CCNA and Network+ Study Plan

I’m now building a page of networking study plans. My intent isn’t to teach here on the site, but to show what books, video series, sites, and labs that either I’m using for my own studies or that people I trust recommend. If you think I’m missing any great resources for Net+ or CCNA studies, please comment your recommendation.

Parallel to the study plans I’m also building a YouTube series called Network Speed Guides. These videos will address the topics of Net+ and CCNA R&S in the most condensed way possible. I’m aiming for a 5-10 minute video per topic designed to run through the terms, values, algorithms, etc. that have a bad tendency of falling out of your head.

These are both lengthy undertakings, so I’m giving myself 6 months to complete both. I appreciate you patience and look forward to your feedback!

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CCNA R&S is Impossible 

Well, it has been for me.

I failed Cisco’s ICND2. Actually, I’ve now failed it for the fourth time, sort of: twice on version 2 and now twice on version 3. I am going to retake it. Each failure is demoralizing, but I’ll take it again anyways.

I have to admit I’m getting pretty sick of having my teeth kicked in by Cisco. While there’s a little bit of pity party sprinkled throughout this post, I’m also legitimately quite irritated with the test writers.

I feel like my last failure (my first attempt at ICND2v3) was an honest loss. The revision was only a couple months old. I could tell Cisco hadn’t yet made the questions terribly complex or obscure. I hear Cisco adds fluff to the questions to keep cheaters from memorize them for test banks, kind of like salting passwords in a database. I could see the fluff in the old test, but the revision was concise and well thought out. The questions we’re tough, but felt fair. That time I left the test center feeling like I failed a test because I didn’t know the material to the level they were asking of me. That’s the point of the exam, right?

That is not the case at all this time. I feel like Cisco sold me a lemon. The questions were once again obscure and cerebral. Worse, five or six of the questions literally left me wondering what they were even asking. Not like “Ah, they are trying to see if I understand the difference between STP State and Role! Cisco, that old fox,” but instead “Is this grammatically correct, or do I need to go back to 2nd grade?”

Making matters worse, Frame relay is back. Not all of it, just light theory and topology stuff, but I don’t know frame relay. I learned it for the previous version of the test, but I poured that right out my head after the revision. Frame relay has been a war-story of bygone days longer than my IT career, but I guess I better read that frame relay section in the appendix of the cert library.

IPv6 is much heavier this time. Now, that doesn’t bother me. I love IPv6. It feels so much more intuitive and I even lab more in v6 than v4. While I know the v6 threw me some gimme questions, only a minority of my real world networking has been v6. I don’t need to use math to subnet because I’ve worked with IPv4 almost every day for the last 4 years; I have the masks, CIDRs, wildcards, and binary in my head. I love IPv6, but I don’t have that level of confidence with v6 yet.

What really upsets me most is that I feel more than ready. I’ve read the Lammle and Odom big books cover to cover. I read a chapter from “31 Days Until Your Routing & Switching Exam” every night, then I reread it the next day on lunch. I’ve watched the entire CBT Nuggets twice, the O’Reilly series once, all of the condensed and full ITProTV videos, and even the LiveLessons in my Safari Books Online. I’ve done the Cisco, Transcender, and Boson practice tests, including rocking a Boson I’ve never seen before with a 993/850 two weeks ago; so close to perfect. Oh yeah, I also do this every day at work. Somehow I still scored a 766/811. I don’t know what’s left to do.

So, I’m going to take it again in June. I’m going to keep hammering my labs, building my Quizlet (which you may use), and taking the practice tests that I’m now memorizing the answers to. I just got back from Barnes and Noble with the hardback cert library for the revision (I already have v3 in electronic and v2 hardback). I’m going to read every single word in that book again, maybe a little faster this time, and compare it to my notes. I’m also going to write every command I come across and make sure I use it in my lab 5 times for each command, switch, and variable.

I’m so sick of taking this test. My employee evaluation, the way my coworkers see me, even my self-assessment of me as a young network engineer and aspiring infrastructure architect take a hit each time I see that sub-par score on the Pearson screen.

