Monday, 27 June 2016

How to achieve MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification



There can be no doubt that cloud technology is the way forward for businesses of all sizes – from equipping micro-companies with the technical resources to punch well above their weight, through to enabling enterprises to shrink their in-house infrastructure whilst also increasingly flexibility.

There is fierce competition amongst providers to be ‘King of the Cloud’, but Microsoft Azure is a strong contender, with comprehensive offerings in both IaaS and PaaS. MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is the definitive Microsoft Azure certification: by achieving it, you will have career-boosting proof of your expertise.

The key challenge of the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification is its breadth. It comprises 3 Microsoft Specialist certifications, with associated exams:

As the titles suggest, you’ll need to wear many hats: developer, systems/network admin, DevOps and solution architect.




Being part of the Microsoft stable, Azure – and by extension this certification’s syllabus - tends to do things the Microsoft way, even if there is the occasional conciliatory nod towards Linux and friends. You will have a much easier time if you nail the core Microsoft building blocks before you start the official certification.

Here’s a handy list of tools and topics for you to use when brushing up:

Building websites using .NET: You’ll be learning how to deploy .NET web applications to Azure, so be familiar with building and hosting ‘regular’ websites using .NET.

Microsoft SQL Server: Azure’s database offering, ‘Microsoft Azure SQL Database’ shares its code base with Microsoft SQL Server. Since we don’t yet live in a happy utopia with only ‘1 SQL to rule them all’, familiarise yourself with the specifics of SQL Server, particularly the T-SQL query language.

Visual Studio: You’ll spend a lot of time knees deep in Visual Studio, so get very familiar with the shortcuts and options which will save you time and pain. Or work out how to make it pretend to be Vim or Emacs, if that’s your thing.

C#: Unless you currently spend all of your time coding in C#, remind yourself of its specifics so you don’t spend countless hours wondering why your code doesn’t work, before realising that you’ve actually been trying to write C++ / Java / JavaScript all along.

PowerShell: Becoming a PowerShell guru can make your life a lot easier by automating repeated tasks. You’ll also be using it a lot for Azure configuration, so make sure you swot up on its differences from bash (or DOS, if you’re really old-skool).

Active Directory: In classic Microsoft style, things with similar names are actually quite different, so ‘Azure Active Directory’ does things quite differently from ‘regular’ Active Directory. But the core functions, including authentication, authorisation, directory query, and user/group management, are still there, and the syllabus includes extending on-premises Active Directory into Azure.

Core networking: Make sure you know your subnets, your VPNs, your UDPs etc.

There’s a shed-load of info and training material about everything Microsoft-related, including Azure and the topics above, on the Microsoft Virtual Academy, including a number of free e-books.

However you're planning to prepare, to achieve the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification, making sure you’re as familiar as possible with the ecosystem of Microsoft development and networking tools will give you a strong head-start. Happy studying!

Friday, 24 June 2016

How training boosts your company's productivity

Britain’s productivity has been labelled "a national disgrace" as new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show British workers to be 20% less productive than their G7 counterparts. This unflattering comparison doesn’t halt with G7 countries - smaller European economies such as Ireland, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands - significantly outperform Britain in terms of productivity.

These figures highlight a concerning trend which present a significant threat to the future success of the UK economy and our businesses. The signs are already beginning to appear, in early March the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revised down its economic growth estimates for each of the next five years.

A change of plan

In order to avoid an economic crisis and boost productivity to a level once again competitive with G7 nations, we must implement significant change. Commenting recently on the sorts of changes required, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady discussed the need for an improved economic plan with specific focus on increased investment in modern infrastructure and workforce skills.

Reflecting on the need for enhanced workforce skills, nowhere could this sentiment ring more true than for the UK technology sector. Despite growing faster than any other UK industry sector, growth and productivity are increasingly suffocated by a widening IT skills gap.

In the UK, it is now estimated more than 12 million people and a million small businesses lack the skills to prosper in the digital era, according to a report from charity Go ON UK. A hugely influential pathway towards recognising the full productivity potential of the tech sector, while closing the digital skills gap, lies within training your team.

Boosting productivity through training

Across the technology sector there are many research studies demonstrating how training helps boost your company's productivity. Let’s take a closer look...

Improving project success and reducing wastage

Every year the Project Management Institute (PMI) produces a study known as Pulse of the Profession, reflecting on the current state of project management. According to the 2016 study, for every £1 billion invested £122 million (12%) is wasted due to poor project performance - a 12% increase on 2015.

