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Backup Now! Data Backup Planning & Execution

Backup Now! Data Backup Planning & Execution

“But I don’t want to back up now. I will do it tomorrow, I promise.”

Is there a soul alive who has created digital data who has not been exposed to the concept of data backup (redundancy) in case of that data vanishing?

It does not seem likely. Similar to insurance, no one wants to buy insurance (or even talk about it), but what could the consequences be if we don’t create a data backup when appropriate, and a catastrophe occurs?

Vanishing data could be caused by a disk drive crash, a malware attack, an electrical surge, a disk drive data capture such as with ransomware, and other miscellaneous actions like device theft. What about operating system (OS) and program files? Should they be backed up along with associated data files?

Digital data does not always refer to data created with computers or computer networks. Cameras, cell phones, smart TVs, DVRs, and a host of other electronic devices can be included in this conversation.

The dominant factor in redundancy preparation is almost always determined by the value of the digital data. Let’s consider some of the basic concepts of why backing up digital information should be considered. First, I hope this story sets the tone.

Floppy Disk Backup at ComputerLand

In 1983, I was working for ComputerLand, a retail computer store in Oklahoma City. During the 1980s, ComputerLand was the largest retail computer enterprise in the U.S. which showcased Apple and IBM personal computers as their anchor products.

A client of ours, a mail order company, burned completely to the ground. They were within a hair of completely losing their business, employees losing their jobs, and lives changing forever. However, someone had the foresight to have completed a backup of the entire company database on floppy disks and had secured it in their fire safe. The data remained intact during the burn.

Because they were a client, management offered (free of charge) to take that large stack of 5¼ inch floppy disks and restore them to a new 10 megabyte hard disk. For three days, all day long, many of us took turns restoring (inserting one disk, then another) their database back to a usable state using the PC DOS Restore utility – one 360K floppy disk at a time. A very slow process, but a business was saved!

Why is Having a Backup So Important?

Organizations (or anyone) who loses a whole building and everything in it, like in the 9/11 disaster or the Oklahoma City bombing, and do not have an off-site backup store, have a very high chance of losing their business.

Losing a business this way depends on more than one factor, including the type of business. For example, an ice cream store that loses data due to a lightning strike can open up their doors the next day and commence scooping ice cream again, without too much consternation.

But a financial institution or an online company where data availability is critical creates a much different circumstance if data is compromised at any level.

So what are the primary reasons to keep an accurate backup of business data?

Livelihood

The first concept, and perhaps the dominant one, is the concept of livelihood. Today’s business records are kept almost completely in digital format and stored locally and/or online. Data is produced and kept on just about every type of transaction imaginable. Losing just the right kind and amount of data can create a reduction or complete elimination of positions within any type of organization.

When data is lost, jobs can be lost, bills potentially may not be paid, and lives can be changed. A relatively simple task of backing up data to multiple locations can prevent many recovery challenges.

Legal

Next, is the concept of legality. Organizations that accumulate data under restrictions of legal authority must take extra caution when planning a data backup strategy. For example, losing financial or medical data due to carelessness or poor planning may have a cost of more than just data loss. Government watchdogs could be looming.

Going to court, paying for and defending yourself or your company, does not seem to be a highly productive activity for any person or organization. Legal issues can drain human and financial resources, as well as lower personal or corporate morale.

There is a reason why there are many underground and above ground secure data centers (also known as data backup storage centers or bunkers) scattered around the world. Many financial (and other) institutions send backup copies of their data to these secure data bunker centers. Backups are usually in the form of digital tape media. They can be delivered (overnight) to these centers after the day’s business activity ends and the backups are completed. Many organizations have dedicated “backup personnel” with the responsibility of seeing that their organizations’ redundancy process is completed in a timely manner.

Policy

The majority of organizations that produce data may not be under the constraints of legal or mandatory data redundancy. However, as a matter of policy they may incorporate programs to protect their data. This can include part of or all of the following: local tape drive backups, hard drive imaging (exact copy of the hard drive in use), R.A.I.D. (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), server imaging to remote locations, copying data files to offline hard disks or to optical media (CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, Blu Ray), and a host of other partial procedures.

For Windows users, partial redundancies could include creating a Windows Recovery Drive, a copied backup of the Windows Registry, or using the Windows Restore Point feature. For Mac (Apple Macintosh) systems, Remote Disc, or Time Machine are built-in utilities for easy access. Linux and UNIX operating systems have a multitude of backup programs available. Many are open source and free; others may be unique to the specific Linux distribution, such as Ubuntu or Red Hat. A simple internet search will provide many hours of backup education.

Convenience

Convenience, or rather extreme inconvenience, is a minimum description if a dataset is lost and redundancy is non-existing. Really! Does this need much explanation? How inconvenient would it be to lose your livelihood, go to court, or explain to superiors or customers that their data is lost?

A data catastrophe, (i.e., a hard drive crash) is bad enough. But in IT (information technology) crash terms, convenience is having an identical and up-to-date dataset within close access and all that is needed is for a handy tech to install it and get the system up and running again within minutes! Redundancy planning and implementation can be acutely convenient compared to the alternative.

How to Backup Data

Tools available today for data backup and security are seemingly unlimited. Discussing the dozens of tools could take many books to break down the specific software and hardware options and how they relate to the multiple operating systems used by different organizations. Instead, here are some basic technologies popular today.

The first is not a specific technology, but is a key consideration – planning. Optimal data recovery depends on optimal planning.

Planning Ahead for Optimal Recovery

Optimal planning consists of understanding what backup technologies are available, how they are installed, their function, how they are maintained, the level of technical sophistication, the costs involved, and understanding the procedures used to restore lost datasets. It has been said that “no two computer networks are the same.” This means that perhaps no two data backup strategies would be the same even on very similar networks.

