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The following series of questions and observations is designed to help you figure out how much work you must do to pursue the Cisco IDS Specialist certification and what resources to consult on your quest. Be absolutely honest in your answers; otherwise , you'll end up wasting money on exams you're not ready to take. You'll not find right or wrong answers, only steps along the path to certification. Only you can decide where you really belong in the broad spectrum of aspiring candidates.
The following two things should be clear from the outset, however:
Even a modest background in computer science will be helpful.
Hands-on experience with Cisco products and technologies is an essential ingredient to certification success.
Have you ever taken any computer- related classes? [Yes or No]
If yes, proceed to question 2. If no, proceed to question 3.
Have you taken any networking concepts or technologies classes? [Yes or No]
If yes, you will probably be able to handle networking terminology, concepts, and technologies. If you are rusty, brush up on basic networking concepts and terminology, especially the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) reference model, routing technologies, and TCP/IP.
If no, you might want to read one or two books in this topic area. The two best books that we know are Computer Networks , Fourth Edition , by Andrew S. Tanbaum (Prentice-Hall, 2002, ISBN 0-130-66102-3) and Computer Networks and Internets , Second Edition , by Douglas E. Comer and Ralph E. Droms (Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN 0-130-9144-5). When it comes to TCP/IP, also consider Richard Steven's magnificent book TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1: The Protocols (Addison-Wesley, 1994, ISBN 0-201-63346-9).
Have you done any reading on general security concepts or information security? [Yes or No]
If yes, review the requirements stated in the first paragraph after question 2. If you meet those requirements, move on to the next section.
If no, review the requirements stated in the second paragraph in question 2 before you move forward to the next section.
The most important key to success on the Cisco IDS test is hands-on experience. If we leave you with only one realization after taking this self-assessment, it should be that you can't find any substitute for time spent installing, configuring, and using the various Cisco equipment on which you'll be tested repeatedly and in depth.
Have you installed, configured, and worked with Cisco IDS Sensors? [Yes or No]
If yes, make sure that you understand signatures, IDS Event Viewer (IEV), directors, and general monitoring.
If no, we recommend you obtain access to at least one Cisco IDS sensor so that you can exercise the concepts that you will be learning. We suggest an IDS 4235 or at a minimum an IDS 4210 model.
Have you installed, configured, and worked with Cisco Secure Access Control Server (ACS) and CiscoWorks? [Yes or No]
If yes, we recommend brushing up on IDS Management Center (MC), IEV, and any programs downloaded from the sensors.
If no, we recommend you obtain access to at least one Cisco IDS Sensor and CiscoWorks before moving forward.
Before you even think about taking any Cisco exam, be sure that you've spent enough time with the related equipment and software to understand how to install, configure, monitor, and troubleshoot it. This knowledge will help you during the exam and in real life!
Whether you attend a formal class on a specific topic to get ready for an exam or use written materials to study on your own, some preparation for the Cisco IDS exam is essential. At $125 a try, pass or fail, you want to do everything you can to pass on your first try. That is where studying comes in.
We have included two practice exams in this book, so if you don't score well on the first test, you can study more and then take the second test. If you still don't get a score of at least 90% after these tests, you should investigate the practice test resources mentioned here (feel free to use your favorite search engine to look for more; this list is by no means exhaustive):
For any given subject, consider taking a class if you have tackled self-study materials, taken the test, and failed anyway. The opportunity to interact with an instructor and fellow students can make all the difference in the world, if you can afford that privilege. For information about Cisco IDS classes, use your favorite search engine with a string such as Cisco IDS class or Cisco IDS training . Even if you can't afford to spend much money, you can still invest in some low-cost practice exams from commercial vendors .
Have you taken a Cisco IDS 642-531 practice exam? [Yes or No]
If yes, and you scored 90% or better, you are probably ready to tackle the real thing. If your score isn't above that threshold, keep at it until you break that barrier .
If no, obtain all the free and low-budget practice tests you can find (check for pointers at http://www.examcram2.com or check out offerings from the for-a-fee practice test vendors listed earlier in this chapter) and get to work. Keep at it until you can break the passing threshold comfortably.
When it comes to assessing your test readiness, no better way exists than to take a good-quality practice exam and pass with a score of 90% or better. When we're preparing, we shoot for 95%+, just to leave room for the weirdness-factor questions that sometimes show up on Cisco exams.
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