CompTIA Network+ Exam Objective Review: Aligning technical knowledge with business strategy
By Brian K. Arrowood, A+, Network+, Project+, ITIL V3 Foundation, PRINCE2 Foundation
Enhancing IT/business relationships with the Network+ certification
Whether used to describe social media or the arrangement of devices within a given topology, the term “networking” has profound meaning. Indeed, “staying connected” is a current trend in both IT and life. Consequently, aspiring IT professionals should seek to gain familiarity with the multifaceted world of networking. However, today’s IT professionals cannot afford to become functionally isolated; they must understand how technical requirements align with business needs. CompTIA’s Network+ certification helps candidates achieve a solid foundation of networking knowledge and initiates a vital step towards IT professionalism. Numerous objectives from the exam illustrate opportunity for strengthening IT/business relationships. This article describes a few of them and shows candidates how each fulfill larger holistic business goals.
Working symbiotically with business leaders
Undoubtedly, working symbiotically with business leaders is essential for a successful IT career. Granted, businesses come in all shapes and sizes but commonalties remain (i.e., the critical factors of cost and quality). Embracing such needs, then, should be an intense focal point within IT departments—specifically, driving down costs by utilizing more efficient resources and improving quality through increased availability and service performances. Business leaders will love you. Not only are you augmenting your value to the organization but also its value to customers. Objectives 1.9 Explain the basics of routing concepts and protocols, 1.11 Compare and contrast technologies that support cloud and virtualization, and 3.1 Compare and contrast risk related concepts are especially relevant to this vision of an IT professional who is capable of aligning technical knowledge with fundamental business strategy.
“Simple technicality” with deeper implications
In particular, the High availability subsection of objective 1.9 that lists VRRP, Virtual IP, and HSRP perfectly demonstrates an example of what might appear to be a simple technicality but is actually one having much deeper implications. Candidates should be aware that while their differences are subtle, both VRRP and HSRP each describe router redundancy protocols. Additionally, VRRP is standards related, and HSRP is proprietary to Cisco’s brand. Clicking here will take you to an article discussing IEEE standards.
In each instance of VRRP and HSRP, the Virtual IP address is largely responsible for creating the network’s fault tolerant or precautionary backup mechanism. Notably, VRRP stands for Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol and HSRP stands for Hot Standby Router Protocol. Naturally, these protocols are in existence because we don’t want to have multiple routers relying on a single default gateway that also serves as the network’s Single point of failure (SPOF). Readers following along with the objectives probably note that SPOF is a subsection of objective 3.1, and we’ll discuss it later, but also take note that Redundancy is listed beneath SPOF. Remember, when a SPOF is present, fault tolerance/redundancy is not. Routing infrastructures with one or more SPOFs in their communication paths are beckoning network collapse. Just imagine what a customer might think when they’re attempting to do business with a company that can’t even keep its own network operational. You guessed it: service accessibility, quality, and reputation are all damaged, and that’s just naming a few. An IT professional who is capable of identifying, removing, replacing, and ultimately correcting these undesirable conditions before larger organizational repercussions transpire will surely be appreciated by fellow colleagues, management teams, and perhaps even more by business leaders.
Virtualization and the cloud
Objective 1.11 Compare and contrast technologies that support cloud and virtualization combines two closely related concepts that should excite candidates’ interests—that is, virtualization and the cloud. Both are frequently used throughout discussions of technological trends and/or breakthroughs. They might be the reason why many of us got into IT in the first place. Virtualization is typically thought of as taking place onsite, while the cloud is more commonly viewed as an enabler of services from afar. In reality, however, both constitute some sort of emulation by which the company’s ability to optimize performance is greatly enhanced. Add increased customer awareness and what former HP IT Operations Senior Vice President, Ajay Sigh, calls “connected intelligence” (HP Development Co, L.P., 2016, p. 1), and you’ve got another industry buzzword: competitive advantage. Conclusively, virtualization and the cloud epitomize today’s sought-after ideal of streamlining resources in order to accomplish more tasks in a cheaper, more effective manner.