That’s why I’m taking it again. I’m better than an exam. I’m going to beat Cisco.

Don’t Believe the Programming Hype

I had the privilege of joining the Packet Pushers again recently to discuss the hype-train surrounding the alleged future death of the Network Engineer and rise of the omnipotent Network Programmer. We recorded this a few weeks back and I’ve been pondering on what to add to the conversation ever since. I’ve now decided that I have nothing to add. This was a great discussion. Have a listen!

http://packetpushers.net/podcast/podcasts/show-332-dont-believe-programming-hype/

A Very Tough Decision

A few months ago I had a very tough choice to make. I was happy with my job at Apogee Telecom. Great employer, good benefits, awesome environment, and a dependable partner at my site. Work was fun. I had been getting recruiter calls, but I had been with Apogee for about 3 months and I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else for quite awhile. Apogee is a great company. As a matter of fact go check them out at http://www.apogee.us. They have constant job postings and you will love them.

One normal day I picked up a call from Kristin Miller at Corus 360. I normally would let recruiting calls go to voicemail, but I like the folks at Corus 360, so I picked up the call thinking it would be just a casual “no thank you, work is great. How are things on your side?” kind of chat. That was the plan. Hey, Steve. how’s it going. Good, how about yourself? Oh, I’m doing well. Hey, I know you aren’t really looking, but I have a position for net engineer at Dingleboppits Hospital I thought I could tell you about. No, I’m happy where I…wait…did you say DingleboppitsYep, that’s the one. Long story short I told her she could send my resume over. And yes, *spoiler* Dingleboppits is a metaphor for NAME WITHHELD FOR SECURITY even though it wouldn’t be hard to figure out who I work for.

Sidestory, I was laid off in summer of 2016 in a massive workforce cut. The very first place I applied to was Dingleboppits Hospital. Some people have Google, Microsoft, the NSA; they can have them. I wanted to work for Dingleboppits. For a couple years I had been struggling with whether I wanted to go into big data, or ISP, or healthcare, but I had firmed up towards the latter over time. So then why did I want to be at that specific hospital? Well, my daughter was born at Dingleboppits, and both of my grandparents and even my wife had surgery there. During all of that stuff every nurse, doctor, tech, and maintenance worker I saw seemed to have a smile on their face. Further, I had worked, outside of IT, for one of their competitors during college. During that time I watched nurse after nurse leave for the promised land that is Dingleboppits. Part personal pride and part grass-is-greener, but that’s why I wanted to be part of their team. Unfortunately, this time around, I didn’t hear back from them, so a couple months later I was working for Apogee.

The next time around, when Kristin reached out to them, they must have liked what they saw, because two months later I stepped into my new cube at Dingleboppits.

But the decision to stay or go was hard; one of the most stressful choices I have ever made. I was already happy with my job and I really hate leaving an employer right after they spun down their employment search. So did my best to weight the options. Apogee: great company, good team, enjoyed my work, and room to grow. Dingleboppits: great company, really enjoyed meeting the team, should enjoy my work, and room to grow. What is the right choice? Well, I can do this here, but the other lets me do this and they both do that but this one does that better although in a year the other may do that better. I was so stressed about it that I got sick and irritable for about a week. Then I stopped for split second to breathe and I realized that I was trying to be unemotional about a choice that would affect the course of my life. I was using near mathematical methods to make a decision that would affect the fulfillment I would feel for myself; that can’t be the right way. One moment my head was spinning and the next I was calm, collected, and the decision had already been made up for me. I was leaving. Not because of anything Apogee had done to make me want to leave, but because I simply wanted to be where I wanted to be.

I wasn’t unhappy before, but I am happier now. If you are struggling with a decision like my own, or just a decision in general, don’t forget to stop and breathe.

If you are just looking for work in IT in Atlanta or North GA, definitely reach out to Kristin Miller or anyone else at Corus 360.

If you are looking for work in networking, definitely reach out to Apogee Telecom.

Pure Processor Power!

