Certification in the ‘Net Economy

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Some administrators want you to believe that certification is not important anymore. Certain managers are looking for employees with experience, not certifications. However, certification can provide employers with a basis for determining if job applicants have the required skills.

With rapidly changing technology and the increasing need for qualified employees, taking classes to learn about new technologies is generally preferred to employees testing their knowledge and skills on the corporate network. For example, certification ensures the complexities of transitioning a company to an e-business environment are performed correctly and effectively.

A common belief in the IT industry is that holding certifications covering a wide range of skills and vendors will make a person more marketable and better equipped to handle challenges. Becoming certified can also enhance one’s career, as well as increasing salaries. Additionally, companies recognize a rapid return on investment (ROI), often in less than nine months, from the investment made to certify their employees. This indicates certification is not valueless, but actually empowers the company that employs certified professionals.

What differentiates certificate holders with experience from certificate holders without experience? The answer is hands-on testing. Most IT companies only have the capability to test candidates using a written test. While this may test a person’s knowledge, it is not always adequate in testing their experience and ability to resolve issues.

Currently, two companies, Cisco and Novell, provide hands-on testing. The CCIE has a multiple-choice, computer-based qualification exam. Once a candidate passes this exam, they qualify to take a two-day lab exam. This certification qualifies an individual’s networking skills at the expert level.

Novell has a similar certification, the Certified Directory Engineer (CDE). This unique certification combines typical testing procedures of written tests with a hands-on exam, which leverages the ‘Net to connect to remote servers to solve complex directory issues. The candidate is given two hours to complete specific objectives and to resolve all issues.

Novell will soon introduce another innovative way to deliver exams. Practical testing will soon be delivered by running multiple operating systems concurrently on a standard desktop PC using “virtual machines.” This new technology uses standard, unmodified operating systems isolated in individual windows and monitored by virtual machines.

Multiple virtual machines can run side-by-side. For example, users can simultaneously run Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Linux. Standard applications still work with this configuration and are portable across Intel platforms. Sharing files is done the same as on any PC. Files can be cut and pasted between virtual machines on the host computer. And new operating systems can by added without repartitioning the hard drive.

Each virtual machine acts as a separate machine, running virtual devices such as IDE and SCSI drives, parallel and serial ports and sound and video cards. Virtual networking, consisting of bridge networking and host-only networking, is also possible, allowing each machine to have its own network address. This new approach to test delivery will allow the hands-on exam, which consists of five servers and one workstation, all to be on one machine, connected in a simulated, networked environment.

The testing will be the same. The candidate will access the servers remotely, solve directory issues and complete specific objectives. This new technology eliminates slow connection speeds, limited test availability, international taxes and costs of using multiple machines to deliver one test. Plus, candidates can now be tested on any platform, as well as almost any application.

Novell’s practical testing will now allow hands-on testing for any certification program to administer exams. What does this mean? No more paper certifications!

Nancy Seamons is the CDE program manager for Novell Education. She can be reached at (800) 861-8248 or by e-mail at nseamons@novell.com.

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