The study found a significant improvement in project outcomes for organisations that invest in ongoing project management training versus those that don’t. This included a 65% improvement in completing projects on time, a 52% improvement in meeting set budgets and a 30% improvement in meeting project goals. All these improvements will boost your company’s productivity. Reducing budget wastage, allowing you to complete projects faster while achieving the original project goals.

The bottom line, completing more projects allowing you to be more productive and profitable.

Accelerating application development while improving efficiency and system availability

A recent IDC study reported significant improvements in productivity for IT professionals who are both trained and certified. The study found that trained and certified professionals working in server, database and application teams were 20% more productive than non-certified professionals. Not only that, trained and certified professionals were productive members of the team up to a month faster.

The study also found a range of additional benefits which would benefit productivity. Certified professionals delivered a 15% reduction in unplanned downtime while reducing the duration of that downtime by 26%. This improved system availability, allowing the business to remain online and productive.

Focusing specifically on those within application development, the study also found certified professionals develop nearly twice as many applications per year than uncertified developers - delivering these applications on time and to budget, with improved user satisfaction.

Unleashing the potential of cloud technology

Adoption and usage of cloud computing continues to accelerate at an ever-increasing rate. Across the public and private sectors, businesses are recognising the benefits of cloud - including improved scalability, security, reliability and efficiency. Business systems which are faster, more secure and remain online combine to facilitate business productivity.

However, the industry is in the midst of a growing cloud skills gap which is preventing businesses like yours from adopting or recognising the full potential of cloud. This is reflected in the RightScale 2016 State of the Cloud Report, with businesses highlighting a lack of resource / expertise as the leading issue preventing cloud maturity. The study goes on to conclude additional training of IT and development staff as a critical pathway to overcoming this challenge.

Training your team to recognise the full potential cloud will not only boost the productivity of your business, it will free your technology team from the server room. The cloud offers disaster resistant systems which mean your server admins are no longer required to be technical hardware experts. They can now focus this energy of technology projects that can further boost the productivity of your business through automation and improved user experience.

Train your team fast with Firebrand On Demand

Save time and money with Firebrand On Demand. It makes planning and buying Accelerated Learning easier, plus you'll save up to 25%.

Quickly develop staff in all roles, skill-levels and experience - from IT and IT Security, to project management. Ensure your team is trained, certified and back to work faster – and, depending on your upfront commitment, you can gain access to exclusive corporate rates.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Which project management certification is best for you?

 By Sarah Morgan


Many top level management job openings are now requiring and actively seeking certified project managers. This comes as little surprise with many studies suggesting certified professionals exhibit improved management of workloads, budgets, time, risks and people. These skills translate to a higher project success rate. With a report from PWC, citing 80% of successful projects are run by a certified project manager.

These factors have fuelled huge demand for project management certifications, with a wide range available, meaning it can often be confusing deciding which one best meets your needs. Each offers a unique set of skills. In this post, we breakdown what each one offers and the situation it is most applicable to.

PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Certification


Created by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce, it has become the national standard project management framework, with influences across Europe and Australia. It has also flourished into the most popular project management certification, with over 1 million PRINCE2 certified professionals worldwide.

The PRINCE2 methodology covers product-oriented planning, with emphasis on splitting a project into stages and increasing your control and flexibility. It also focuses on defined organisational structure, eliminating any uncertainty or miscommunication. This standardised approach is designed to be applicable to almost any project. 

PRINCE2 is split into two separate levels, the Foundation and Practitioner. Firebrand is the only training provider in the world to offer both levels of the PRINCE2 certification in just three days.

PRINCE2 Agile Certification


Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
freedigitalphotos.net
PRINCE2 Agile combines the standardised and effective methodology of PRINCE2, with the responsiveness of Agile. Adding Agile skills to your project management arsenal will make each step of the process more efficient. This means you’ll be able to finish the project quicker, allowing you to meet a higher percentage of your deadlines.

This makes the PRINCE2 Agile certification particularly useful to you if your projects are often affected by time constraints. For example, if you work in a fast-paced environment that requires high turnover of smaller projects. Or, if you often manage large projects with crucial deadlines.