My wife let me build a new desktop as my Christmas present this year. My intent was to build a sweet rig for things like GNS3, Plex, Handbrake and some A/V editing by dropping a hot CPU, high memory capacity, RAIDing a few NAS HDDs together for storage and mirroring 2 smaller economy SSDs for OS and critical programs. Tie them all together with a strong, but economical, motherboard and I could build a pretty sweet rig for under $800, right? Well, this isn’t Linus Tech Tips so I didn’t get to push together everything at once, but I think I did alright.

The Build

So, notes on the build. I budgeted $100 on the motherboard then I chose based on 3 filters:

  1. Integrated USB 3.1 on type A so I can do things like quickly transfer files on a 3.1 thumb drive, stand up good quality heavier Linux and Windows VMs in VmWare Player, or rapidly charge my phone.
  2. DDR3 dual channel. I love the speeds of DDR4, but I don’t need them. I can max this motherboard (64GB) for much cheaper than I could if I picked a DDR4 board. I need memory so I can have Wireshark, GNS3, and a browser all pumping at the same time. This meets that mark without breaking the wallet.
  3. AM3+ socket. I didn’t want to go on-board for graphics and I definitely didn’t want Intel prices. The AMD FX-8370 was perfect and I caught it when the difference between the chip alone vs with the Wraith Cooler was only three dollars.

The Gigabyte 970-Gaming-SLI fit my needs, was 35 bucks under budget, has M.2, plus it’s lightly ruggedized. Other quick notes: the SSD was a cheap solution to get fast boot (less than a sip of coffee on the Windows 10 logo); the vid card was just a cheap video output, but actually plays New Vegas at around 40FPS on high, not bad for the price; PSU was cheap and has enough spare potential to keep the fan quiet even at the max the PC can draw; ADATA RAM, because cheap and effective; Corsair AF series fans are super quiet and look great; HGST Deskstar NAS 3TB because cheap for the high MTTF and raiding in the additions won’t hurt my feelings/wallet; Enermax Ostrog case, cheap and looks nice (though not the best cable management, my CPU bundle sticks out like a sore thumb). I also had 3 160GB WD Blues Sata III 5400 in the drawer, so I striped them together for kicks.

Results

I’m impressed. For less than $600 I’m getting this result out of handbrake.

capture

Wow. I was doing this before on a Dell I15 ultrabook with the I7 4500-U running Ubuntu 14.04. Now you cannot, in any world, compare the performance of an older ultrabook processor to an 8370. Still, this is cut my encoding time to 1/10 of burden. And sure, there are other factors further boosting that number too, so let’s go to the Prime95 results.

Capture1.PNG

BAM! So, when the test queued the workers, the CPU jumped into Turbo on each core before they settled into throughput-per-core. This capture is thirty minutes into the test and I’m writing this as it continues to run. The Mobo/CPU/Wraith are in perfect harmony. It took about ten minutes to climb to 49C and then the board drew a line in the sand. The Wraith picked up speed, taking the CPU back to a steady 46C and the heat spread through the case for another ten minutes before the two other board fans took more speed, but we’re still at 46.5C. Even better, it’s nearly silent. Fan config is Top/out=2xAF140(molex-to-3pin), Rear/out=1xOstrog120mm; Front/in=unknownspare120mm; bottom/in=2xAF120(molex-to-3pin). I just killed Prime95 and the Wraith took the chip to under 30C in ten seconds and at 20 seconds all temp sensors are at normal 25C (my office is cold). Not bad for AMD.

What’s Next?

I’m not done with this guy. I’m going to swap out the vid card for something in the $200 range eventually for a HTPC setup, add two more of those Adata sticks so I can put a ridiculous number of routers in GNS3 or even open two tabs in Chrome (if you don’t get it, check your RAM usage), pull the 3 WD Blue 160s and raid in 3 more of the 3TB HGST HDDs, add a fan controller and temp probes for for the Corsairs, and add an M.2 stick to put my Steam games on. Speaking of which, I put Skyrim on the 3 striped WD Blues. Skyrim moves between loading screens so quickly that I can’t read the tips. First world problems.