Each item is listed under the objective’s subsections as Virtualization and Cloud concepts. You’ll notice immediately that practically every network device or component, whether it is hardware or software related, can be placed within a virtual setting. Just as VRRP and HSRP provide redundancy through Virtual IP addresses, other devices achieve similar feats as they become virtualized. As the last subitem under Virtualization indicates, this direction of increased hardware/software emulation is leading us towards a more highly structured system of software-defined networking that is easier to maintain, more apt for troubleshooting, better at handling big data, and, quite simply, less cumbersome on businesses overall.
Virtualization on steroids
Many of you have probably come across the phrase referring to WiMax as “Wi-Fi on steroids.” The comparison is often made. If such is the case, I’d like to think that the cloud is virtualization on steroids—maybe even Gamma radiation. It’s taking the idea of having something that is not physically there to begin with but to another whole level altogether. For the Network+, CompTIA wants candidates to be familiar with two basic elements of cloud computing, and both have to do with ways in which services are implemented. For example, IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service, but it can come in a variety of forms including private, public, hybrid, or community. The same can be said for Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Be prepared to identify how cloud services are being implemented according to whatever scenario is given. Understand that “private” means the cloud provider is rendering access of cloud services only to the client, or business. Obviously, “public” means they are ultimately being accessed by the business’ customers via the Internet. As one might also imagine, “hybrid” blends these situations, and “community” simply means several organizations are sharing services. Interestingly, the word “hybrid” is not used to describe an organization’s possible blending of some IaaS and some PaaS. It only describes a mix of public or private cloud services. The table below should help candidates prepare for the exam by distinguishing what services go into an IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS cloud implementation.
Clearly, the aforementioned concepts are directing us to address a larger issue: risk. With the benefits that come with virtualized devices and cloud accessibility come pitfalls. Thus, how can we as IT professionals work with business leaders to deal with, manage, and reduce risk within organizations? Unsurprisingly, objective 3.1 Compare and contrast risk related concepts presents some ideas that can help candidates tackle such larger business concerns and possibly prevent risk on many fronts. Subsection Single point of failure has already been mentioned, but Disaster recovery and Business continuity force us to think about how we’ll get our operations back up-and-running should the worst possible scenarios occur. We’re not talking about failed default gateways or sudden offline servers but natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes. Naturally, these events wreak havoc on everything, including our networks. CompTIA doesn’t exactly spell them out in the objectives, but candidates should know about hot sites, cold sites, and warm sites. I would encourage you to just do a search and read about them. They’re pretty self explanatory in the sense that hot sites are ready-to-go, cold sites require more setup work after the disaster event, and warm sites are not really one or the other.
Keeping the ball rolling
As IT professionals, we have to keep the ball rolling. Fault tolerance/redundancy methods are especially vital in our department. Business leaders are relying on us to ensure that both employees and customers are receiving timely access through the networks. Moreover, the network presents a huge opportunity to implement cost savings tactics and enhance our role within the organization. Candidates compelled to master the objectives in the CompTIA Network+ exam and who end up gaining the certification will be glad for doing so. Not only are you acquiring an industry-recognized credential, you’re gaining knowledge that will make you better prepared when you go out in the real world. What have you got to lose? I’ve said it before, but CertBlaster is here to help, and I’d encourage you to take a look at some other preparation tools located on their website. Hopefully, this article has helped those of you thinking about sitting for the exam. And finally, Good luck!
HP Development Co, L.P. (2016). IT Operations Management – Achieving competitive advantage through Connected Intelligence. HP. Retrieved from http://www8.hp.com/h20621/video-gallery/us/en/events/enterprise/events/3951462639001/it-operations-management–achieving-competitive-advantage-through-connected-intelligence/video/
Network+ exam objectives addressed in this article
1.9 Explain the basics of routing concepts and protocols
1.11 Compare and contrast technologies that support cloud and virtualization
3.1 Compare and contrast risk related concepts