CWSP Courses

In reading through the material in the CWSP Study Guide I realized that it would be a good idea to spend some hands on time with some of the material that is discussed. I’ve always been a big fan of self-study, I tend to be of the opinion that I learn best when I am able to sit down with a product and actually practice and try to implement the things I am trying to learn about. This has good and bad aspects to it, first unless you are really good at structuring what you’re doing its easy to get sidetracked on some interesting topic related to what you are trying to learn (but perhaps not the main thrust of it). Second, the good thing about doing a course is that you are able to bounce ideas to a certain extent off others in the class. Nevertheless, I often tend to get a bit bored in classes as they realistically can only move as fast as the slowest student in the class and I usually want to dive in and get through the exercises so I can ask questions about what I’ve discovered and move onto the next topic.

I decided however, in my work of studying for the CWSP exam, that I really needed access to some lab materials at least from a CWSP based course in order to get more experience with what the material is about to gain some more in depth knowledge. I am familiar with most of the topics the study guide is covering. The problem I have is that I haven’t got into enough depth with them to know well how to answer a question posed by the exam. I could, fairly easily, setup some of the equipment I have at home to study what I need, but I am so busy with my work these days its difficult to find time to do this along with all the other parts of my life. I decided, therefore, to look for a CWSP course to get some structured, hands on time and to also give me a focus point that I can use to aim for doing the exam in the next couple of months, rather than in 6 months time. After looking around a bit I found a course run by Rick Murphy, the official CWSP courseware developer, that was online and had a very strong lab component. It was nearly perfect for me as I can do it from home and also have a structured learning situation along with plenty of hands on labs. I also got a hint from a friend to finish the study guide before the course in order to much more from the class and labs. Great idea. So now I have two aims, first to finish reading the study guide before May 17 and then to concentrate on the class that week so I feel prepared for the exam. I will of course do all the practice tests I can as well so I am familiar with the question format.

I think for me the best part about studying for a vendor agnostic exam such as the CWSP is that you gain in depth knowledge that can be related to any vendor’s product that you work with. Of course, the vendor courses are very useful to give you particular skills in that product, especially if your boss is expecting you to be the one managing it on a day to day basis. Having worked for a few years with various vendor’s products now I can say unequivocally that the knowledge that the CWNP is trying to test is essential knowledge to understanding wireless as a part of you job, not just how to keep a particular product running. I find I am the type of person to see common threads in what I am doing, patterns if you will. This kind of knowledge allows me to take the knowledge I get from studying wireless in a general way and use that knowledge to figure out what a new product I am working with is doing. It also allows me to be able to look at the big picture and figure out how to integrate a different technology into a wireless network. This was how, for example, I was able to use my knowledge of Active Directory and Windows to be able to understand how wireless clients cache their credentials and use those cached credentials to login with 802.1X on a wireless network. From my experience, this is one of the biggest challenges for people implementing enterprise wireless access, how to make sure it works in concert with the rest of their infrastructure and to do it in a way that it leverages the existing management of the network. Added to this you also need a good knowledge of wireless security to be able to differentiate when designing your wireless enterprise access how to configure things to maintain (at least) the level of security you have if not increase it. I am pretty confident that I can configure wireless networks to have more security even than a lot of wired networks. However, it just takes a small misconfiguration with wireless to open a gaping hole in the network.

Bringing this back to CWSP classes, I believe that the best approach to learning is to gain generally applicable knowledge in classes and then go home and use that knowledge to implement the vendor’s product that you need to know well. Having gained this experience, you can still do the vendor’s courses as well, but you will find that as you have the more generalized knowledge as well, you can then leverage that knowledge to become one of the best at implementing and integrating that product. You will see it in the vendor’s classes, you will ‘get’ what the class is trying to achieve far quicker than your peers in the class just because you have the basic knowledge from learning the underlying principals of wireless and 802.11 networks.

2 Responses to “CWSP Courses”

  1. Rick is a great instructor and has lots of labs you can access and do again and again until you feel very comfortable with the content.

  2. wifihead says:

    This is the most exciting and gratifying track (CWNP). The support from all the guys is fantastic. Read the forums and hold on to tweets from Mr.Multipath, Mr.Keith Parsons, Devinator, Kevinator, Mr. Bryant and of course Rick. I had a session with him and he is definitely great.Keep on pressing.

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