Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Windows Server 2003 – How to start planning your migration today


By 


Just like Windows XP before it, Windows Server 2003 now too faces its end of life. On July 14th 2015, Microsoft will be ending extended support for all versions of Windows Server 2003/R2.

Rest in peace
_






But despite constant warning from Microsoft, many organisations have yet to even begin their
migration. These businesses will continue running the outdated software at their peril: huge financial costs and security risks are estimated for those running Windows Server 2003 past end of life.

11 million systems are still running Windows Server 2003, HP estimates. Clearly, many view it as an issue for next year. This could be a crippling problem when considering the estimated time for migrating a datacentre of 100+ servers can take from 3 to 18 months.

If you’re amongst that 11 million, now is the time to begin planning your migration. Here’s a birds-eye view of your migration process.

What does end of support mean for Windows Server 2003?

As of July 14th 2015, Microsoft will no longer be providing patches and security updates for this now 10-year-old software. You can expect the following:

No updates

Once end of life hits you’ll be on your own. Don’t expect any more updates, bug fixes or patches of any size.

Software like this needs continual work and even after 10 years, Microsoft are still working on critical updates for Windows Server 2003. In fact, 2013 saw Microsoft complete 37 of these critical updates.

Without the maternal care of Microsoft, critical issues and bugs affecting Windows Server 2003 will stay unfixed. You’ll be left open to cybersecurity vulnerabilities and will be more at risk of malicious attacks and data breaches.

Compliance loss

Your business will almost certainly fail to meet your existing compliance standards. HIPAA, PCI, SOX & Dodd-Frank require regulated industries to use supported platforms. Once end of life hits, Windows Server 2003 will lose its status as a supported platform and your business will lose out as a result.

In particular, adherence to PCI is required for businesses that want to host Visa and MasterCard transactions on their websites. Lose it and your crippling your businesses ability to make money online. For other standards, lack of compliance could result in high transaction fees and penalties which in itself could massively increase your costs.

Maintenance costs

Running legacy software is inevitably going to be expensive. Without Microsoft’s support, you’ll have to implement your own intrusion detection systems, advanced firewalls and network segmentation.

A TechNet post from Alex Fu cites a hefty £120,000 a year cost for custom support. Plus, practice director of Microsoft Solutions, David Mayer, estimates the price tag to be £900 per server, per year.

Compatibility woes

Without Microsoft’s support, new software and hardware products will not be built to be compatible with Windows Server 2003. You’ll likely run into compatibility issues from the outset and as time passes, these issues will only grow in scale.


How to migrate your Windows Server 2003

Migrating is hard work and takes time. However, Microsoft is on-hand to deliver resources to ease the passing of Windows Server 2003. Take a look at Microsoft’s Endof Service section before you plan your migration. 

Microsoft’s recommended four step migration process is as follows:

1. Discover

Your first step is to determine which applications and workloads are running on your Windows Server 2003. Download the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit to help assess your current infrastructure and migration project.

2. Assess

Next, categorise your applications and workloads by their type, importance and degree of complexity. During this process you should be keeping a look out for migration issues.

3. Target

Choose a migration destination for each application and workload in your data centre or in the cloud. Microsoft are clearly focusing on cloud technology. Their public cloud solution, Azure, currently comes with a one month freetrial – now’s the time to migrate to the cloud. 





Microsoft also offer destination for each application or workload, including:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • System Center 2012 R2 (Private Cloud)
  • Microsoft Azure (Public Cloud)
  • SQL Server 2014
  • Office 365

4. Migrate

Choose a migration plan and get going. Microsoft do provide a quality Migration Planning Assistant which covers in-depth the previous 4 steps. If that’s not enough, you can attend official training courses, from training providers like Firebrand, designed to teach you everything you need to know about the platform you are migrating to.


Migration resources to get started with

Microsoft Virtual Academy – curated and built by Microsoft, these well-made guides can be an invaluable source of knowledge.

We recommend studying:

Windows Server 2003 End of Life: Infrastructure Migration – this Channel 9 video (1 hour, 17 minutes) digs into the process of migrating your infrastructure. The demo-intensive session explores workload migration and foundation services like DHCP, DNS and File/Print.