Components of a successful backup plan can consist of three major categories: operating system (OS) files, program files, and data files. As mentioned, data is the primary target – both for a backup strategy and for hackers. However, having intact OS and program files can eliminate hours of additional labor restoring a hard drive. They are not as critical because organizations have them either in their possession or have the licenses to be downloaded and reinstalled.

Are data the only backup targets? OS and program files will have to be reinstalled as well. In addition, they may have to be updated. Updating to the most recent versions of these files also has the potential of adding additional time to recovery. It is almost a certainty that in today’s internet climate, not updating OS and program files can lead to security risks and software operation glitches. Organizations may also want to create a backup security policy to protect these backups. Consider having a backup plan meeting to create a plan and get approval for it.

Redundancy Technologies

Copy & Paste

But what is a computer backup? You have probably already used the most common backup technique! The most common utility known for duplicating files for safekeeping is the copy feature offered by all common operating systems. While copy is not considered a formal backup strategy, it is widely used to create file redundancy. It’s quick and easy to use.

Windows graphical user interface (GUI) users know the copy command (Ctrl+C) as copy-n-paste or cut-n-paste. Other copy commands in Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, and PC-DOS operating systems are xcopy.exe and robocopy.exe. These are used from the command line and offer more features than the easy to use copy command. More complex data backup software is also available.

Many of the Linux distributions that have a GUI offer the copy and paste function. From the Linux command line, the cp utility can be used.

Mac users also have copy and paste functions. OS X offers both copy and paste and cut and paste functions. The copy and paste function can be done two ways: Command+C or Command+V, and using the mouse and the Option key.

Data Backup Chart

Backup Media

Backup media is not discussed in detail here. Backup media generally includes one or more of the following: magnetic tape systems, external or internal (to the computer) hard disk drives, USB (jump/thumb) drives, optical media such as CD-ROMs, DVDs, and Blu Ray, remote backup servers (computers located in another location such as across the room or in another city), or online secure data backup.

Full, Differential, Incremental vs. R.A.I.D.

Data backup strategies vary widely. Two common strategies than have been around since the 1970’s and 1980’s are full, differential, and incremental, as well as R.A.I.D. These are not strategies necessarily to be used in place of the other, but rather to be used with each other to help provide the most secure redundancy possible. Each strategy performs very different services and can be used with various kinds of data backup software.

Full Backup

The full strategy functions almost like it sounds. Although all strategies have software settings allowing customization, the full backup service is designed to fully backup “everything” on a hard disk drive. This includes all OS, program, and data files. Should a computer hard disk drive become unusable or stolen, the full strategy can be used to create an identical state of the hard disk drive at the moment the full backup strategy was completed.

The advantage of the full strategy is important. Only one file is created containing everything on the hard disk drive. All data, programs, OS and user settings are kept intact. Restore the file to a new or blank hard disk and everything should be exactly as the moment before the backup process began. It’s fairly easy to copy or distribute a single file to provide additional security for the backed up file.

Challenges also follow the full strategy. That one single file is often enormous in size. Depending on how much information is on a hard disk drive, it can take hours for the backup process to complete. It can also take hours for the file to reassemble on a new hard disk drive during the restore process. The backup file only contains data as of the date of backup. Any changes made since the backup are not included. Individual files are not accessible, meaning that to access any programs, folders, or files on the backed up media, the backup file would have to be restored first. This can be an inconvenience.

(Note: There are newer backup systems now available that do allow for individual folder and file access. Some of these newer systems also allow for an accelerated backup and restore process, saving time.)

Differential Backup

For backing up files that have changed since the last full backup, differential or incremental strategies can be used in conjunction with the full strategy. A differential is a type of backup that copies all the data that has changed since the last full backup.

A full/differential recovery would include restoring the last full backup first, and then the last differential backup performed. Differential file sizes would be much smaller, allowing for a quicker restore, at least on the differential restore. Again using this system, two files are used for restoring, the last full and the last differential.

The differential type of backup does not clear the archive bit. This means that the next time a differential backup is performed, it backs up everything that has changed since the last full backup. Previous differential files can be discarded.

Incremental Backup

A full/incremental strategy is also an option. With an incremental strategy, each backup captures all computer software changes since the last backup, usually an incremental backup. A completed incremental backup does clear the archive bit. This means that it closes out (completes) the backup process.

For example, a full backup on Friday, an incremental backup on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with a hard disk crash on the next Friday, means that restoring a hard disk drive up to date through the last Thursday, would mean restoring a total of five files (the last full, and the incremental backups for Monday through Thursday).

Backup and Restore Schedule Samples

Type

Backup #

FullDifferentialIncrementalRestore from DifferentialRestore from Incremental
Backup #1All dataLast FullLast Full
Backup #2All dataChanges from backup #1Changes from backup #1Backup #2
Backup #3All dataChanges from backup #1Changes from backup #2Backup #3
Backup #4All dataChanges from backup #1Changes from backup #3Backup #4
Backup #5All dataChanges from backup #1Changes from backup #4Backup #5Backup #5

Determining which system and desired frequency would be optimal to use for any given computer or network requires evaluating how the systems are used, the importance of timely recovery, and the volume of data to be restored. In addition, a hybrid of full, differential, and incremental can be implemented.

R.A.I.D. Backup

R.A.I.D. is another option that can be used on its own, or with any other data security strategy. R.A.I.D. is not a specific strategy, but offered in many different forms called levels. For example, some of the most popular levels are R.A.I.D.1, R.A.I.D.5, R.A.I.D.10.

