I’d like to share some of my thoughts on Check Point and on this exam. I’ll start off by saying I like Check point Firewalls. I find them to be stable, reliable and easy to use. Starting my new gig toward the end of last year, I wanted to get up to speed on Check Point Technologies as soon as possible. I thought the best way to do this was studying for the CCSA exam.
Immediately out of the gate, my first observation was the lack of study material available for this exam, from both Check Point and from third parties. Years ago, publishers like Sybex had books you could buy for CCSA.. back in the R65 days. . . now – not much. It’s almost as though Check Point does not really promote its Certification Program. The only official Check point “supported” path the offer is through the Official Check Point Training Center. The book that comes with that class is the ONLY official book for this exam. It is baffling to me why Check point covets their own training material so tightly. Why is no one writing books for current CCSA? What is Check Point gaining from clinging so tightly to their training? Certainly not competitive edge – especially when their main competitor, Palo Alto Networks, not only makes a large potion of their training available for free on line, but the types of training you can find for free are more diverse – for instance, the Palo site is loaded with videos. But we are talking about CCSA, not Palo here, so I digress.
For CCSA, there is one company that DOES make videos! I did find the most helpful CBT Nuggets R76 training, which was quite a bit cheaper than the CCSA class. This was by far the most helpful training to me, as I could re-watch the vids when ever I liked. The CBT Nuggets Instructor, Keith Barker does an extraordinary job at making the boring into something exciting. Although the CBT course was for the R76 version of the exam, the course is very thorough and well done.
In addition to the CBT Nuggets (and to Check Point’s credit), they do have an extensive Support Web site that has some very descriptive write-ups on NAT, VPN technologies and other things that are found on CCSA, but the pages them selves are just stand-alone and not part of any cohesive Check Point CCSA built curriculum, ( e.g., go here and read this ). Check Point also makes GAiA R77 iso images, trial ( 15 days) available through its user center; so I could lab up what I was learning in CBT Nuggets on my vmware box.
As for the CCSA exam itself, in short, I found it outdated. Not the material per-se, but the actual exam method. CCSA is a multiple choice exam – most all questions were multiple choice questions; very little even had exhibits showing clips of the GUI. This was difficult – because, if you have worked with Check Point products, ( with the exception of working in CLISH, SPLAT ), most of what you are doing is in the GUI. GUIs are highly VISUAL things. You know where to go, know where to drill down based on visual queues and prompts you see on the screen. Your brain sees and interprets the GUI based on those visual queues and prompts.
The CCSA exam, you have to know what Check Point calls all of the GUI windows, and you have to adjust your thinking from recognizing these visual queues you work with everyday to instead understanding the GUI in words only – more specifically, in the Check Point words and terms only. While multiple choice has its place for some things, this test seemed highly outdated compared to some of the Cisco Systems exams I’ve sat where there are simulations where you actually must configure the devices and get them to work together.
In summary, I am VERY grateful to have passed this exam. I did get some great knowledge studying for this and accomplished my goal of getting more familiar with Check point Technologies + happy to be able to put CCSA after my name.