Windows Server 2003 End of Life Migration: Planning for Your Workloads – watch this Channel 9 video (1 hour 8 minutes) for an organised and systematic view of migration strategies and destinations.

Migration Deployment Toolkit – this collection of processes, tools and guidance for automating desktop and server deployments may prove invaluable during your migration.

Time is certainly running out for the 11 million who haven’t yet migrated. This isn’t a problem for next year and if you treat it like that, you'll certainly regret it.


About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Microsoft Azure is down


By 


Update 1: Many Azure hosted websites in Europe are still experiencing down time.
Update 2: Azure has fully recovered,

Run for the hills, Microsoft Azure is facing a temporary loss-of-service.

According to Microsoft's official Azure status page, the following issues are:
  • Storage - North Europe and West Europe - Partial Service Interruption
  • Websites - West Europe - Advisory (Limited Impact)
  • Application Insights - Multi-Region - Advisory

Microsoft's Azure status page isn't entirely accurate...





8 hours ago, reports began to fly in regarding Microsoft's Azure cloud platform experiencing widespread outages. The issue affects all Azure customers with virtual machines in all regions other than the new Australian data center.

Both work and play have been affected by the outages, with hundreds reporting that Xbox live is also experiencing issues. Users have been unable to sign in or open the friends app.

Though the issues appear to have been fixed for 

UK based businesses took to Twitter to voice their concern over the ongoing downtime:





About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Big Data: A big security challenge



By Debra Littlejohn Shinder

Big Data – the collection of large and complex sets of data that include both structure and unstructured information – is widely touted as one of the most important current trends in computing, along with Bring Your Own Device/mobility and of course, the cloud. In fact, the convergence of these technologies is seen by many as the top IT challenges of this decade. 

Much has been said and written about the security implications of BYOD, mobile devices and cloud services, but the security aspects of big data don’t seem to get quite as much attention. This is true even though companies are accumulating and analyzing huge amounts of information – not just terabytes, but petabytes – and some of it could cause big problems if it fell into the wrong hands. 

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
After all, the real point of collecting such massive amounts of data is not just to be a data hoarder; the objective is to subject it to analytics that can provide the company’s decision-makers with insights into aspects of their business that can have an impact on the organization’s efficiency, reputation and bottom line. But we all know that information that can be used for good can also be used for nefarious purposes, and if those business insights became public and/or were revealed to competitors, the impact on the company could be very negative indeed.

The security challenge of big data is complicated by another of those hot trends we mentioned above; many companies don’t have the storage capacity on premises to handle the amounts of data involved, so they store all that data in the cloud. Some do so in the mistaken believe that turning their data over to a cloud storage provider means they also get to hand off all of the responsibility for securing that data. 

For some companies, this might even be a reason for the decision to store the data in the cloud in the first place. You could argue that large cloud providers have far more resources to put into securing the data than your organization does. Cloud data centers are heavily guarded fortresses that employ high dollar physical and technological security mechanisms. 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This line of reasoning makes sense – but the cloud shouldn’t be an excuse to abdicate your ultimate responsibility for the protection of your sensitive information. If there is a breach, your customers will blame you, not the cloud provider, because you are the one to whom they entrusted their information. This does double if you’re doing business in a regulated industry – financial, healthcare, a publicly traded corporation, a retail business that processes payment cards, etc. You won’t be able to pass the buck if you’re found to be out of compliance or in violation of standards. 

As with information security in general, the key to securing big data is to take a multi-layered approach. One important element in protecting the huge quantity of data that often contains bits and pieces of personal information about many individuals is de-identification – the separation of identifying information from the rest of the information pertaining to a person. Unfortunately, the counterpart to de-identification is re-identification, the art and science of putting all those pieces back together to discern identities from the de-identified data. 

In a report last summer, Gartner concluded that over 80 percent of organizations don’t have a consolidated data security policy across silos, and that in order to prevent breaches, they need to take a more data-centric approach to security. 

Of course, many of the security concerns and solutions that apply to big data are the same ones that apply to protecting any sensitive data. However, one thing that makes big data especially challenging is that it often passes through many more different systems and applications in the process of turning all that unstructured mess into useful information. 