R.A.I.D. usually requires more technical knowledge to install and implement. Computer BIOSes, microprocessors, PC motherboards, controller cards, and software knowledge is required before optimal R.A.I.D. implementations can be incorporated into PCs, servers, and networks.

The basic concept of R.A.I.D. is that multiple hard drives are installed into an array. When a hard drive (or hard drive controller chip) fails, one of two actions can take place, depending on the R.A.I.D. level. First, a duplicate hard drive could be immediately available because of a process called mirroring (an exact copy). The mirrored hard drive is instantly online and the users do not know that an error (crash) has occurred.

Another R.A.I.D. level might send an error message to the administrator that a crash has occurred. The administrator then can rebuild the lost data to a new hard drive using data stored on the remaining hard drives in the array. No data is lost, only a little time is required to get the system back up and running.

There are many variations of R.A.I.D. They vary on their own, and can vary on implementation depending on the OS supported. R.A.I.D. is a very popular concept, and is widely included in data redundancy.

Let’s Conclude

Much has been written about data security and is available in many places including online. However, like a regular Sunday sermon, we users need to be constantly reminded of securing our data before it becomes lost forever!

Whether you are a home user that has spent many hours scanning your family albums, a financial or medical organization, or anything in between, you can help prevent inconvenience, livelihood or legal consequences by protecting important data. Now is a great time to plan for a data loss emergency.

Perform a data backup now!

Do you love everything IT?

If you want to start or advance a career in IT, LeaderQuest can help! We offer 5-10 day courses with traditional instruction and hands-on labs designed to quickly get you ready for your certification exam. Our Career Services department works one-on-one with each student to help them prepare for the job hunt, and connect them with our local Employer Partners. You could be doing Data Backup for a company professionally!

Learn More

Born in Billings, MT, Gary attended the Oklahoma City University, the University of Central Oklahoma, The University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City Community College. His proudest accomplishments come from helping students connect with job placement contacts. He’s worked with companies like Dell, Purina, and many others to facilitate great jobs.

When Is Getting Your Certified Network Defender (CND) Worth It?

When Is Getting Your Certified Network Defender (CND) Worth It?

When you’re looking for a way to climb the ranks in the cyber security world, it can be difficult. As a newer industry, there’s no cookie-cutter path to cyber security and qualified experts come from a variety of backgrounds.

However, one surefire way to prove yourself is through certifications which validate your skills in the eyes of an employer and let you get a foot in the door for that dream job. The EC-Council’s Certified Network Defender (CND) is one such certification, great for people who want to work on making sure an organization’s network is secure and maintained.

In this article, we’ll cover the CND certification, what it covers, how it works, and whether or not it’s the perfect move for your career.

Cyber Security Skills Gap and Certification

cyber security Certified Network DefenderBefore we move on to the CND, it’s important to understand why it’s relevant in this world. The answer? The cyber security skills gap. With more and more high profile hacks from Equifax to Uber, qualified professionals are in short supply.

By 2019, there will be a global shortage of two million cyber professionals, according to the nonprofit ISACA. Meanwhile, CyberSeek estimates that around 240,000 information security analysts and other cyber roles go unfilled every year.

That’s where IT cyber security certifications come in. For professionals who already know their way around a computer and are ready to help fight the bad guys, certifications give them a chance to prove those skills quickly and get to work.

But not all certifications are created equal. So where does the Certified Network Defender come in?

Why Do We Need the Certified Network Defender?

No matter what your interest in cyber security, there’s a certification out there for you. Want to get into the mind of a hacker? The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification lets you do that. More interested in collecting cyber evidence and testifying against hackers? The Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) lets you do that. If you’re not sure what you want to do in cyber security, our article on different paths can help you get started.

But what about the CND? In short, the CND is all about data breaches. We know them. We fear them. In fact, cyber breaches have increased 1,370% over the past 10 years. People who earn their CND come equipped with the skills to protect, detect, and respond to threats on their network.

To get more specific, the CND is great for anyone who wants to focus on the operations and processes involved in network defense, rather than the tech. Their focus is on maintaining infrastructure in a system. A day in the life of a CND certified pro could include testing a network for weaknesses, installing security programs, evaluating/monitoring networks, and more.

For info on when the CND could be the right choice for you, check out the infographic below from the EC-Council.

CND certified

As for the process of getting certified itself, well, it’s not easy. The exam is over four hours and costs hundreds of dollars. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect . . .

  • Number of Questions: 100
  • Test Duration: 4 Hours
  • Test Format: Multiple Choice
  • Test Delivery: ECC EXAM
  • Exam Cost: $350.00


Salary Range for CND Professionals

What’s in it for you once you do get the CND? We’re glad you asked! The CND uniquely prepares you to work with networks or seek network administrator positions.

Some of the most common job roles include. . .

As for salary, the average Certified Network Defender salary is around $65,721* but could easily be much higher depending on your specialization. For a Defense Network Technician, salaries range between $70,000 and $76,000.

Meanwhile, a Network Security Engineer could make anywhere between $97,000 and $163,000 according to the Robert Half 2018 Technology & IT Salary Guide. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Get Certified and Hired with the CND!

If you want to start an exciting, in-demand, well-compensated career in network defense, Certified Network Defender can get you there. That’s why we’re here to help you get a cyber security certification that launches your career!

We offer high-impact IT certification training designed to help you learn the material, get certified, and be prepared to start a new job role with confidence. Getting you a great new job as quickly as possible is our ultimate goal. That’s why we offer 5-10 day classes, during the day or at night, online or on campus, which you can resit as many times as needed to make sure you absorb your new skills fast.

