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Training over the air

All but the most determined shade-tree mechanics would rather have a wireless network installed and maintained by an expert. Why can’t that expert be you?

As the computing world becomes less and less tethered to wires, training resources for traditional wired LAN setups are shrinking from sight. The past year has been tremendous for wireless LAN growth, thanks mostly to the availability of increasingly cheap and reliable 802.11g technology (and the 802.11b technology that many businesses will continue to use). According to InStat/MDR, home shipments of Wi-Fi hardware are expected to increase by 160 percent, to 6.8 million units, by the dawn of the new year.

For owners of small businesses or home businesses, networks are a necessity, but no longer do they have to be held together by wires. One thing that hasn’t changed from the wired days, however, is that all but the most determined shade-tree mechanics would rather have a wireless network installed and maintained by an expert. Why can’t that expert be you?

The most recognized certification in this field is Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP). The CWNP program offers instruction in all aspects of wireless networking in a series of certification training courses.

Step one: CWNA

Step one in the CWNP process is becoming a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA). CWNA is aimed at IT professionals who are new to wireless networking, but it can also help those already familiar with wireless LANs, and fill in any gaps in their knowledge.

The CWNA class and exam cover radio frequency (RF) technologies, wireless LAN technologies, implementation and management, security, and the latest developments in the industry and its standards. The CWNA course and exam are available from a number of providers; consult a listing of your local tech trainers for a provider near you.

Step two: CWSP

The next level, Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) measures the IT professional’s knowledge of how to defend a wireless LAN from intruders. This certification will help you prove you’re capable of not only implementing a wireless network within an enterprise, but also that you have the necessary tools and processes available for securing wireless networks.

The main topics of this certification are hardware, software, protocols, procedures, and design techniques used in reducing wireless LAN security risks. Training classes have been available for several months, and the CWSP exam made its debut in April.

Step three: CWNI

The Certified Wireless Network Integrator (CWNI) certification covers advanced RF technologies and the skills necessary to combine existing wired networks to newer wireless networks. You’ll learn how to design wireless networks, connect disparate wired and wireless networks through wireless bridging, and integrate wireless clients into traditional wired networks.

The CWNI, which won’t be available until next year, will cover such areas as switching, routing, wireless LAN and network design, packet analysis (sniffing), and wireless LAN deployment. One of the main focuses of the CWNI is for the test candidate to be skilled in wired/wireless network integration. A solid understanding of both wireless and wired networks is essential to successfully passing the CWNI exam.

Step four: CWNE

Certified Wireless Networking Expert (CWNE) is the highest level of certification in the CWNP program. This certification should show that you can administer, install, configure, troubleshoot, and design a wireless network system. Routing, switching, packet analysis, and advanced design are some of the areas of expertise for a CWNE, and an in-depth understanding of both wireless and wired networks will be needed to pass the CWNE, which also will be available next year.

Not so fast

The fact that two of the certifications in the CSNP process are not yet available should tell you something: Wireless is still a work in progress. Already, companies are being warned to steer clear of 802.11-based wireless products that don’t yet have the Wi-Fi Alliance seal of approval.

The trick will be knowing when to jump in. With wireless networking, now might be a good time to tread lightly with a CWNA, and then wait and see from there. In the meantime, buy a good how-to book and set up a network at home for practice. The long-promised wireless revolution is upon us; is it time for you to get hooked up?

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