Companies may use applications and storage methods for which security was not a design priority, so that they have to tack on security solutions after the fact. Since much of big data is unstructured, it’s often stored in non-relational databases such as NoSQL, which were not built with security in mind. Traditional firewalls and other security solutions weren’t designed to handle distributed computing that is at the heart of big data. Automated moving of data between tiers in a multi-tiered storage system can make it difficult to keep track of where the data is physically located, which poses a security issue.

Close attention to “middleware” security mechanisms, extensive and accurate logging of data tracking, and real-time monitoring are essential components of a security strategy that encompasses the challenges of big data.

You can find more information about securing data in the cloud here.  

Author Profile

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP (Security) is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security.

She is also a tech editor, developmental editor and contributor to over 20 additional books. Her articles are regularly published on TechRepublic's TechProGuild Web site and WindowSecurity.com, and has appeared in print magazines such as Windows IT Pro (formerly Windows & .NET) Magazine.

Monday, 17 November 2014

PRINCE2 vs. PMP - which certification should you choose?


By 


PRINCE2 and PMP are both well-known and respected project management certifications. But it’s not always easy to know which one to achieve. And whilst they’ll both give your project management skills a boost, what’s the use if you can’t apply your new knowledge in the workplace?

Let’s pit these two certifications against each other and take a look at what they can do to boost your career.

Introducing PRINCE2 & PMP

PRINCE2 - Projects in Controlled Environments

Originally developed by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce, it is now regarded as the de-facto standard for project management in the country. It also exerts a visible influence across Europe and Australia.

With over a million total PRINCE2 exams taken, it’s also the most popular project management methodology in the world.

According to arras People’s 2013 UK Project Management Benchmark, the PRINCE2 is held by 63% of all project management professionals.


PMP Project Management Professional

PMP is built around PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK). Administered and created in the USA, the PMP has become the primary project management certification for North America.

Despite being less known in Europe than PRINCE2, it’s certainly not unknown and is increasingly gaining in popularity.

According to arras People’s 2013 UK Project Management Benchmark, the PMP is held by 9% of all project management professionals.


What do these certs cover?

PRINCE2

There are two levels of certification within the PRINCE2: Foundation and Practitioner. You’ll have to pass both to become a registered PRINCE2 practitioner.

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology that covers the management, control and organisation of a project. You’ll learn a flexible and adaptable framework that suits a wide variety of different projects.

This certification follows a sophisticated and clearly defined methodology that outlines detailed steps and processes that your project needs to achieve success in a controlled environment.

The well-laid out and standard approach that PRINCE2 uses is designed to be as generic as possible. As a result, the PRINCE2 processes are recommended for just about any kind of project.

PRINCE2 also helps to eliminate ambiguity by laying out clear roles and responsibilities of the team including: project executive, project manager, senior supplier, financier and senior user.

You don’t need previous project management experience to achieve this qualification and even experienced professionals can benefit from the PRINCE2.

PMP

Unlike the PRINCE2, the PMP is structured around the PMBoK and is a project management standard. You’ll become familiar with PMBoK processes and accepted project management techniques to enable you to evaluate your own projects.

It is therefore more of a theoretical and referential guide to assist you in the management of projects.
This certification evaluates your advanced knowledge of project management. As such you are expected to have existing project management experience.

To even apply for the PMP you’ll need at least 5 years of project management experience with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects. You’ll also need 35 hours of project management education (which can actually be gained by completing a PRINCE2 course).


How long will your certification last?

PRINCE2

Your PRINCE2 certification lasts forever.

PMP

After achieving your PMP qualification you must participate in PMI’s Continuiing Certification Requirements (CCR) program to maintain your active certification status.

During the three-year cycle, you must attain 60 professional development units (PDUs). Once your three-year cycle is up, it starts all over again.

You’ll be obtaining PDUs by engaging in project management activities related to your PMP certification. PDUs are split into two categories: Education PDU and Giving Back to the Profession PDU. For more information on how you obtain PDUs, take a look at PMI’s official PMP handbook.


Industry needs and cultural differences

We recommend you thoroughly research your project management certification choices depending on the industry you work, or want to work in. Every industry will treat these certifications differently - you don’t want to achieve a cert which might prove to be less valuable than its counterpart.

