Group Policy Objects - With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Group Policy Objects (GPO's) can be a Network Administrators best friend; however, it takes some practice to truly harness their power.

Below is an example of the Group Policy Management Console. From here you can edit and manipulate all of the GPO's within your organization. Keep in mind, GPO's are applied to a specific Organizational Unit. The list of OU's on the left should mirror the OU's that have been created from within Active Directory Users and Computers. However, here you will only see which GPO's have been applied to an OU, not the actual Users/Computers the OU contains.

The OU called "Group Policy Objects" contains every GPO you have created regardless of where it is applied. Deleting it from this list will get rid of it forever; however, deleting it from a location where it has been applied will simply remove it from that OU while keeping the GPO itself for future use.

GPO's can be prioritized through their "Link Order"; however, this can be confusing for someone just starting out. You would expect policies to apply beginning with 1, then 2, and so on. This is not the case. A higher number actually represents a better priority, so the GPO with a Link Order of 10 will actually apply before a GPO with a Link Order of 3.

Once you create a GPO you can right click on it and select "Edit". This will bring up the "Group Policy Management Editor". From here you can apply numerous settings, applications, registry tweaks, etc. You can choose to create either a Computer or User based policy. Computer policies must be applied to an OU that holds computers, and User policies must be applied to an OU that holds Users. For example, if you were to create a User policy, and apply it to an OU that doesn't have any users in it, nothing would happen.

Group Policy can be a very powerful tool for managing all of the systems and users you administer. Once you truly master all that Group Policy has to offer every aspect of your network can easily be manipulated with relative ease.

For more information: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/bb310732.aspx

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The New CCIE v5 – What to Expect

All Cisco certifications culminate in a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) credential; however, only 2% of people who earn a CCNP ever attempt the CCIE. Recently the CCIE – Routing & Switching went through a major overhaul. Version 5.0 of the exam tests individuals on some newer technologies, plus removes topics no longer relevant in today’s day and age.

The CCIE – Routing and Switching certifies the skills required of expert-level network engineers to plan, operate, and troubleshoot complex, converged network infrastructures. Some topics include layer 2/3 technologies, virtual private networks, infrastructure security, and quality of service.

You need to pass a comprehensive written examination, followed by an 8-hour hands-on practical lab, to earn a CCIE. These tests will push you to your limits, and requires months, if not years, of studying to achieve. Earning a CCIE may seem unattainable right now, but with hard work and determination we can all reach that goal.

For more information: http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/certifications/expert/ccie_rs/index.html

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Training, Practice, and Experience

Many different ways exist to train for a career in Information Technology, but the method you choose depends on the way you process new information. You can begin by pursuing some certifications, going to college, or gaining real world experience; however, combining all of these methods may prove more rewarding.

Getting a degree in Computer Information Systems, or some other IT related concentration, can help put your best foot forward. While knowledge gained from an appropriate degree program can help you learn the basics, you will also obtain valuable resources to begin working in the field.

Certifications also increase your likelihood of getting hired. Starting with the basics, such as the CCENT, A+, or Network+ certifications, can prove yourself competent enough to get your foot in the door. If you really want to impress someone, earning more advanced credentials, like the CCNA, CCNP, or MCSE, can help your chances even further.

However, no amount of training really beats real world experience. You could earn an advanced degree, plus several of the higher level certifications, but employers will still pass you by due to a lack of any practical experience. Finding a simple job, working in the field of IT, can sometimes earn you more respect than all of the degrees and certifications in the world.

Earning a lot of IT credentials can prove invaluable, but don’t forget to complement those qualifications with some on-the-job experience. After all, training helps prepare you for an entry level job, but real world experience permits you to start climbing the corporate ladder.

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Routing & Switching - The Foundation of All Networks

Routing & switching serves as a foundation for many of the other Cisco certifications. Every succeeding topic deals with configuring different aspects of Cisco routers and switches. My journey towards Cisco certifications began with earning the original CCNA. This credential focuses solely on the OSI model, routing protocols, IP addressing, basic device security, and switching technologies.

I subsequently earned the CCNP certification in routing & switching. The CCNP delves deeper into topics from the CCNA; however, it also explores some new technologies. Additionally, you need to pass three extremely difficult tests to earn this credential.

First, the CCNP ROUTE exam deals with more advanced routing protocol configurations. You also begin to explore route redistribution and path control mechanisms. Next, CCNP SWITCH explores layer 3 switching and device redundancy. Finally, CCNP TSHOOT gives you various troubleshooting scenarios to solve.

Usually people begin with the routing & switching certifications before continuing into other topics; however, some people may choose another subject to focus on.

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Network Security

A huge part of Information Technology (IT) relies on securing data from outside threats. You must harden a networks infrastructure against severe attacks; however, you need to find a balance between security and function. Fortifying your network is a high priority, but go overboard and you could prevent legitimate users from accessing network resources.

Threats come in all shapes and sizes. Not only do you need to protect users from outside dangers, but you must also protect them from each other. Employees bypass all external security once they walk through the front door; nevertheless, with proper practice and training anyone can secure a network against both internal and external threats.

Certification can help validate your knowledge in this important aspect of IT. Cisco offers several security related certifications. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Security credential emphasizes core security technologies. Once earned you can recognize and mitigate threats to a network, maintain device integrity, and protect data confidentiality.

Subsequently, you can earn the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Security certification. This qualification requires a candidate to pass four exams. These exams focus on securing routers and switches, deploying Cisco firewalls, deploying Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions, and implementing intrusion prevention systems.

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