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Networking Certification in a Connected World
Author // Eamonn Gormley
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We punch "restaurants" into a search engine, and within seconds a map appears showing all the local eateries, complete with helpful links, contact information, phone numbers, reviews, and convenient ways to get directions to each one. The connectivity of the computer has changed our lives beyond recognition within a few decades, and there has never been a greater need for people who are qualified to make this connectivity happen.

When the microcomputer and later the personal computer put the power of the silicon chip in the hands of the average user, computing took major steps forward in utility. No longer were these devices reserved for large corporations and organizations that could afford room-sized mainframes. The popular perception of the computer changed from being a mysterious monstrosity to a more accessible, compact, and self-contained machine that was increasingly within the affordability of more people.

For the many users who needed to produce output on paper, a standalone workstation was sufficient. However moving data between computers was largely carried out by the use of removable physical media. Cassette tapes were called into play by pioneering aficionados of home computers, floppy disks were used in higher end machines, and the inconvenience of such methods seem obvious today but at the time were considered part of the price we paid for the benefits of computer usage.

It was when personal computers came to be networked that their utility took arguably their biggest step forward. Initially computer networks were used to access central storage areas on Local Area Networks, allowing users to begin a task on one machine and continue with it on another, or to share information with colleagues. However it was Wide Area Networks and eventually the internet that truly expanded the capabilities of the computer by a massive margin.

Usability has combined with affordability to lead to massive adoption of networked computing by consumers and business users. By the turn of the century, the global market for networking hardware had surpassed $9 billion. Since then, the ubiquity of internet use has spawned entirely new industries such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Because of the explosion in popularity of tablets and smart phones, we have come to think of modern networked computing as a wireless affair. However all data traveling through the internet has to pass through physical cables, switches, and routers at some point. Unsurprisingly, annual spending on enterprise infrastructure is now set to surpass $51 billion according to International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research company.

Installing and maintaining all of this equipment is a skilled, complex, and essential job. Not everyone is qualified to perform this work, but those who are will be handsomely compensated, with six-figure salaries not uncommon.

Since companies need qualified network technicians, certification is a vital tool in ensuring that the staff being hired has the latest skills. CompTIA Network+ is a highly respected vendor-neutral qualification that measures a candidate’s mettle in network hardware installation and troubleshooting. It is a step towards a career as a network administrator, network technician, network installer, or IT cable installer. It is recommended that Network+ candidates already have the CompTIA A+ certification and nine months of networking experience.

Network+ is held in such high esteem that it is recommended or required by companies such as Xerox, Dell, HP, Sharp, and Ricoh. The U.S. Department of Defense recognizes it, and any IT technician seeking to join the Apple Consultants Network has to have it.

As the little supercomputers in our pockets go on to change the face of society, the amount of data passing between them will only continue to grow. That data is not going to move by itself, and someone will have to be there to ensure that it flows quickly and efficiently. Obtaining a qualification like Network+ is a wise investment for any savvy networking professional.