When job-hunting in the UK and the EU as a whole, we recommend first taking the PRINCE2. As we mentioned earlier the PRINCE2 is immensely popular - especially in the UK where it is favoured by government.


Benefits – the bottom line

PRINCE2

1. Possibly the best introduction to project management

With its lack of prerequisites, PRINCE2 provides the ideal entry-level qualification for a career in project management. With a clear methodology, the PRINCE2 can take beginners and quickly transform them into educated project managers.

2. Improved career and employment prospects (in the UK and EU)

The PRINCE2 can improve your career prospects across the UK and EU. Due to its popularity in Europe and strong government ties, it is viewed favourably by employers.

 3. A standardised and complete methodology

The PRINCE2 provides a clear methodology that you can continually apply to almost any project. Plus, by using the same approach across every project, you’ll eliminate confusion through the use of common procedures, documents and processes.

PMP

1. Improved salary prospects

The PMP demands tougher prerequisites. It’s harder to achieve and as a result it commands higher salaries.

PMI Project Management Professional jobs display an average advertised salary of £60,000 according to data from ITJobsWatch.co.uk

2. You’ll have up-to-date skills

Unlike PRINCE2, PMP demands commitment to your project management career. As a result of the Continuing Certification Requirements, you’ll need to stay active within the project management community. This means, whether you want to or not, you’ll be continually sharpening your skills. Make no mistake; employers will be aware of this factor.

3. PMI Membership

When you obtain your PMP certification, you can gain PMI Membership. As a PMI member you’ll get exclusive access to publications, networking opportunities and professional development opportunities. You’ll be able to easily connect with peers, grow your career using an expansive collection of knowledge resources and get access to a premium job board for project management.


So who won?

The smoke has cleared and incredibly, both project management certifications are still standing.

This guy just loves project management
morguefile / Ambro
Our project management instructor argues that, in a perfect world, you would have both certifications.  PRINCE2 provides a tried-and-true methodology whilst PMP provides the skills and knowledge required by the Project Manager to carry a project through to completion.

Achieve both and you’ll possess an encompassing and rounded approach to project management.

We recommend you thoroughly research both certifications, depending on what your long-term goals are, which side of the world you’ll be working from and in what industry.

Find out more about PMP and PRINCE2 here.

Related Articles:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

How Microsoft is changing the face of IT education


By 


Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, spoke at Future Decoded this week about the success and worldwide adoption of the Youthspark apprenticeship program.

Amongst talk of Microsoft’s cloud-first, mobile-first ethos, Satya also described Microsoft’s vision for the future of education.

Satya Nadella spoke about the importance of computer science being within STEM (Science, Technology, English and Maths) education.

Microsoft’s aim is to make computer science and IT education available to all. ‘The role of technology is to empower people,’ Satya states – he views IT education as something not to be restricted to the ‘elite.’

A commitment to IT education

So far Microsoft’s global apprenticeship program, YouthSpark has enabled over 6000 IT-passionate young people across the UK to find jobs as apprentices.

Through 30+ programs, Microsoft YouthSpark has created new opportunities for more than 227 million young people in over 100 countries around the world.

‘To me that’s the kind of empowerment, at large, that will transform societies and economies.’ – Satya Nadella

Announced in 2012, this company-wide initiative aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth by 2015. And with more than 75 million unemployed young people around the world, it’s definitely a worthwhile cause.  

The UK needs more digital skills

Microsoft isn’t the only company aware of this need for IT education amongst young people. There’s an undeniable lack of digitally skilled workers in the UK. In fact the UK will need another 750,000 digital-savvy workers by 2017, according to research from O2.

That’s a massive deficit but consider this:  Telefónica’s UK CEO Ronan Dunne, speaking at Future Decoded, explained how NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) are actually more digitally literate than the UK’s existing workforce.

The IT-savvy professionals we need are out there, they just need programs like YouthSpark to prove that a career in IT is one worth pursuing.

Know a young person passionate about IT?

Firebrand is partnered with Microsoft as part of Get On, the UK division of the Global YouthSpark initiative.

Firebrand Apprentice, Kimberley Bolton, was the first woman to receive a Microsoft Apprentice of the Year award. Now she’s a Microsoft Apprentice ambassador and was sat on the Microsoft Apprenticeship panel at Future Decoded.