Packet Pushers: A Recap

A couple weeks ago I had the honor of joining the Packet Pushers Podcast for a discussion on networking careers and the more general IT field. First of all, that was Awesome! I’ve been listening to Ethan Banks and Greg Ferro for going on two years and it was a blast to have the ear of these gentlemen when they’ve had mine for so long. Michael Sweikata and Ryan Booth of Moving Ones and Zeroes also joined in the fun. Together, those four engineers have on the order of 70ish years in IT, and I have four years, six if I include tech support. It felt great to have these 4 guys express interest and concern in my opinions. I came prepared with my thoughts and the input of many of my colleagues, who share in common my lack of tenure and wealth of questions about the future. These four packet pros in turn assuaged many fears and reinforced my love of all things IT. On to the Recap!

What’s a young network pro to do?

When I asked these engineers for advice aimed towards someone in my position as he/she considers a networking career Greg summed it up beautifully: “don’t.” He wasn’t being short or fatalist; instead he and the other 3 addressed my fears that networking is dying. In short, yes, it’s dying. Not the career of building the paths on which data travels; data will always need mobility. Instead, the Network is evolving from a sum of a million parts just barely glued together into essentially a giant mainframe, with some exceptions. With Ethernet speeds shaming the rest of the system one would first think “wow, I’ll be able to transfer this file so fast.” but in reality, why would you move the data to a weak host when those time sensitive bits are already sitting in a bare metal beast?  This mentality has driven progress in computing for about the last ten years. Networking, on the other hand, is finally tuning into the speed IT. Most of the networking field is likely to move into either automation. We all wanted a better way to provision a vlan on 200 switches in a moment, right? Well, it’s finally coming. Add in cloud-integrations, server-centric thin-client workstations, and wireless everywhere and there simply are not as many cables being run at businesses.

But like I said, Data still needs to move. Be it in a hypervisor or a controller, networking pros will still have to lay down paths between hosts, instances, and containers. The rise of automation is simplifying that process, but we still have to make all of the interconnections. Are the jobs going to go away? They say, and I say, No. But the amount of time networking pros spend in front of an SSH terminal is going to steadily decrease in exchange for time spent banging out python, tuning your puppet/chef/ansible deployment, or learning the new SDN solution designed to do it all in a distributed manner.

Cisco, certs, and the future of IT learning.

So what does this do to beloved Cisco? Well, they are going to have to get flexible. Cisco has spent many years conforming the industry to itself, but now we have options. Not just Juniper or HPE, but options to make a network from scratch or from the opensource compilations of many other network pros who want to break the vendor bonds.

So if companies are branching out, what does that do to the cert environment? Nothing, as Ethan Banks explained in the podcast. Cisco’s training arm is a profit model which has adapted over the years to the changes in technology. Quite simply, Cisco is likely continue revamping their cert system to reflect the industry while also seeding a Cisco preference into those certified by Cisco.

But obviously Cisco, Juniper, HPE, etc., are not going to write a “OpenStack Associate” certification. The open and whitebox communities instead going to pull a greater variety of skills for network support. Soon, more job listing will include “Python/Java preferred” or “Security Experience” under “CCNA certified.” Computer science and IT sec are re-entering the network and the jobs will follow that trend.

Let there be Gripes!

If you haven’t ready my post about my attempts at ICND2, check them out. I was incredibly relieved to hear Ethan Banks say he would have trouble passing the CCNA. I’m not going to beat that dead horse, as my mind is geared towards passing the revised ICND2 by Valentines day.

There’s a great bit of conversation on the lack of vendor accountability, insight, and integrity and how that’s driving customers away from the traditional vendors. I don’t have the experience to speak on that topic, but the conversation was still fascinating.

That’s it!

This is just a bit of what was pertinent to me, as a lot of the conversation was above my experience and understanding. All in all, this was a great conversation that addressed much of my aspirations and worries. Link below, check it out, and I recommend the Packet Pushers to any IT pros who want a view beyond their own data-center.

http://packetpushers.net/podcast/podcasts/show-311-five-engineers-microphone/

Fixed it!