Train with an expert instructor at LeaderQuest and start your new career with the help of our Employment Development Manager (EDM), your personal career coach who comes equipped with a host of employer connections to help you get hired fast.

Don’t wait to start a great future in cyber security. Reach out today!

START A NEW CAREER IN CYBER SECURITY!

5 Essential IT Certifications for DoD and Cyber Security Jobs

5 Essential IT Certifications for DoD and Cyber Security Jobs

Cyber security is huge right now. There’s no doubt about that. If you’re thinking about working in cyber security, you’ll probably want to look at the contract world. And, if you’re thinking about the cyber security enterprise world, getting IT certifications isn’t just a good idea, it’s actually required.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 8570.01 lays out a list of certifications that fit the bill to be considered for those roles. This is especially prevalent for companies that regularly work with the DoD, like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, and others.

it certifications DoD requirementsWhether you’re coming from a military background and looking to get into cyber security or a cyber security pro looking to make yourself more competitive in the enterprise space, here are some of the best certifications and jobs you can get with them.

DoD Compliant Cyber Security Certifications

1. CompTIA A+

You might be surprised to see A+ on this list. It’s an entry-level certification which teaches the basics of personal computer hardware and operating systems including installation, upgrade, repair, configuration, optimization, troubleshooting, and preventative maintenance. However, support is an important part of any business and there are jobs to be had. In a role like Desktop Support Analyst, you can make between $50,000-$85,000.

  • Potential Job Roles: IT Help Desk Tier I-III, IT Field Technician, Desktop Support Analyst, IT Support Specialist, and more.
  • Salary: Starts at $50,000 (for Desktop Support Specialist).
  • Qualifies for: IAT Level I.

Learn More About A+

2. CompTIA Network+

Like A+, this certification covers the very basic building blocks of cyber security. In this case, keeping a network protected and maintained. Network+ certifies the skills to install, operate, manage, maintain, and troubleshoot a corporate network. It’s good for those who are ready to take on a role building, managing, and protecting a data network. With an unprecedented need for networking jobs, particularly System Administrators, it’s a role that’s important and well-compensated.

  • Potential Job Roles: Systems Administrator, Network Support Technician, Network Administrator, Network Engineer, & more.
  • Salary: Starts at $67,250 (for Systems Administrator).
  • DoD Qualification: IAT Level I.

Learn More About Network+

3. CompTIA Security+

While A+ and Network+ can you started in the field, Security+ is the certification that really gets you ready to launch your cyber security career. If you are interested in specializing in any type of IT security, this cert is a must. In addition to an overview/introduction to cyber security, it’s also a gateway to more specialized fields like penetration testing or ethical hacking.

  • Potential Job Roles: Systems Administrator, Information Security Analyst, Information Technology (IT) Manager, Information Technology Specialist, & more.
  • Salary: $81,467 on average (for Security+).
  • DoD Qualification: IAT Level II and IAM Level I.

Learn More About Security+

4. ISC2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Often considered the gold standard in cyber security, the CISSP commands great respect in the cyber world. It’s a grueling, three-hour exam and intense application process. However, once obtained, it opens up many doors in infosec, architecture, design, management and more.

  • Potential Job Roles: Information Security Manager, Infosec Analyst, Penetration Tester, Cyber Security Engineer, & more.
  • Salary: $113,820 on average (for Information Security Manager).
  • DoD Qualification: IAT Level III, IAM Level II & III, and IASAE I & II.

Learn More About CISSP

5. EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Added to the DoD list in 2010, the CEH certification operates under a simple rule. Sometimes to catch a hacker, you have to think like a hacker. Ethical or “white hat” hacking is about taking proactive measures by getting into the mindset of cyber criminals. This could include perimeter defense, policy creation, navigating social engineering, preventing DDoS attacks, and more.

  • Potential Job Roles: Information Systems Security Manager, IT Security Specialist, Penetration Tester, Security Network Engineer, Cyber Security Analyst, and more.
  • Salary: Starts at $115,610 (for Information Systems Security Manager).
  • DoD Qualification: CSSP Analyst, CSSP Infrastructure Support, CSSP Incident Responder, and CSSP Auditor.

Learn More About CEH!

IAT, IAM, & Other DoD Terms – What’s the Difference?

Different certifications can make you officially qualified for different levels in DoD jobs, but what do those words actually mean? We’ll go into that below. It’s important to know that some positions, particularly for Information Assurance Technicians and Information Assurance Management, are divided up by a tier system from level I to level III. This rating, of course, signifies the difficulty of the task at hand, experience needed, and, of course, a difference in compensation.

Here is what a professional might be doing depending on the DoD requirements they meet.

Information Assurance Technician (IAT)

Great for those who love the technical work, these positions are often about keeping an organization in compliance. You’ll have access to sensitive data and need to ensure that networks and systems are up to code. If they’re not, you’re the one who goes in and fixes many of these issues. If you are looking to start an enterprise cyber security career, this is the place to start.

Potential Job Roles: Network Engineer, Junior Software Engineer, Cyber Security Analyst, and more.
Certifications That Meet Qualifications: A+, Network+, and Security+.

Information Assurance Management (IAM)

As “management” suggests, this level often oversees more of the macro problems of ensuring that hardware, software, and networks are in compliance and safe from those who would do harm. If you’ve got an eye toward focusing on the more macro problems and are looking to get into IT management, this could be for you.

Potential Job Roles: Information Systems Security Officer, Infrastructure Engineer, Cyber Information Systems Security Analyst, and more.

Certifications That Meet Qualifications: Security+ and CISSP.