Kimberley explained how at first she was somewhat uneasy going into her IT apprenticeship but with encouragement from staff and a strong female role model, she prospered.  Kimberley previously saw her role as a ‘man’s job’ but now she’s doing it, and with incredible success.


Bring in new talent and secure the future of your business with a young apprentice or graduate from Firebrand. Boost your business and help solve the worldwide need for IT education.


About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Satya Nadella outlines Microsoft's vision of a mobile-first, cloud-first world

 By 

Satya

Speaking in the UK for the first time as CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella headlined a star studded list of globally recognised thought leaders including; Sir Bob Geldof, Jeremy Paxman and Dame Stella Rimington, as part of Microsoft's Future Decoded event.

The event, designed to discover, provoke and provide insight into an uncertain future shaped by rapid technological advancement, saw Nadella open up about his plans for Microsoft and his views of a mobile-first, cloud-first world where indviduals and businesses are empowered by the devices that they own.

The age of Mobile


With studies indicating that in 2014 the average European household owns 10 digital devices, this truly is the age of mobile. Mobile devices now outnumber people on the planet, even greater in number however are sensors which through the aid of mobile we can now interact with the internet of things. 

Speaking on Microsoft's mobile-first, cloud-first ethos, Nadella said:

"To me, when we say mobile first, it's not the mobility of the device, it's actually the mobility of the individual experience.

Speaking of the sensors that surround us, Nadella talked about the emergence of new mobiles services made possible through the power of cloud computing in combination with mobile. Nadella went on to say:

"The only way you are going to be able to orchestrate the mobility of these applications and data is through the cloud... That's why the juxtaposition of cloud infrastructure and mobile experiences is where the world is going."

Take Hive as an example, through the power of mobile you can now control heating from your mobile. Geolocation allows you to turn off the heating when you leave, and turn it on as you are return home. All this enriches your experience whilst also helping to save up to £150 a year. 






Facilitating innovation

Today's changing technology industry only respects one thing, innovation. An ideal at the forefront of Nadella's plans for Microsoft. He went on to talk about how to facilitate innovation and change, talking about the the 3 concentric circles for any organisation to continually innovate and succeed.




  • New concepts - a company cannot stick to existing concepts, they become outdated. New concepts are required to invent new ideas.
  • New capabilities - these are required to support the new concepts. Nadella used Microsoft's example of their Cloud infrastructure and how this new capability in combination with silicon allow them to innovate.
  • Supporting Culture - core to innovation is a culture that actively encourages and facilitates the act.


No big reveal 

Satya Nadella's first UK appearance was quietly understated. There were no revelations, no new technologies were not announced nor worldwide technological revolution promised. Instead this was an intimate conversation introducing us to the new Microsoft CEO where we learned about his ideals, his motivations and his vision for future technology and Microsoft.

This may have left a few dissapointed, but I along with the masses came away with a valuable insight into the man at the helm of a global technological super power now valued at $400 billion. Did I mention that's bigger than Google Inc.? 


Author

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the Industry for almost 3 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.

Friday, 7 November 2014

How to become a Microsoft Azure Specialist


By 


IT Professionals with experience and knowledge of cloud technologies are increasingly in demand. Demand for ‘cloud-ready’ IT professionals will grow by 26% annually through 2015, with as many as 7 million cloud-related jobs available worldwide, IDC report.

However, demand has outpaced supply. IT managers report that the reason they failed to fill an existing 1.7million cloud-related positions in 2012 was due to a lack of training and certification.

The IDC White Paper report that 56% of IT departments simply cannot find enough qualified staff to support their cloud projects. 

Two giants are currently fighting it out for dominance of this thriving technology sector – Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.





Though Amazon may be the current cloud leader, it’s all too clear that Microsoft is closing the gap.
Especially so when considering Microsoft noted in its last earnings call that cloud revenue grew 147% year-over-year. 

At WPC 2014, Microsoft also unveiled these impressive Azure statistics:
  • 57% of Fortune 500 companies now use Azure
  • 300,000+ active websites
  • More than 30 trillion storage objects
  • Over 1 million SQL databases in Azure
  • 300 million Azure Active Directory users

With over $15 billion invested into building and maintaining datacentres across the globe, Microsoft is clearly committed to Azure. And it’s shows.


