The CWNP Program: Certifying Wireless Expertise

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Is your organization using or planning to use wireless LANs? Do you have a Microsoft or Cisco certification? Do you know if your wireless LAN is secure? Do you, your employees or your co-workers want to learn wireless? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to know about the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) program.

Why? Because the wireless networking industry is the fastest-growing segment of technology, and has been for the past three years, despite the economy. Wireless is at your favorite coffee shop, in airports, hotels—everywhere. And the CWNP program is at Fortune 500 companies, Global 1000 companies, in all major industries—everywhere. What Microsoft did for operating systems, what Cisco did for networking, the CWNP program is doing for wireless LANs.

The CWNP program was launched more than three years ago, in July 2001. Since then, the CWNP program has become an industry standard for wireless LAN training and certification, with people certified in over 50 countries. The CWNP program is now actively supported by more than 20 industry-leading wireless LAN hardware and software manufacturers.

Initially launched with one certification for wireless LAN administration, the CWNP program has grown to three certifications and courses that cover administration (CWNA), wireless LAN security (CWSP) and wireless LAN analysis (CWAP). The fourth and highest-level certification, Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE), will be available by this time next year. All certifications are vendor-neutral, which means that students learn the technology behind all the products, rather than one particular brand of wireless LAN products.

In 2001, when the CWNP program was created, there was a huge hole in the IT market in which there should have been some vendor-neutral wireless LAN training and certification. Microsoft and Cisco’s certification programs helped a fledgling computer networking industry grow from nothing in the 1990s to what it is today. Microsoft and Cisco have proven over and over that when millions of people are educated in a specific technology, those people work better and faster, are more knowledgeable and earn more than those people who are not certified.

CWNP Certifications
Today, the CWNP program has grown to three certification exams, along with supporting courses, study guides and practice tests. There are now CWNP-certified individuals who have earned at least one CWNP certification in more than 50 countries around the world. Most, if not all, of these IT professionals also hold at least one other networking certification such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Network+. These are the networking professionals who pull the cables, build the servers, configure the routers and switches, and whose lives are already–or will soon be–overrun by wireless networking technologies.

All CWNP exams are available at Prometric Authorized Testing Centers worldwide. The following is an overview of the CWNP program’s available certifications.

 

 

  • CWNA: Certified Wireless Network Administrator (exam #PW0-100) is the foundation-level wireless LAN certification for the industry-standard CWNP program. It is your starting point for wireless training and certification. CWNA covers a broad range of wireless LAN topics focused on 802.11 wireless technology rather than products of specific vendors. A CWNA-certified individual can confidently manage any wireless network, no matter what brand of equipment is utilized. There are no prerequisites for CWNA, but we do recommend that those seeking to pass the CWNA certification have a solid knowledge of IP networking technologies.
  • CWSP: Certified Wireless Security Professional (exam #PW0-200) demonstrates advanced knowledge of securing wireless LANs. CWSP builds on the foundation of wireless LAN knowledge from the CWNA certification by educating the candidate about the security threats to and weaknesses of wireless LANs. The main topics of this course and the certification exam are hardware, software, protocols, procedures and design techniques used in reducing wireless LAN security risks. A CWSP-certified IT professional understands all the threats and types of solutions that can efficiently secure any wireless network using any vendor’s gear. There is only one prerequisite for taking the CWSP exam: The CWSP candidate must first pass the CWNA exam.
  • CWAP: Certified Wireless Analysis Professional (exam #PW0-205) certification is an advanced wireless LAN certification, focusing entirely on the analysis and troubleshooting of wireless LAN systems. The CWAP learning objectives begin with the frame structures and exchange processes for each of the 802.11 series of standards, and then apply that base of knowledge to how and when to use the tools that are available for analyzing and troubleshooting today’s wireless LANs. The CWAP-certified professional is comfortable and confident using any wireless LAN analyzer on the market today to troubleshoot and diagnose any wireless LAN. There is only one prerequisite for taking the CWAP exam—passing the CWNA exam.

 

Vendor-Neutral Advantages
All of the CWNP certifications are vendor-neutral. The advantages of learning in this way are numerous, but can be summed up with one statement: When you learn the technology behind all the products, you can confidently use any of the products.

If you’ve ever participated in what’s commonly called a “bake sale” to win a customer’s business, you undoubtedly understand how important it is to know everything there is to know about what your product can and cannot do. If you know your product inside and out, you have an advantage over your competitor. But if you know the technology inside and out, you can crush your competitor because you know what the other guy’s product can and cannot do as well.

A great way to get all this technology and product knowledge is to attend a CWSP (wireless LAN security) or CWAP (wireless LAN analysis) instructor-led training class. Both classes feature 80 percent hands-on learning with many different vendors’ equipment. The class gives the IT professional the unique experience of seeing the different configuration interfaces, performance and capabilities of competing products. For example, the CWAP class provides the student the opportunity to use AirMagnet, WildPackets’ AiroPeek, Network Instruments’ Observer, TamoSoft’s CommView for Wi-Fi and Network Chemistry’s Packetyzer to achieve the same goals and solve the same problems over the five-day course. The student walks away from the class with a firm understanding of the 802.11 frame and processes, confidence in using any of these products and a thorough knowledge of which product is appropriate for every troubleshooting situation.

CWNP classes are intense. A Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) who recently attended a CWAP class remarked, “This is the most technically advanced class I have ever attended.” View other comments on the training and certification exams at the CWNP forums (www.cwnp.com/phpBB2/index.php).

So, “vendor-neutral” means that you get exposure to all the best products or solutions on the market, can compare competing products and their performance, and learn the technology behind all the products. The ultimate goal is for every IT professional who uses (or will use) wireless to get the best possible training available. Achieving this goal would mean more productive IT staff, excellent wireless LAN installations, more wireless network installations and applications, and more secure wireless networks, adding up to a robust wireless LAN market.

How to Learn Wireless
Most of those who have earned one or more CWNP certifications have done so through self-stud

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