it (like – for real – not the ‘fake’ problems of the lab). It was also gratifying to see that I mostly troubleshoot like they do so it gave me hope!!! The screen shot portions of it – especially on the CCNA security through secureCRT were REALLY difficult to read. I complained to INE and they said that the streaming versions were a little bit nicer and offered to convert me to that if I wanted, which I didn’t. I thought about being deceptive and saying yes because I already downloaded stuff, but being a jerk doesn’t help you in the long run.

CBT Nuggets:
What I liked a whole lot more about CBT nuggets was the fact that there were a whole lot more options for your study and passing the cert. INE was definitely more “You gotta know A,B,C to do this job”. CBT Nuggets was definitely geared more towards “You gotta know A, B, C to pass the exam”. It makes a HUGE difference in how they taught the courses. If you can swing it – DO BOTH. If you don’t have access to the gear and/or already do the security stuff, CBT Nuggets gets you through the exams, but is slightly less (IMO) real life applicable. HOWEVER – CBT Nuggets is slick, and they have a TON of resources looped into their program that prepare you for the exam, and make multi-phase learning possible (doing, reading, hearing, watching). For instance – I am a HUGE auditory learning guy. If you go look at my blog (www.uglyorangetruck.com) – a good 40% of my stuff over the years has been music and audio. CBT Nuggets includes MP3 audio of every course. I found this to be incredibly valuable when I was, say, walking my dog or vacuuming. You can’t realistically watch a CBT all the time. I used the MP3′s. A LOT. In fact I would say that a good 40% of my learning came from the MP3′s. I did not anticipate this, honestly.

As well, CBT nuggets includes their own self-test simulator and the transcender access for each of the 4 tests. As well, it is important to note that I liked the CBTN format better personally. For instance, INE was in the “I’m in a cert class minus the labs” format. Which is cool. And the INE guys are pro’s, so it’s not “bad”. But it didn’t seem to translate well like the directed “Hey, thanks for watching this”, directed “you’re not here so I have to explain stuff to you because you can’t really see my face or read ahead in the lab guide” format. I found it a lot easier to follow.

The major grumpiness I had with CBTN is that their non-streaming videos are STUPID expensive. I chatted with an agent and was quoted something crazy like 2 grand. Per class… Also – something that the IPS CBT nuggets said was that “you don’t really need to know regular expressesions that much on the exam”. I did not believe this because the INE guys said “you gotta know this in real life and you need to know it on the exam.” I’m not sure if it breaks rules to say how many questions one gets with what types of topics, so I won’t elaborate too much, but I totally explored the topics and that helped me (I think anyhow) pass a bunch of topics with regex in them.

Like I said YMMV, if you can swing it I would recommend both approaches.

For books I would recommend O reilly library since it’s basically the cost of just buying the books. But that is a flamewar battle I don’t want to start (renting vs owning your media).