What is Azure?

Microsoft is going all in on Cloud technology. Microsoft Azure is an open collection of compute, storage, data and networking running in a global network of Microsoft-managed datacentres. 

You may also know it as Azure Ad and Azure online backup but it’s role remains the same – it allows organisations to build infrastructure as a service (IAAS), Platform as a Service (PAAS) and Software as a Service Solutions (SAAS). 


Sound familiar?

If you have recently studied Windows Server 2012 R2 and the latest versions of System Centre and SQL, you might have already studied Azure. Microsoft has already begun to introduce Azure material across their certifications and exams. 

This highlights Microsoft’s commitment to Azure, and proves that an understanding of the software is becoming increasingly necessary in related certifications. After investing $15 billion into worldwide datacentres, it comes as no surprise. 

And in the last couple of months, Microsoft have released courses, exams and certifications specifically based around Azure. 

The two brand new Microsoft certifications are:
  • Microsoft  Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions
  • Microsoft Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions


Microsoft Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions

If you’re a developer looking to enhance your Web Applications and Windows Store Apps through building your own cloud services – this certification is for you. 

Or, if you hold the MCSD: Web Applications, this certification will prove a brilliant way to gain a greater understanding of the Azure platform. 

This Specialist course, built for developers, teaches you how to establish your own Azure virtual network environment. 

If you want to expand your development skills to cover Microsoft Azure, this is the certification for you. You’ll learn how to construct Azure Virtual Machines, create and host Azure websites and design resilient cloud applications. 

To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-532


Microsoft Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

Microsoft is now the second largest provider of cloud infrastructure solutions and this Specialist certification has been created to set you apart as a knowledgeable Cloud professional. 

You’ll learn how to migrate your existing on-premise infrastructure to Microsoft Azure as well as:

  • Plan and implement data services based on SQL
  • Deploy and configure websites
  • Publish content through CDNs 
  • Integrate on premises Windows AD with Azure AD

To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-533


When can you get certified?

You can sit both the 70-533 and 70-532 exams and attain your respective certifications now. But bear in mind – you have two options for scheduling these exams: Pearson VUE and Prometric.

If you want to sit your exam after January 1, 2015 – book it with Pearson VUE. This is because after December 31, 2014, Microsoft will stop delivering their certification exams through Prometric.

Training providers are racing to cater for the demand for these new Microsoft Specialist certifications. We are proud to announce that Firebrand is one of the first to market - and will be running courses in the coming months.


How to know when you’re ready

These Microsoft Specialist certifications are not part of the traditional MTA, MCSA and MCSE / MCSD tracks. As a result, you won’t find any pre-requisites for these Azure certifications.
However, Firebrand instructor, Mike Brown has reviewed the curriculum of both Specialist certifications and strongly recommends an in depth understanding of virtualisation before taking on these exams. 

Because of this emphasis on virtualisation, if you possess the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 certification, you’ll be better prepared than most for these new Azure Specialist courses. Those without this cert should consider it as a great introduction to virtualisation. 


Prepare for your Microsoft Specialist cert now

To get started on Microsoft Azure - take a look at the Microsoft Virtual Academy. You’ll find 28 Microsoft Azure short courses available which provide a great self-study introduction to the technology. 

Because these Azure certifications are so new and in-depth, you won’t find a great deal of external resources. As a result, self-study could prove unjustifiably tough. 

But, if you can prove your knowledge of Azure, you’ll be well placed to take full advantage of the driving demand for Cloud technology.


About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

10 CompTIA A+ revision resources for a first time pass


By 


The CompTIA A+ is widely regarded as the starting point for a career in IT. In fact, as of October 17th 2014, over 1 million IT professionals around the world have achieved this certification.

Major brands like Dell, HP and Lenovo require their service technicians to be A+ certified and it’s even supported by government branches like the US Department of Defence.

To achieve the A+, you’re going to have to pass two exams. So to make sure you pass first time, here are 10 must have revision resources.