Fixed the website. Too bad I didn’t get it back up until 3 weeks after the chat with the guys at the Packet Pushers Podcast!

I found the backup file right before I was about to wire a drive and put it in a raid array on my new desktop. Good thing I looked before I lept!

An Unfortunate Opportunity

I have been given the chance to compare the retired CCNA 200-120 test with the new CCNA 200-125. Did Steve score a sweet deal with Cisco? Nope. Then, you must be retaking the test with the purpose of writing a compare and contrast post. Wrong again. Actually, I don’t have a choice…at least if I want my CCNA.

I failed ICND2. Actually I failed it twice and chose not to write about it until a month later. I needed some time to let the bitter fade.

So why was I bitter? That test was hard. Really hard. I’m an excellent test taker and I enjoy the challenge of a good test, but both attempts were utterly draining. I know Cisco is hard charging to foil the test question banks, but this is getting ridiculous. I noticed when taking CCENT that a lot of questions left me with staring at the screen with a “huh?” in my brain, but I made it through nonetheless. My CCNA attempts were ten times worse.  On my first attempt, I almost ran out of time and scored a 740. I wasted a ton of time just trying to wrap my head around questions. The second time around, I made up for lost time by piling a month of studying on topics where I knew I had trouble, but I still only hit 784. 40 points short. I’m still a tad bitter, both at myself for not studying better and at Cisco. I’m not perfect by any means, but I can ace any practice test on the first attempt; that’s actually the bar I use to determine when to take an exam. Further, I’ve been working in networking for a minute, so I’m comfortable with most topics and I’ve supplemented the technologies I’m short on experience with labs.

So why didn’t I pass? I simply couldn’t figure out the best answer. There was not a single gimme question on the exam. Fortunately, it wasn’t multiple answer heavy, but I was left doubting almost ever choice I made. It was like every question had three good answers and I could have chosen one with just a little more information. Instead, I went with my gut reaction on nearly half of the test.

I could have done better, period. The test was passable and I blame myself for not knowing the material well enough. I do not, however, think I could have had enough preparation and experience to have done well.

But I am still hopeful. I’m hoping the revision of the CCNA exam will have taken a bit of esoteric head-scratching out of the test. I plan to take the revised exam in about six months, but first I want to knock out the CWTS. I need a change of study material for a minute.

I’m way too lazy for this

I broke my website….

As you can tell, I host my website on WordPress. While many of you cringe at the very name, I like WordPress. WordPress may have only recently dropped from the security chatter, mostly due to shouts of “YAHOO” raising the noise floor, and WordPress can be very clunky, but I like it. So, as a bit of a personal challenge, I wanted to host my site myself.

So

I really only have a few, and I mean a few, regular readers, all of whom I interact with regularly, so I took the site down at my lease-lapse to save a little coin while I built. Exported the config, saved to my daily PC, Dropbox, and my home Samba server. Safe and sound.

Now it’s time to bring it SteveInIT back up.

But, as you can see, there are not 20 posts behind this one. I broke (fixed) it. Well, I lost it. The hard drive in my PC crashed, so the local copy is gone. I can’t find it in my Dropbox at all, which is weird because I don’t ever delete anything from Dropbox. But I still have the Samba server, right? Wrong! Well, maybe wrong. I can’t find it there either. What I can find is the notepad I took to log where I put the exported config copies.I have the filename of the config in my log, so I can search for it, but no luck yet. My Dropbox is even installed in the Samba server, so I should be able to search the whole array and find 2 copies of the config. Again, haven’t yet, but I’ll upload it when I find it.

I have a few things to talk about, so I’m doing that first.

*Edited, since I fixed it.

CompTIA Security+: Fresh look at the Test

Early last week I mentioned that I would be sitting the CompTIA Security+ exam soon. Well, soon has passed and so did I. While I feel I could have done a little better, I’m more than satisfied with my score, but we’ll break down why I feel that way in a moment.

