A+, CCNA, and MCSE Certification Advice

Two part question...

I am a system admin with several years experience with NO certifications, other than industry specific certifications by our hardware / software vendor.  First, would a viable set of certs be A+, MCSE, and CCNA, and is Network + worth anything?

Also, does anybody have any good online training they could recommend at a fairly affordable cost?

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I would check the CompTIA website first for approved trainning methods (I am a subject matter expert for Network+, convergence+ and e-biz+). I used their traiginng for many of my other certs and found them to be the best overall.

I also suggest network+ as it is widely recognized as one of the best to have for network admins and is a great stepping stone for CCNA and up, and is nearly required for MCSE understanding. If you also get the MCVP and the Network+ you get a bonus of free CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster) associate level which adds to your list. The A+ is always the way to start - and MCP and Network + come next before MCSE. Be prepared to study - and do not rely on braindumps ass they are written mostly by those who have little real knowledge of ansers. Best thin g to do is learn why an answer is what it is, rather than justlearn teh answer and not understand the reasoning behind it.
For MS I would use the Microsoft Press - and quickly become a registered memebr of their partner site http://partner.microsoft.com so you can benefit from their software package of free licenses of nearly all their products. It costs $300 for an Action Pack subscription,. but you get useable copies of MS server, XP, and all other products with licenses for personal use. This way you can set up real networks and PCs to test and run more than jsut scenarios.

The ComTIA Press is best for A+, Network+, etc. and Cisco will allow you a free partnership by signing up at their site and many books are free once you join the alliance. if you select e-mail allowance you may even get some certification books from them at heavy discount as I have (some free). If you are interested in other books to get for training go to http://www.computerbooksdirect.com they have a ton all at 35-50% off

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Rob WilliamsCommented:
Excellent question. Opinions will vary.......
Today certifications seem to mean less and less, yet if you wish to apply for jobs in the future they can be a bsic requirement just to get an interview. If you are not well established in the trade, in my opinion, it is well worth pursuing. Some certifications seem to carry more weight than others. the xxx+ series carry less weight, MSCE more and the Cisco and Novell certifications even more though it depends on the fields of expertise you wish to follow as to which are important.
As for less expensive training. VTC offers a $30/moth unlimited access to dozens of training subjects which are very good. No sign up fee and no minimum time period:
TrainSignal offers very good training videos in CD format:
And then of course there are the Microsoft Press books, available from Amazon or your local book store.
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The following video are really good:
I own a computer retail store and can tell you the A+, and Network+ along with the MCSE are the most recognized certs I have hanging up in our store. Not onkly among techs, but also with business owners and customers. Most people who come in and ask about our ecperience and qualifications at a minnimum recognize these. Most people dont use Cisco (very few even realize the Linksys is a Cisco brand) or they recognize it as being used on the show 24.

The only other certs that seem to hold weight are the Dell DCSE and the McAfee security Expert certs. If your looking for reliable tests, try the Exam Prep books (include testing CDs in them) and Osbourne Press books for more in depth knowledge.
Rob WilliamsCommented:
Actually couritech you are quite right, I shouldn't generalize. If doing hardware support, an A+ would be far more beneficial than a CCNA, and if doing network support for larger companies, exactly the opposite. I guess you really need to decide on your path, before deciding on the most beneficial courses and or certifications. I will say a CCNA would be far more difficult to obtain, and this is my primary reason for saying many of the certifications today are not regarded with the same respect as they once were. Today, as an example, it is possible to go to a Microsoft boot camp, and get an MSCE in 14 days. Thus, many employers knowing this, are looking more to real world experience and references, than certifications. The real value in the certification is how you obtain it, and what you learn along the way. Still, as mentioned earlier, sometimes you cannot even get a foot in the door without certifications, so I would never discourage working to put “letters after your name”.
It really depends on what area you're working in now and where you would like to go.  Certifications are only useful when backed up with experience in that area otherwise they're not worth the paper they're written on.  The problem is you have go and spend months getting the CCNA, but if you're not working with Cisco equipment on a regular basis you'll forget a vast majority of it within a few months.  Same goes for the MCSE; if you're only using Windows XP you'll have forgotten the Server stuff very quickly.  We get CVs in and do interviews fairly regularly and at this stage don't pay much attention to the likes of the CCNA, because without experience the only thing it demonstates is the ability to learn off text.

Having said that, if you ARE working with MS Servers/Clients on a daily basis I think the MCSE is very well worth doing, you'll be amazed the amount you learn from them.  I find the Microsoft books good and more then enough to pass the exams if you have some experience (eg. copy "MCSA/MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-270): Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Second Edition (Hardcover)" into Amazon and it's the first one to come up).

I've never done the A+ or Network+, but from what I gather I reckon if you have done the MCSE and have daily experience you won't learn a huge amount from doing them so it would be wasted.  Concentrate on the MCSE/CCNA depending on you area of work now IMHO...
It depends on the career course you want to pursue - if you don't learn the paths of A+ you may never come to know the other multiple non-software reasons for a network failure (by not understanding a broadcast storm or what a single NIC can do to bring you down by chattering) for instance.

But the MCSE has its value, if all you're ever going to do is admin work you'll be forced to learn some hardware functinality by need alone. The A+ serves to show you best how the machine works and not how it networks in a given Microsoft environement.

Of course many machines now are not just MS boxes, so for us at least we don't like to pidgeonhole ourselves here to Microsft only. But we also have 2 MCSE's besides myself and all of us started with the A+ and Network+, and all agree that it was a better start for the MCSE as it gave us a better understanding of the shy and how of a machine and not just the where to plug it in.  

None of us btw - started out as hardware buffs, but we all have had to deal with failed drives, NICs, etc on servers and PCs in the field that can bring your customers network down in a snap. If you have the exdpeerience you become mroe than a go to guy for network issues, you can become the "only" guy to go to for almost all issues.
Rob WilliamsCommented:
Thanks scholfieldauto,
Cheers !
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