Information Assurance System Architect and Engineer (IASAE)

In the DoD 8570.01M, IASAE positions are responsible for, “the design, development, implementation, and/or integration of a DoD IA architecture, system, or system components.” What does this mean, exactly?

Basically, these roles move into the realm of a cyber security architect. Duties can include overseeing the building of a network from design to implementation to make sure all fronts are functional and secure. This could also include designing record systems and special purpose environments. Bottom line, if you like designing systems from the ground up and solving complex problems, this could be for you.

Potential Job Roles: Information Assurance System Architect and Engineer, Cybersecurity Architect, Information Systems Security Engineer, and more.
Certifications That Meet Qualifications: CISSP.

Cybersecurity Service Provider (CSSP)

There are five different areas of DoD compliance that begin with the title of Cybersecurity Service Provider. Each of those compliance areas covers a multitude of jobs. However, in general, Cybersecurity Service Providers operate on a much larger scale within a company.

They determine policy and work with senior management to ensure that policy becomes reality. This could include making vulnerability assessments, developing and overseeing tracking, or helping with audits, but specific duties vary greatly.

Here’s a quick list of a few of the different CSSP roles.

  • CSSP Analyst: Works with a lot of data to figure out where the risks in an organization occur/could occur and make sure the tracking methods are in place to properly assess an organization.
  • CSSP Infrastructure Support: These roles are geared more towards maintaining, creating, and designing the infrastructure and the actual systems of an organization.
  • CSSP Incident Responder: Relates to responding to real-time threats to cyber security. This could include recognizing and dealing with potential, current, or past intrusion attempts and assisting with the implementation of counter-measures.
  • CSSP Auditor: This person takes charge Risk Management Framework or Security Control Assessment and Authorization (A&A) of management, operational, and technical security controls. They could work on detecting, characterizing, countering and mitigating network and system vulnerabilities and managing security events.

Potential Job Roles: Cybersecurity Policy Analyst, Operations Program Analyst, Cybersecurity Policy Analyst, and more.
Certifications that Qualify: CEH.

Learn Cyber Security Fast at LeaderQuest

it certifications best for cyber security

Cyber security is a rapidly growing field with a real and present need for more qualified professionals. If you’re thinking about starting a career in cyber security, there’s no need to wait. That’s why LeaderQuest provides 5-10 day classes online, at night, or on campus, to fit any schedule and learning style.

LeaderQuest specializes in cyber security training. We’ll cover everything you need to know to get certified in cyber security and excel during your first day on the job. If you get to a point where things just aren’t sticking, don’t worry! You can resit the course for free anytime you want when you need a refresher.

Join the fight against cyber terror. Contact us today!

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How to Escape the Help Desk

How to Escape the Help Desk

Are you working in an entry-level help desk job that offers no real chance of career advancement? It can get frustrating, handling the same problems day in and day out. However, the skills you’ve gained have real value, and you can translate them into a more challenging and lucrative career in IT with a little help.

In this blog, we’ll show you why it’s so hard to escape the help desk, how to make help desk experience on your resume shine, and how certifications for current and new skills can provide a path to a better career.

Help Desk: The Black Hole of IT

There’s a good reason the help desk is notoriously hard to escape. Companies that find competent help desk employees rarely want to let them move to other roles. This is especially true for those who work nights or weekends. Many companies will make promises of a path to advancement during the hiring process but refuse to allow any movement once you’ve become good at your job. This kind of role is so hard to escape because once a company finds a competent employee to fill the role, they really don’t want to let them go. The best help desk employees have a unique combination of communications skills and technology skills, and companies worry about being able to find another person to fill their shoes.

Of course, not all companies are like this. If you’re lucky enough to work at a company that promotes from within and sees the value of your contributions, you may be able to move within your company. In this case, much of this advice still applies to you. You’ll have to prove that you’re ready to expand your role and take on new challenges. Certifications are a tangible accomplishment that can show management you’re ready and have the knowledge they need.

If your company isn’t open to advancement, though, the best option is often to look for a new position elsewhere.

Polish Your Resume

Help desk experience actually provides many skills you can add to your resume to make it shine. One huge asset is problem-solving savvy. Being able to think on your feet and find solutions is vital.

Help desk staffers can also claim a powerful commitment to providing fantastic customer support that exceeds expectations. Employers want to know you always have the customer in mind. This will give you an advantage over other IT professionals applying to the same position because they will have no frame of reference for customer service. Finally, your technical ability and familiarity with various business systems can give you a leg up on the competition.

Here are some bullet points to polish your help desk experience for your resume:

  • Problem-solving savvy and solutions expertise
  • Powerful commitment to providing fantastic customer support that exceeds expectations
  • Expanded perspective that includes the customer experience
  • Technical ability and familiarity with various business systems

Legitimize Your Experience

Putting a good spin on your previous experience is important, but you can also use the skills you’ve acquired to pass exams for valuable IT certifications. Some of the most common certs that you likely already have the skills to pass are ITIL and A+. By getting certified, you show employers that you’ve mastered these skills in an official capacity and increase their confidence that you’ll be a great hire. For many IT roles, candidates who don’t have certifications are sorted to the bottom of the list and don’t get considered for the position. When compared against an uncertified individual, certified professionals are the obvious choice.

However, ITIL and A+ may be below the level that you seek to work at. If you already have mastered these skills, more advanced certifications can provide a path to more advanced positions.

Choose Your Path

Building on your help desk experience, you have a few options for training that can quickly qualify you for new positions. In this blog, we’ll present two career paths that help desk workers are poised to move into by training in networking or cyber security.. Networking it a highly technical field where the correct certifications can open many doors. Cyber security is seeing a huge growth spurt and has thousands of job openings for qualified individuals.

