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There are several cybersecurity learning platforms available online, and one that is interesting to a lot of people is Cybrary.  Cybrary has made their name by offering free for life cybersecurity training to anyone and has an even more robust paid offering that they call Insider Pro.  What’s the difference between these programs and is Cybrary and Cybrary Insider Pro worth it?

Is Cybrary worth it?  Cybrary is a useful learning platform for anyone looking to learn a cybersecurity topic for free.  While it has some limitations, Cybrary’s Insider Pro paid option offers hands-on labs, career paths, and learning support options that are crucial for anyone serious about building a cybersecurity career.  Many competing platforms do not offer as many learning options as are included in Cybrary Insider Pro.

So, how do you know which Cybrary version is right for you?  Let’s take a look at some of the Cybrary details to find out.

Cybrary Free Version

I’ve had a lot of experience with the other major online learning options for cybersecurity, most notably Pluralsight and O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online (I wrote a complete review of Safari Books Online, where I cover the pros and cons.)  These platforms are great, popular learning options that many people use. I’ve talked to a lot of people that have access to these platforms through work and they really like them.  These platforms do charge a monthly or annual fee. So a good question is, how does Cybrary’s free option compare to these paid platforms?

Cybrary’s free option requires you to sign up without having to offer a credit card and offers what appears to be the majority of their video training courses online for free.  By signing up for a free account, you have access to video training on topics that are arranged from beginner to advanced. The free learning option has several positives and a few negatives.

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Pro #1:  It’s free.  Cybrary’s free membership is probably the best online video learning option you will find anywhere that is free of charge.  The only thing that may rival it would be individual publishers on YouTube, however, they are difficult to find and their information is not always accurate.  And since cybersecurity education costs are such a huge factor when choosing a learning platform, we’ve reviewed what it costs to learn cybersecurity, and how you can save money on your training.

Pro #2:  Cybrary aligns to certifications.  If you’re planning on sitting for a certification in the near future (we’ve reviewed the best certifications for beginners here, complete with certification path), Cybrary probably has you covered.  They offer video training on nearly all of the most common cybersecurity certifications, including newer ones like CompTIA’s CySA+ (we discuss the value and drawbacks of the CySA+ here) While the video training will probably not be enough for you to pass, they are offering a solid, vetted and accurate video series for free that is delivered by an expert.

Con #1:  Instructor audio is often lower quality.  I certainly haven’t viewed or taken every video course that Cybrary offers, but the several that I did view didn’t seem to have been recorded with as high quality of audio as you would expect for a major platform.  This is not a deal-breaker, and most platforms start out like this, but it is lower quality audio than what I was expecting, and lower than what they should be producing.

Con #2:  The free version alone is not enough to learn a topic fully.  Since cybersecurity is so heavily knowledge-based and really requires hands-on practice to fully understand and master, the free version of Cybrary, and any other video-specific learning series for that matter, is not going to be enough to learn a cybersecurity topic to a level of mastery.  (Check out our complete action plan on how to get started learning cybersecurity ) I’m always concerned when people think they can or should be able to watch a series of videos and then they’ll be able to do the job. You’ll need more than the Cybrary free version if you want to get into cybersecurity or grow in your career. And that’s where Cybrary’s Insider Pro comes in.

Cybrary Insider Pro:  Is it worth the money?

Since a lot of people were asking me about Cybrary, I decided to sign up for Cybrary’s Insider Pro option to really see if it’s worth it.  It wasn’t cheap, but I was able to get the cost down by using a coupon code readily available on their website and by paying upfront for the annual subscription.  When broken down into a monthly cost, Cybrary Insider Pro does cost a little more than the paid options from Safari and Pluralsight.  But there are important differences.

After being an Insider Pro member and using the system for the past month, there are several things that I really like, a few of which are just not available on other platforms.

Cybrary Insider Pro Benefit #1:  Career Paths. I’ve got to say, I really like Cybrary’s approach to career paths.  Cybrary’s career paths are where they combine their resources in an order that they say matches a path to becoming proficient in a certain job, such as penetration tester or Security SOC Analyst.  Complete with a syllabus to guide you, these paths tell you upfront how long they will take, how much you’ll need to study per week, and what certifications you’ll earn on the way.  We’ve reviewed the most common cybersecurity career paths, including interviews with professionals in the field.

The number one weakness of nearly every learning option on just about any topic is that a path to an end result is not laid out clearly beforehand.  Think about it: Colleges provide a degree but often fail to provide a turn-key solution that will tell you exactly how you will get from where you are to a career (they often don’t help as much as they could with internship placement, connections to the community, etc.)  Even teachers giving music lessons would be better off if they said “practice the piano for 10 hours per week for six months and follow my learning plan and then you’ll be able to play these songs.”

Cybrary is off to a good start by providing these career paths, aligning them to specific certifications, and providing mentorship and guidance along the way (I’ll get to that in a moment.)

Cybrary Insider Pro Benefit #2:  Hands-on labs.  A smart move by Cybrary is that they have teamed up with other providers to offer the resources that are available in those providers’ libraries.  For example, Cybrary has established a partnership with Kaplan, Rangeforce, and CyberSCORE, among others, to leverage their hands-on lab and exam preparation resources.  With all of these resources combined, Cybrary Insider Pro provides a combination of curriculum, exam preparation, and hands-on simulation labs to prepare you for nearly any common cybersecurity certification exam.  This is the real benefit of the Insider Pro platform.

When going through the labs, they were well laid out for the most part.  I did have a few that would freeze up or not load at all, but after giving them another try, they all seemed to work as designed.

Cybrary Insider Pro Benefit #3:  Live Training.  Cybrary also offers live training on a number of topics that they include as part of the Insider Pro package.  These are delivered in a format almost like a TV channel concept. While there are other platforms that do the same thing, it is a nice benefit here as well and it is an example of their efforts to add new content and build community.

Cybrary Insider Pro Benefit #4:  Mentorship.  Upon signing up for the paid Insider Pro membership, I was assigned to two mentors that apparently are there to guide my progress and provide a connection to the cybersecurity community.  I even received an automated email from them asking if I wanted to connect and talk.  I haven’t done that yet, but for someone just getting started in cybersecurity, the mentorship concept is a great addition.

Conclusion

If you want to learn cybersecurity on your own (I wrote an article on how to learn cyber on your own, complete with an actionable learning plan) and aren’t taking a college program, or you prefer something self-paced and online, the Cybrary Insider Pro option is a good choice that is quickly becoming a full-scale career preparation platform.  They offer a trial if you want to look around, and the price is fair if you apply a coupon code as mentioned above, which seems to be readily available.

Related Questions

Is PluralSight worth it?  

Pluralsight has a great deal of very high-quality content for cybersecurity professionals and programmers, among others, but the vast majority of it is video-based.  That isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something to keep in mind as you consider your personal learning style. 

Can I learn cybersecurity from YouTube?  

YouTube has a lot of content from millions of publishers on literally billions of topics, but there is no accuracy or quality control when it comes to cybersecurity learning resources on YouTube.  Investing in a vetted learning platform is a more effective way to learn cybersecurity than exclusively watching YouTube videos.

About the author 

Matt Day

Matt Day is a cybersecurity professional with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cybersecurity and technology training fields. He has a degree in Computer Information Science and CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, Server+, CySA+, and Cisco CCNA certifications. Matt is the author of the courses CCNA Troubleshooting Mastery and Cybersecurity Career Launch, and the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.

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