MCSE or CCNA - Which is better? A Microsoft Cert or a Cisco Cert
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Computer Network Certifications
In a previous hub we discussed the value of getting a Computer certification. But here what we need to look at is determining which network certification is better, Microsoft or Cisco.
To become a computer professional, expertise is the highest requirement that must be achieved. This comes from years of practice and study. Indeed, one should not even pursue a computer technology career unless one is willing to study and study and study. Computer technology changes every few years and that means that in order to keep up with the changes, one must delve into the topic or topics. For instance, the Internet only became popular in the early 90's. Not everyone jumped on the band wagon. Even Bill Gates decided to move Microsoft from a software company, to an Internet company. This was in 1991.
But there were other companies that did see the rise of the Internet and prepared for it. One such company was Cisco Systems of California. They specialized in Routers and Switches. Hardware. Microsoft, a software company also entered the Internet but from a software point of view. To see the difference between these two companies let's look at an example of how a network is designed.
Let's look at a parking lot. Let's say that this parking lot has 100 slots available. There is a booth with an attendant that allows cars in, and collects fees as they exit. The attendant monitors the lot, it keeps track of the cars entering and exiting, it collects fees, and if necessary keeps other cars out because the lot is full. So let's say that when the lot is full, he calls over to a lot across the street and asks the attendant there if there are spots available. If there are, the first attendant redirects the remaining cars to the other lot.
But to get to the other lot, the cars have to go through an intersection which is governed by a traffic light. The traffic light has four signals, red, amber, green, and a directional signal - to go left or right.
Now let's talk about networks. The parking lot would be an example of a Microsoft network. The toll booth would be a Microsoft server which is managing all of the "computers" in its lot. It would assign them a number, keep track of their location, track their time on the lot, and assign a fee. The traffic light is like a Cisco router, it has only one function, to direct traffic across the intersection.
With that in mind let's talk about the two types of networks.
A Microsoft Network
A Microsoft network begins with a Server. This is a specially configured computer that has specific functions. It can keep track of the computers in its domain or workgroup. It keeps track of users and their passwords. It also has leasing options, where it gives out network numbers, called IP addresses, which are unique.
A Cisco Network
Cisco networks on the other hand do not keep track of computers. Their function is to keep track of other routers so that they can redirect traffic from one server network to another. They don't keep track of computers, rather they keep track of the IP numbers that pass through them and redirect them to different routers. Cisco routers are very limited in function. They are not used for word processing, nor for graphics design. You don't play an Internet radio for you either. But they can be used to download a word processor program from a web site on one side of the country to another, or a graphics program, or allow the Internet to send the music from one location to your computer. Routers do those functions, they allow traffic from one location to get to another location.
Now that we've covered how different networks exist and how they work, let us look at the requirements to become a network professional under Microsoft or Cisco.
MCSE: Microsoft Certified System Engineer
This it the highest certification that one can get from Microsoft. It requires that the prospective student take 7 different exams in order to show Microsoft networking expertise. These exams range from installing client software or server software; how to manage and plan networks. How to troubleshoot network problems; how to design different network components. The exams are multiple choice, they usually run about 1.5 hours with about 50 questions, although that can vary depending on the exam.There are simulations in which one must complete a series of tasks on a computer.Typically the pass rate for the first attempt is between 75 and 80%.
The exam is graded immediately with a pass or fail grade given, although the score, out of 1000 is given. Most of these exams require a passing score of 750. The exams typically cost 150.00 and one must register beforehand with Prometric by phone or online. One then can select the date, time, and location where the exams will be taken. One can reschedule the exam up to 24 hours before hand.
Cisco CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate
Unlike the seven exams that are required by Microsoft in order to get certified, Cisco only requires one exam.
Yes you read that right. One exam.
But it is a very hard exam with the failure rate at 60% on the first attempt. The questions are also multiple choice and there are simulations. You have 1.5 hours to answer 45 questions. The reason that the Cisco exam is hard, is that the material is not intuitive. You have to learn about subnetting, routing protocols, the ISO layer, VLANS, and so on. These are topics that you would not get in any other area. So it is hard to learn because these concepts are unique to networks.
Cisco certifications last 3 years, and then one must re-certify. Microsoft certs don't have a time limit. But Microsoft changes the server technology about every 3 to 4 years. So you have to recertify on the new server technology if you want to continue to be a professional.
Which Cert is Better Cisco or Microsoft?
The main difference between the two, aside the number exams is what type of work each demands. A Microsoft server is supported on a weekly, if not daily. A Microsoft server has to keep track of users and computers, the IP numbering scheme, applications, e-mail, databases, and security operations. If one is a Microsoft engineer, one will work with the server frequently.
The Cisco network support is very different. Once a network is designed and the router is configured, one is unlikely to touch the router again for at least six months, maybe even a year. They are quiet workhorses. When the routing protocol is set up, the paths throughout the local network are laid out. The path to the Internet is also setup. One does not need to change it.
From a work perspective, most companies will hire a Microsoft Engineer to run the daily operations of the server. Companies will outsource router operations to specialists, for example, those with a CCNA cert.
The salary difference is also different. A Microsoft Engineer will typically start at 40-45 thousand. A Cisco engineer will start at 45-50 thousand. Then depending on technical skills and development, the two will probably max out in the 70 thousand range for the MCSE and in the 80 thousand range for the CCNA.
Finally, under Cisco, you can pursue other certifications like the CCNP and CCIE. The CCNP, Cisco Certified Network Professional has 4 exams. The CCIE, Cisco Certified Internet Professional, has two exams, a written exam and a two day lab exam. Microsoft has other certifications in its library, but the MCSE is their top Cert.
To learn more about Microsoft or Cisco certifications check out the following URL's.