Certification training is focused on helping you gain the skills and knowledge to pass certification exams quickly. By combining a few highly-sought after certifications with your experience, you’ll become a desirable candidate for jobs in your new area of expertise.

Either of these paths will help you increase your earning potential and make it much easier to find a great position. But, beyond that, they provide a clear path for continued career advancement the longer you’re in the industry.

Network Support Specialist

If you’re interested in cabling, network protocols, and how systems communicate and interact, this could be a great path for you. This program starts with Network+ training, which develops foundation-level networking skills to help you understand how networks operate. CCNA training will help you develop hands-on skills required to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks and resolve connectivity issues. Finally, CompTIA Security+ training covers the anticipation, identification, and prevention of threats and vulnerabilities as well as basic cryptography concepts.

Our Network Support Specialist program targets entry-level CCNA jobs such as Network Support Specialist, Network Technician, Network Administrator and similar IT job roles. This program combines CCNA, Network+, and Security+ to create a well-rounded network skillset that arms students with the know-how to handle myriad projects. This includes assembling and configuring secured networks, addressing existing network security issues and more. Network Administrators are listed as one of the most in-demand positions for 2018, so it should be no surprise their salaries range from $70,000 to $120,000.

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Information Security Analyst

If you like the idea of securing networks and systems and preventing cyber attacks, this program might be ideal for you. With more cyber attacks happening every day, the need for security professionals has skyrocketed. This program starts with Security+ training, which will help you understand the field of network security and how it relates to other areas of information technology. CND instructs entry and junior-level network security administrators on Defense-in-Depth network security preparedness. It covers the protect, detect, and respond approach to network security. Finally, CEH is the most comprehensive ethical hacking course in the world and is a must-have for every cyber security professional’s portfolio. This course immerses students into a hacker mindset where they are shown how to scan, test, hack, and secure systems. The includes a live lab which is an intensive, interactive environment that gives students in-depth knowledge and practical experience with current essential security systems.

Our fifteen-day Information Security Analyst program is ideal for those interested in becoming Network Analysts, Network Technicians, Network Administrators, System Administrators, System Security Engineers, Firewall Administrators, Network Security Engineers, IT Managers, IT Professionals, Security Specialists, and other similar job roles. Security professionals in roles like these most often make between $115,000 and $160,000.

There’s never been a better time to gain cyber security skills as nationwide demand for these roles is soaring. Between hacks like Equifax 2017 and ransomware such as the WannaCry attack, digital security is getting a huge amount of attention. Many companies are seeking to protect their networks and data before the next big breach. By adding these powerful certifications to your resume, you’ll be ready for many of these positions.

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Are you ready to start a new career?

It’s time to leave the help desk nest! LeaderQuest offers training online or on campus to make it easy to get the skills you need. We also offer our classes in a one-week daytime format or you can take classes in the evening over two weeks while keeping your day job.

Our industry expert instructors will make sure that you learn not only what you need to pass the exam, but the know-how to need to excel in your new role. With the cost of the test included and an on-site testing facility, we make getting certified a snap.

Don’t wait to start on your future IT career. Email us today!

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The Most Lucrative IT Careers for 2018

The Most Lucrative IT Careers for 2018

It’s no secret that IT is exploding. By 2019, the non-profit information security advocacy group ISACA predicts a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals alone.

Given this scarcity, it’s no surprise that the salaries for IT professionals are skyrocketing, but the size of that jump might be more than you expect. Salaries for software developers and information security analysts increased 17 percent and 18 percent respectively since 2013 while compensation for computer systems analysts rose a whopping 21 percent.

So what does this mean for IT? In this examination of Robert Half’s 2018 Technology & IT Salary Guide, we’ll be exploring areas of growth, examining average salaries, and reviewing other information that’s essential for anyone thinking of getting into IT.

Counteract Inexperience with Quick Learning

As the world shifts towards automation, the need for talented IT professionals is far outstripping the supply. That’s why companies have become willing to hire professionals with less experience but who are motivated to learn quickly. With technology evolving faster than ever, employers are also looking for new hires who can stay on top of technology in their own time. That means passion is a big selling point. On the flip side, those with skills and techniques related to cloud technology, open source practices, mobile development, big data, cyber security, and other new technologies will definitely be given preference in hiring.


CCNA Cisco Certifications
Source: Robert Half 2018 Technology & IT Salary Guide


Expanding IT Industries

Though the need for IT is rising everywhere, the three industries with the biggest demand are healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing.

  • Healthcare—Big innovations are needed to improve patient care by modernizing healthcare operations.
  • Financial services—In the wake of the Equifax breach, this shouldn’t be surprising. Both big data and information security initiatives drive the need for pros in this industry.
  • Manufacturing —While manufacturing has been slow to adapt, things are changing quickly with the trend toward automation.

The most in-demand job roles include:

IT Salaries for 2018

In Robert Half’s extensive salary guide, they break down the numbers for what people in the 25th, 50th, 75th, and 95th percentile will make. Which percentile an individual falls into is decided by things like level of experience, special skills/expertise, job complexity, location, and other such factors. When looking at these charts for yourself, it’s important to remember that the 50th percentile represents the midpoint. For more information on using the salary guide, check out the video below. [pexyoutube pex_attr_src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Iqk4RX6MEQ”][/pexyoutube] When you examine the chart, you can see that IT salaries top out with executive positions such as the Chief Information Officer ($170,750 – $245,500), Chief Technology Officer ($145,000 – $248,000), and Chief Security Officer ($143,250 – $241,000). While that’s the highest of the high, it’s still worth noting that many of the salary ranges for IT roles easily reach over $100,000 including specialties and years of experience. Here are just a few high paying jobs in technical services, networking, and security.