1. Professor Messer

An IT celebrity in his own right, Professor Messer runs a successful YouTube channel and website providing high quality lecture style tutorials and accompanying resources.

You won’t find low resolution tutorials with grating sound quality here – Professor Messer’s videos are in a league of their own.

With over 25 years of experience and a passion for providing top-notch revision material, Professor Messer has created a truly fantastic resource. Expect high production quality and intelligent teaching from an IT professional who really knows his stuff.

And if you really like these videos, you can download portable versions for a small fee. Of course if you don’t want to pay you can still find every single video in full quality online, for free.


 


Start watching Professor Messer’s CompTIA comprehensive training course, with built in quiz questions and complementary content, here (just scroll down for the videos).


2. PC Technician – Free A+ Practice Tests

It’s all well and good watching online lectures but are you actually absorbing the information? You’ll find a lot of A+ practice tests online and they’re ideal for putting your new knowledge into practice.

The vast majority of the exam questions you’ll face for your A+ are multiple choice. This set of 13 free practice exam tests mimics this style of questions and provides a good simulation of the real A+ exams.

Access them here.


3. CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide: Exams 220-801 and 220-802

This may be the first resource on our list that isn’t free, but it’s definitely worth its price tag. The CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide is a perfect study guide to accompany you from the beginning of your revision, to the moment you begin your exam.

The book features a mass of charts and graphics, ideal when revising the A+’s computer component modules.

Plus, in this giant 500+ page paperback, you’ll find more than 170 review questions, 4 practice exams, over 100 electronic flashcards and a searchable Glossary of Key Terms. In fact it’s so good we include it free of charge on all of our CompTIA A+ courses.

Read the promising Amazon reviews here.


4. ProProfs Study Resources

A+ Quick Reference Sheet

There’s always going to be that one crucial piece of revision that you just need to revise constantly or risk forgetting altogether.

ProProfs cram notes are an excellent resource for revising those tiny details that could make the difference between a pass and a fail.

This quick reference sheet contains a bulleted list of short points that you must know for your exam. We recommend printing it off and reading it whenever and wherever you can.


Study Guide

This handy (if cumbersome) A+ study guide is a useful resource.

The flash-style guide requires you to click through hundreds of ‘slides’ and thought it can become tiring, its content is still undeniably useful. You’ll find an in-depth guide to all aspects of the CompTIA A+.

Access it here.     


Printable Flash Cards

Use these 500 printable flash cards  cards to quickly identify any existing holes in your knowledge.

There are useful options for printing, downloading and you’ll even be able to add tricky questions to a personal ‘review list.’


5. Firebrand Learn

We’ve uploaded our entire A+ courseware onto our online platform, Firebrand Learn. It’s all totally free and you don’t even have to register to access it.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive catalogue of everything you need to learn, Firebrand Learn is a great place to start.


6. A+ Certification All-In-One For Dummies

This well put-together cheat sheet from dummies.com is a great way to review some of the major Windows concepts like boot files, recovery tools, RAID types and troubleshooting utilities.

Take a look at it here.


7. Official CompTIA A+ Practice Exams

If you don’t want to rely on unofficial online exam papers, you can’t go far wrong with CompTIA’s official A+ Certification Practice Exams.

This pack of 1000 questions - with answers and explanations – cohesively covers both Exams 220-801 and 220-802.

Once you’re ready to test your hard earned A+ knowledge, this is the best way to do it.

Purchase it on CompTIA’s online store.


8. Official Free CompTIA A+ Sample Questions

If you don’t want to pay for practice exam questions, you can still get an idea of what you’ll be facing come exam day with CompTIA’s Official Free Sample Questions.

You’ll have to trade some of your personal details for them (name, email etc) but you can easily avoid the annoyance of unwanted email promotions by deselecting the relevant tick-box.

Once you’ve completed the form you’ll get access to two sets of sample questions and answers covering both A+ exams.


9. RM Roberts Study Guides and Practice Tests

Here’s another great online study guide, this time from rmroberts. These in-depth study guides cover domains 1-5 of the 220-801 exam and domains 1-4 of the 220-802 exam.

They display as PDF’s for ease-of-use and can be downloaded simply for use around offline and on mobile. Access them here.