First, disclaimer! This article does not intend to teach any course nor do my opinions of the exam comprehensively address the topics or format of the CompTIA SYO-401 exam. Further, my only experience with taking this exam is in the 401 series exam current to only my experience. CompTIA’s website states that (paraphrasing) they reserve the right to change the exam at any time, and do so even between major revisions, to best keep the exam current.

Glad that’s over, both the exam and the disclaimer.

So, my plan was to go over my final review of annoying tidbits of deprecated protocols evening last, get to bed around 10, have a good night’s rest, and then go rock the test. Didn’t quite happen that way. My seven month old daughter got her six month vaccines a few days ago, so the little febrile ball of adorable decided we were staying up until half-after midnight. I have to give credit to my wife for addressing the baby’s fussiness for the rest of the night, she tried really hard to let me rest before the test, but I was still woken up by her cries every half hour until 4:30a.m. at which point I gave up. I plodded into my office and began to study drooled over the Homeseer home automation system for the next four hours. Trudged my way through the morning and to the testing center we go!

Nothing new to see here. Same place I went to take ICND1, same setup, so let’s get into the meat of it.

I have to hand it to CompTIA because that was one of the more difficult tests I’ve had the pleasure of taking. Yes, pleasure. The exam began with what would be the hardest 3 questions I can remember on any exam. These 3 consecutive lab-like scenarios easily covered two-thirds (objectives 1-4) of the information in my books. They were a very serious brain drain and time burner. No preparation, other than understanding the material, could get you through those. You may find more, less, or none of these questions when you sit, but seriously, do not underestimate the lab questions. I would say that real-world experience with packet analyzers, signing, network design and config, PKI, 802.1x, and Linux command line saved my butt on these. These three alone took a little more than 10 minutes.

After the brain-burners, the rest of the exam was all multiple choice and multiple answer. Let’s break down what I did and didn’t see.

Let me say again that your experience would likely be very different from mine. This was my experience with the question the engine generated for me. This isn’t a study guide.

Topics Encountered and Expected

  • Secure Network Design and Config (VLANs and Firewall/IPS/IDS placement)
  • Preventing Physical Breach, Mitigating Damage. These had really cool backstories to the questions. im deliberately obfuscating “Hackers drove a bulldozer through you data center to defeat K12 rated fence you implemented in response to a recent breach in which a greenpeace member drove a prius through the wall of your power hungry data-center. Which technique would you implement to stop this in the future?” Anti-tank Mines or High Explosive Mines. Anti-tank, which use shaped-charges resulting in a less powerful shockwave while still disabling locomotion; important because no one will authorize new hard drives and the HE mines may exceed the G rating of the bubblegum holding together your 20 gig disks, resulting in an outage.* In all seriousness, I actually would recommend knowing your physical controls in just a tad more detail than your study guide addresses.
  • Management Controls (literally addressed each control that show up in my books)
  • AAA systems and their appropriate use case. I think I saw LDAP, AD, multiple 802.1x strategies, radius v tacacs/+ v MS DC stuff, and a few questions about which wireless encryption best protects ____ authentication scenario.
  • A surprisingly high number of scenarios addressing wireless encryption and wireless MITM attacks.
  • Mobile Device Risks, in nearly all aspects, especially asset loss management and data leakage/theft management.
  • PKI/certs. A ton or PKI fundamentals, controls, architectures, on-wire identification. (If XXXXX data was captured, where the hash, key, data, etc.)

Topics Not Encountered, but Expected

  • Well Knows Ports. There may have been 1, but I wouldn’t bet anything on that. I really think there may not have been a single port question on the test. That’s disappointing, as the previously mentioned deprecated protocols were the ports I was reviewing the night before.
  • Input Validation Techniques. I expected to see a question or two addressing secure php forms or the like. Nope.
  • Data Sharing Relationships. I few years ago I would have told you I hate the corporate jargon and and goings-on of conducting business relations. On the contrary, I discovered that I’m so interested in the security side of this stuff, I was honestly looking forward to these questions.
  • Hardening…anything. Beyond “hey do you care if I put this heavy DMZ just anywhere?” which I wouldn’t quite call hardening anyways, and a round-about mention of port security, Nothing.
  • BYOD.