Technical Services, Help Desk, & Technical Support

As you can see from the chart below, these positions represent the lower end of the salary range in IT. However, with the midpoint salary range for most positions around or over $50,000, it’s still much more than a living wage. While salaries start in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, they quickly move to $50,000 – $60,000 as they get more and more specialized. This is especially true for systems administrators and systems engineers.

Position Title

25th Percentile

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

95th Percentile

Help Desk Tier 1

$32,000

$38,000

$45,500

$54,000

Help Desk Tier 2

$38,000

$45,000

$54,000

$63,750

Help Desk Tier 3

$48,500

$57,500

$69,000

$81,500

Desktop Support Analyst

$50,500

$60,000

$72,000

$85,000

Systems Administrator

$67,250

$80,000

$96,000

$113,500

Manager

$80,750

$96,000

$115,250

$136,000

Systems Engineer

$85,000

$101,000

$121,250

$143,250

When you’re looking to get into IT for the first time, it’s important to have a base of knowledge to draw upon. Our Computer User Support Specialist program combines popular ITIL and CompTIA training programs necessary to develop the skills you’ll need for entry-level IT.

If you’re looking to get started in IT with little to no experience. Learn more about us by clicking the link below.

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Networking/Telecommunications

Network Administrators are listed as one of the most in-demand positions for 2018, so it should be no surprise their salaries range from $70,000 to $120,000, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many higher level network positions such as Network Engineers, Managers, or Wireless Network Engineers start around $90,000 to $100,000 and can go as high as the $150,000 to $160,000 range.

Position Title

25th Percentile

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

95th Percentile

NOC Technician

$51,750

$59,500

$76,000

$97,000

Telecommunications Specialist

$59,000

$70,000

$84,000

$99,250

Network Administrator

$73,250

$87,000

$104,500

$123,250

Telecommunications Manager

$79,000

$94,000

$112,750

$133,000

Network Engineer

$90,000

$107,000

$128,500

$151,750

Network Manager

$93,500

$111,000

$133,000

$157,250

Wireless Network Engineer

$100,000

$119,000

$142,750

$168,750

Network Architect

$112,750

$134,000

$160,750

$190,000

If you’re interested in the networking positions, our Network Support Specialist Program teaches fundamentals, competencies, and qualifications that are necessary to start a career in networking. Through these classes, you’ll learn how to install, configure, run, verify, and troubleshoot medium-sized networks.

Interested in learning more? Click the link below.

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Security

Cyber security is rapidly expanding and in desperate need of more professionals to stay on top of security. The compensation for these roles reflects this high demand. In cyber security, even the jobs in the 25th percentile start around $90,000. With rising concerns about data from the Equifax breaches and others, it makes sense that Network Security Engineers, Data Security Analysts, and Information Systems Security Managers most often make between $115,000 and $160,000.

Position Title

25th Percentile

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

95th Percentile

Network Security Administrator

$92,000

$109,250

$131,000

$155,000

Systems Security Administrator

$92,750

$110,000

$132,000

$156,000

Network Security Engineer

$97,000

$115,000

$138,000

$163,000

Data Security Analyst

$102,000

$121,000

$145,000

$171,500

Information Systems Security Manager

$115,250

$137,000

$164,250

$194,250

With the gap between cyber skills growing wider by the day, the industry provides professionals with unparalleled job security and a world of opportunities. Whether you’re interested in working on securing networks, keeping data safe, or even getting inside the mind of a hacker, cyber provides a variety of great, high-paying options. Interested in learning more about how to build a career path toward cyber security? Click the button below. Learn More!

Perks, Incentives, and More

Most IT positions include generous benefits packages. Here are the most common benefits broken down by the percentage of companies that offer them:

  • Medical Insurance (95%)
  • Dental Insurance (89%)
  • Life insurance (88%)
  • Vision Insurance (81%)
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance (79%)
  • Disability Insurance (78%)
  • Employee Assistance Programs (65%)
  • Reimbursement for tuition and professional certifications (56%)

Employers also consider a number of other incentives to snag top talent including signing bonuses, health insurance, generous vacation time, and professional development opportunities. As for perks, places often offer flexible work schedules, social events, the option of telecommuting, onsite gym or access to a gym offsite, a compressed schedule, or free/subsidized meals. In addition, employers offer 14 days paid vacation for the first five years of employment and nine paid holidays including floating holidays. Employers also match 3-4 percent of employees’ 401(k) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions on average.

Importance of Certifications

Ultimately, the difference in salary comes down to specialization. For IT pros, that means skills and certifications. Both increase the marketability of a professional. Employers may increase salaries between five to ten percent for professionals with sought-after skills and abilities. Some of the most popular certifications, as identified by the Robert Half guide, include CISSP, CCNA, CompTIA A+, and PMP. However, certifications show more than proving a skillset. They also signal to employers that a professional is committed to keeping their skills up to date at all times. With the ever-widening cyber security gap, certifications and willingness to keep on top of the latest updates are becoming more and more of a commodity. Certifications can mean the difference between thousands of dollars in salary. That’s why, at LeaderQuest, we balance by-the-book training that helps people pass their exams with real-world, hands-on experience. This ensures our students can take their learning beyond the classroom and be fully prepared for a brand new career. We understand the pressures of working full-time while still wanting to advance education and earning potential That’s why we offer classes during the day, at night, on campus, or online to meet any schedule and learning style. Ultimately, a certification is a great, cost-effective way to get into the lucrative IT field for the fraction of the cost of a university. With the continuing upward trend in salaries, the IT industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you’re interested in building a successful career in IT, contact us and we’ll get you set up with one of our expert career advisers. Contact us today and unlock your career’s full potential! Contact Us!