10. TechExams CompTIA A+ forums

Nothing beats asking another person for help. If you get stuck on a specific A+ topic, just pose your question in one of the active IT forums.

You’ll benefit massively speaking to fellow A+ students and professionals alike. Nobody can answer a tricky question better than a human being and checking out forums like TechExams could save you a lot of time.


Have we missed anything?

If there are any other handy resources we’ve missed, please post a comment, we’d love to hear them!

Related Articles:

- 5 ways to prepare you for your CompTIA A+ Exams you didn't consider
- Top 4 reasons you need the CompTIA A+ certification
An ideal starting point for your IT career: CompTIA A+ certification

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

(ISC)2 CISSP – Official vs. Unofficial


By 


Unofficial training can often seem like a more viable alternative to its official counterpart. It may often be cheaper, but it’s a false economy – you might not be aware of all the benefits of official training.

How much better really is it to get your CISSP with an official (ISC)2 provider?

Instructors


With an authorised (ISC)2 training provider, you’ll be learning from official CISSP instructors, vetted and trained by (ISC)2 themselves.

Conversely, unauthorised instructors are not taught or trained to deliver official (ISC)2 material.  There’s no vetting process for unauthorised instructors, so you’ll be relying on your training providers opinion and this might not align with (ISC)2’s strict guidelines.


Course material


When going official you’ll get the latest (ISC)2 training materials.  When considering that the CISSP exam questions are entirely rewritten roughly every two months, possessing this up-to-date material is crucial.

(ISC)2 make sure their exams continually evolve and stay current with information security trends and practices.  Every CISSP exam even features a set of secret ‘dummy questions’ (questions which won’t count towards your final score but are used by (ISC)2 to gauge the suitability of new exam questions).

(ISC)2 are clearly committed to staying up-to-date. To beat the CISSP exam, you’ll have to as well. This means getting access to official (ISC)2 course material.

Use unofficial course material and you run the risk of studying a dated curriculum and obsolete materials. This is because unofficial courses simply don’t have access to the official material.


Practice exam papers


We’ve all taken advantage of practice exam papers as a brilliant method of revision. Nothing can beat the realism that a practice paper provides; knowing exactly what you’re up against can often mean the difference between a pass and a fail.

Going into an exam without having seen a past paper can be a gruelling experience. Luckily, authorised (ISC)2 training providers have access to official past papers.

Unfortunately, unauthorised training providers just don’t have access to these infinitely useful revision tools. Worst case scenario you’ll be working on questions which just aren’t aligned to the exam your about to take.


Taking the exam


Official (ISC)2 training providers are able to provide your exams onsite. That means you won’t have to spend £498 on the exam voucher and get yourself down to an exam centre.

Instead, you’ll just be sitting your exam in the same facility that you’re already studying in. As you might imagine, unofficial providers can’t offer the exam – you’ll have to make your own arrangements.


Bonus: Get CISSP certified with the only official (ISC)2 provider in the UK

Firebrand are immensely proud to be the only official (ISC)2 training provider in the UK. This CISSP course just doesn't compare. Here’s just how different it is:


You’ll get certified in only 7 days and still get more hours of learning than anywhere else

Firebrand’s official (ICS)2 CISSP Boot Camp is just 7 days. This includes taking and passing your CISSP exam as well as receiving your instant exam results at the training facility on the last day of the course.

You’re learning day will last from 9:00am to 9:00pm – that’s 12 hours of actual training each day. With the best similar training providers you’ll only be learning from 9:00am – 5:00pm.

On day 6 of our 7 day course, you’ll get an entire 12 hour exam preparation day. During this day your (ISC)2 authorised instructor will explain the methods and techniques you need to know to pas your exam.

No distractions

You’ll be better prepared to achieve first-time success when you can focus entirely on achieving your CISSP for seven entire days. And once your exam is completed on your last day, your objective is complete, in no time at all.

You’ll essentially be putting a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign up on the door to your life. So far Firebrand has trained over 55,000 students in this total-immersion and distraction free environment.

And…

That’s not to mention that other training courses don’t provide accommodation, an exam voucher or even exam delivery.

Find out more about Firebrand’s unique CISSP course on the Firebrand website.

Related articles:

-          How to become a CISSP
About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.