Lean Six Sigma Certifications


Lean Six Sigma skills focus on reducing the amount of errors and minimising waste and variability in your projects. This means improving the processes throughout, making it as efficient as possible. This is done by establishing defined infrastructure at each stage of the project and using quality management to monitor them. The processes are then given quantified financial targets to measure success.

Lean Six Sigma skills can help you
meet your targets.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
freedigitalphotos.net
Lean Six Sigma certifications are most useful to managers who work on projects measured by efficiency and financial success. The skills these certifications focus on are geared towards improving statistical success rates and overall efficiency.

There are a variety of levels within Lean Six Sigma. The Yellow Belt is the entry level Lean Six Sigma certification. It teaches you Lean fundamentals and the basic waste management tools needed to start implementing Lean Six Sigma thinking in your projects.

The Green Belt will teach you to apply Lean Six Sigma methodologies and behaviours in your role. If you have over 18 months project management experience, it’s possible to go straight onto the Green Belt.

The Black Belt is aimed at advanced project managers and will help you make lasting improvements to your project management processes. It will help you in areas like cost control, customer satisfaction and performance processing. You’ll learn to directly address the speed and quality of your projects.

PMP Certification


Another of the heavyweights in project management certification is PMI’s PMP. Developed and dominant in the US, this certification teaches you PMP’s  globally accepted project management standard. You’ll learn techniques to evaluate and improve your projects under the direction of the PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), which covers a huge range of project management aspects.

This is another certification that is applicable to a huge range of projects. However, you’re required to have at least five years project management experience to be able to attempt the PMP due to its high level. It is best suited to advanced project managers looking to polish their skills and elevate themselves to the top of their field.

CAPM Certification


An entry-level alternative from PMI, is the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). This covers a range of project management topics similar to that of the PMP. This allows you start your project management career with awareness of the full range of skills needed to be a successful manager, for the long term. PMI’s CAPM is a fantastic option for inexperienced managers.

PSM Certification


Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
freedigitalphotos.net
Scrum.org’s Professional Scrum Master certification is all about teaching you to remove obstacles and difficulties for your team. It covers managing behavioural shifts, the unique dynamics within teams and coaching your team. The end goal of the Professional Scrum Master certification is to allow you to boost the productivity and efficiency of your team, improving the overall success rates of your projects.

Due to the personable and interactive nature of the Professional Scrum Master, it is best suited to managers responsible for large or fast-moving teams. It is also worth noting that learning for the Scrum Master course is often done through highly interactive exercises and environments, making the skills easily transferable to the workplace.

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, 21 June 2016

55 Microsoft exams and 29 certifications planned for retirement

Massive changes are inbound as Microsoft announce the latest plan for exam retirements amid a raft of new technology launches.

Following the arrival of new technologies including SharePoint 2016, SQL Server 2016 and the imminent arrival of Windows Server 2016, we are beginning to see the first of the new exams and aligned certifications emerge. 


This move sparks the end for exams and certifications aligned to technologies now rendered legacy. The release of so many new platforms sees a huge number of exams and associated certifications on the chopping block. 

Let’s take a closer look at those planned changes arriving in the coming months which could affect you.


Windows exams

With the arrival of a second Windows 10 exam, 70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10, there now exists a pure route to MCSA: Windows 10. This removes the exitising Windows 8 requirement finalises the retirement of exams 70-687 and 70-688.

Despite being planned for July 31, 2016, the exams have been given a retirement extension as interest lingers for the Window 8 platform among the enterprise.


Retiring on December 31, 2016
70-687: Configuring Windows 8.1
70-688: Supporting Windows 8.1
70-689: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows 8
70-692: Upgrading Your Windows XP Skills to MCSA Windows 8

Certifications retiring:
MCSA: Windows 8

Windows Server exams

We recently saw Windows Server 2016 move to Technical Preview 5 and the arrival of three MOCs aligned to MCSA: Windows Server 2016.


With Windows Server 2008 now two versions out of date and 8 years old, its unsuprising we see the exams aligned to the technology marked for retirement. 

Extended retirement date to December 31, 2016
98-365: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals

Retiring on July 31, 2017
70-640: TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring

70-642: TS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring

70-646: Pro: Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator

Certifications retiring:
MCSA: Windows Server 2008

SharePoint exams

Not much movememnt on the SharePoint front, especially considering the arrival of SharePoint 2016. The planned retirement for SharePoint 2010 MCTS and MCITP exams announced in January 2016 is going ahead as planned. 