From HVAC to Systems Analyst: The IT Training Success Story of Raziel Toro

From HVAC to Systems Analyst: The IT Training Success Story of Raziel Toro

Raziel Toro is a vet, a loving husband of four years, and a father to two boys who, “don’t run out of batteries.” He’s also a proud graduate of LeaderQuest who went on to find a great IT job after getting certified.

This week, we’re proud to bring you his journey to success from his transition out of the U.S. Air Force to landing an IT job that made him $15,000 more a year.

Read on to learn about the IT training success story of Raziel Toro.


Preparing for the Transition to Civilian Life

November 2016

While I was enlisted, I did the furthest thing from IT. I was an HVAC technician which means I went to work, received my work orders, and then started laboring away. The closest I got to IT-related stuff was when we needed to repair the AC in the server rooms… I was stuck and unable to really fulfill my potential./i>”

When Raziel enlisted in the US Air Force in 2012, he wanted to travel. While he did get the chance to see Ireland, Germany, and was deployed to Qatar for six months, he spent most of his time at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. There, he worked on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) where he fulfilled work orders, fixed units, and worked on AC and refrigeration. It wasn’t exactly what he pictured.

“One of the main reasons for me pursuing training and certifications was that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing,” Raziel said, “I joined the USAF to do something amazing but was unable to achieve my goals. I was stuck and unable to really fulfill my potential.”

As his separation date neared, he knew he had to make a change. He’d always had a gift for computers and heard others talk about their work in the cyber security world.

Meeting people working in this career field and talking to them about their lives as well as what a normal day for them would be inspired me to pursue this career… the possibilities are infinite with computers and it is pretty amazing.”


IT Training at LeaderQuest

January 2017

“Well, my first choice would have been to get some sort of entry-level position, but I quickly found out that that was almost impossible to get without certification. That’s what made me push for certification.”

The idea of jumping into the unknown was difficult for Raziel, but once he was home with his wife and sons, he was excited to start a new chapter of his life.

“In the military, you always have that secure pay so on the way out it’s like, what am I going to do? How am I going to pay? How am I going to survive?” Raziel said, “It was a little scary, but once I moved back home it was a little more exciting. It seemed like there were a lot of opportunities out there I just had to go and get them.”

LeaderQuest first contacted Raziel in January of 2017 after finding his resume online. During the process, Shavonne Lewis, one of our expert Career Training Consultants,discussed Raziel’s career goals with him and how getting certified could help him attain those goals. Raziel decided he was interested in learning more and set up a meeting.


Passing the CompTIA Security+ Exam

March 2017

“They taught us not only the book way, but the real world way. It wasn’t one dimensional. They said, you need to know this for the exam, but once you go out there, this may not be the way you do it. They were very helpful instructors, I’ll say that.”

With his focus on cyber security, Raziel decided to take the notoriously hard Security+ exam which meant lots of classroom prep, participating in virtual labs, and lots of stress.

“It was a little nerve-racking just because I didn’t have any prior experience,” he said.

However, Raziel found the instructors to be incredibly knowledgeable and helpful not only in preparing to pass the test but in learning how to apply the information to on-the-job-situations. He was pleased to find that the instructor’s understood the struggles of moving from the military to the civilian world.

“The instructor, Michael McLain, was in the service as well before he made the transition about fifteen years ago. He was extremely helpful. He gave us some of his notes to study. We could always Skype with him even after hours. He’d always give us an explanation.”

By the end of March, Raziel had passed his Security+ exam and was ready to jump into his IT career.

Security+ is a great option for those who are new to IT or who want to move into cyber security from the network or systems IT world. One of the most valuable things Security+ helps you develop is a vocabulary to converse with peers and executives alike. As a foundational IT certification, Security+ has breadth with just the right depth.

Security+


Hired as a Security Analyst at $15,000 More a Year

August 2017

“LeaderQuest is the reason that I’m in the position that I am today, you know. I wouldn’t have been able to do this all by myself. Especially not the courses and the help from [LeaderQuest Employment Relations & Career Services Manager] Kimberly, you know, finding a job. She put in that work you don’t really see… If you’re pursuing IT, a certification it’s definitely a great way to get started.

Once Raziel was able to put his Security+ certification and experience in virtual labs on his resume, the calls came rolling in. With help from LeaderQuest career services, he was able to get a position as a Network Security Analyst by the end of August. And the best part? He’s making $15,000 more a year than his previous position!

What does the future hold for Raziel? He’s currently finishing his degree in cyber security with Colorado Technical University. As for others in his position, he said he would definitely recommend certifications, even if it’s hard in the beginning.

“You’ve got to stick to your guns and take care of business. If you’re pursuing IT, a certification it’s definitely a great way to get started.”

 


LeaderQuest IT Training

Are You Ready to Start Your IT Career?

If you want to get your IT career started, we can help. When you contact our expert Career Training Consultants, they work with the GI Bill, WIOA, and other similar organizations so you don’t have to pay much or even any out of pocket and make sure the process is quick and painless.

Most classes have a 5-10 day turnaround which means you can get your degree and be ready for a job in weeks. Whether you need to take courses during the night, day, on campus, or online, we’re willing to work with your schedule and your learning style.

With unfilled cybersecurity jobs expected to rise to 3.5 million by 2021, there’s never been a better time to invest in your education. Find out if IT training is right for you today!

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