Topics Encountered and Unexpected

  • Is it foggy or is that just CLOUDS! From reviewing my score-sheet, this is the only area I struggles with, and I knew it when it happened. I used a plethora or different study techniques, guides, and self-study courses. I still did not know enough about cloud security methods. This bugs me so bad, I’ve already looked through 3 books, CompTIA Certmaster and Prof Messer’s vids. None, repeat none, make any mention of the slew of acronyms I’ve never seen before. I’ll have to dig into the Cloud+ and CCNA Cloud materials in my Safari Books Online to try and see where my deficiency is.
  • Fire Suppression Methods. Don’t know why but I didn’t expect to see it. Studied it, but honestly didn’t think it would make the exam.

Topics Not Encountered and Unexpected

Wait, what?

The Test in General

Overall, the test was actually quite well rounded. While not every buzzword and definition appeared as a choice, most of my materials either framed a question, fuzzed the question, or appeared as an answer. I get the feeling CompTIA fuzzed these questions quite a lot to both create confusion in those who spent a bit less time preparing and also just to try to get everything in the exam. I think the average question was 4-6 sentences with only one or two sentences of useful information.

Process of elimination would have also been hit or miss. Many potential answers were similarly worded, the correct acronym was often mixed into alphabetically alike groups, or there would be two or three very correct answers. With wordplay, I tend to do best going with my gut. On the other hand, when more than one answer is correct, often a small clue stood out on the fourth read through or the correct answers would all make up items in the more correct group. Some questions were very subjective, but I tried to imagine what the best practice would be if I was the IEEE and this critical production system could wait 10 years for RFCs to address the issue. I’m not joking. I tried to think “what would a room full of more experienced engineers likely do if no one was yelling at them.”

Other than what I mentioned above, the test and questions were well structured. I got the impression that the test become less difficult as I went on. It honestly seems to follow objectives 1-6 in order, but that’s probably all in my head. The questions managed to both camouflage the details while also somehow being very succinct and reasonable to comprehend. Challenging, but not hard as long as you understand the material. I am more than satisfied with my score, but I was very unsure when I ended the test. I feel like a test capable of vouching for skills should shake up the test-taker even if you score a perfect 900. That’s the hallmark of a test capable of conveying your skills to an employer.

That’s all I remember right now. As with A+ and CCENT, I used many study tools. The ones I recommend are at the bottom of this post, though I will go ahead and say to try finding the most recent references possible, assuming a reputable source, as I imagine my cloud deficiency has something to do with my 2 year old books. I cannot stress the importance of exposing yourself to security chatter, especially if you’re a more junior engineer, like myself, with a limited exposure to the material. There are a ton of Sec news sites, relays, and blogs like Krebs on Security, Daily Dave, CSO Online, etc., but my favorite way to stay current is by listening to podcasts. Details also below. I will likely annotate this post after looking back through some materials, so give yourself a reminder to check back in a couple weeks or you can always subscribe to my blog. I would be quite humbled, and I could use a good humbling.

*Don’t use mines. Bad form.

My Favorite Study Aids

I’m subjectively scoring them on how well they prepare you for the test including material, costs, and how closely the medium addresses/simulates the exam.

  • (7/10) Web – CompTIA Certmaster for Security+ SYO-401
  • (8/10) Web – Examcompass.com Security+ Practice Quizes
  • (9/10) Android App – CompTIA Security+ SYO-401 Prep by Darril Gibson and Konnect L.L.C.
  • (8/10) CompTIA Security+ Certification Guide SYO-401, 2nd Edition by Glen E. Clarke
  • (6/10) Mike Meyers’ CompTIA Security+ Certification Guide Newer, but put me to sleep. Better cloud coverage and slightly more real-world relevance, but more detail than tested.
  • (infinite/10) 3 Podcasts: Risky Business, TWIT’s SecurityNow, and Defensive SecurityA great way to turn your commute into a general background and goings-on of IT Sec.