Interestingly, we see the new inlcusion of a planned retirement for the MCSD: SharePoint Applications recertification exam. Are Microsoft removing the need for recertification or retiring the certification itself? Time will tell.

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-573: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development
70-576: PRO: Designing and Developing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Applications
70-667: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
70-668: PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Administrator

Retiring on March 31, 2017
70-517: Recertification for MCSD: SharePoint Applications

Certifications retiring:
MCTS / MCITP SharePoint 2010 Configuring / Administrator
MCTS / MCPD SharePoint 2010 Developer

SQL Server exams

The arrival of SQL Server 2016 has made zero changes to planned retirements of SQL server certification upgrade exams from SQL Server 2008. Suprising, considerinf we have seen the first peak of three new MCSA SQL Server 2016 certifications:

MCSA: SQL Server 2016 - Database Administration
MCSA: SQL Server 2016 - Database Development
MCSA: SQL Server 2016 - Business Intelligence Development

Announced in January 2016, we remain on course for the July 31, 2016 retirment dates. 

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-432: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
70-457: Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012, Part 1
70-458: Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012, Part 2

Certifications retiring:
MCITP Database Administrator - SQL Server 2008
MCITP Business Intelligence Developer - SQL Server 2008
Upgrade to MCSA SQL Server

Visual Studio and .NET exams

There is big movement in the Visual Studio and .NET space. A whole raft of new plans for exam retirements have emerged. Again we see the inclusion of exams aligned to recertification marked for retirement. This adds weight to the possiblility of Microsoft removing recertification requirments across the board.

We also see the addition of new retirements affecting the Universal Windows Platform, Azure and SharePoint 2013. With a vast range of certifications affected.

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-511: TS: Windows Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
70-513: TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
70-515: TS: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
70-516: TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
98-379: Software Testing Fundamentals

Retiring on September 30, 2016
70-481: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using HTML5 and JavaScript
70-482: Advanced Windows Store App Development Using HTML5 and JavaScript
70-484: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#
70-485: Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C#
70-490: Recertification for MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using HTML5
70-491: Recertification for MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using C#
70-492: Upgrade Your MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCSD: Web Applications
70-499: Recertification for MCSD: Application Lifecycle Management

Retiring on March 31, 2017
70-354: Universal Windows Platform – App Architecture and UX/UI
70-355: Universal Windows Platform – App Data, Services, and Coding Patterns
70-487: Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services
70-488: Developing SharePoint Server 2013 Core Solutions
70-489: Developing SharePoint Server 2013 Advanced Solutions

Certifications affected/retiring:
MCSD: Universal Windows Platform 
MCSD: SharePoint 2013 Applications 
MCSD: Web Applications
MTA Software Testing Fundamentals
MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Windows Applications
MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Web Applications
MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Service Communication Applications
MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Data Access


Microsoft Dynamics exams

Big changes are abound in the Microsoft Dynamics space as well. New versions of Dynamics CRM and AX have seen exam retirements planned across the board for the Dynamics AX 2012 and Dynamics CRM 2013 platforms. 

This will impact a significant number of Specialist certifications aligned to the Dynamics platforms. All are expected late 2016/early 2017.

Exams retiring on December 31, 2016
MB2-700: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Applications
MB2-701: Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013
MB2-702: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Deployment
MB2-703: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Customization and Configuration
MB5-705: Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations
MB6-700: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 Project
MB6-702: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Financials
MB6-703: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Trade and Logistics
MB6-704: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU8 Development Introduction
MB6-884: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Lean Manufacturing
MB6-885: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Public Sector
MB6-886: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Process Manufacturing Production and Logistics
MB6-889: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Service Management

Exams retiring on March 31, 2017
MB6-701: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Retail
MB6-705: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU8 Installation and Configuration

Certifications retiring:
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Applications
Specialist: Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Deployment
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Customisation and Configuration
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 Project
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Retail
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Financials
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Trade and Logistics
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU8 Development Introduction
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU8 Installation and Configuration
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Lean Manufacturing
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Public Sector
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Process Manufacturing Production and Logistics
Specialist: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Service Management
Specialist: Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations

Other exams

Retiring on September 30, 2016
70-673: TS: Designing, Assessing, and Optimizing Software Asset Management (SAM)

Retiring on January 31, 2017
74-697: OEM Preinstallation

Monday, 20 June 2016

How Lord Hague’s talk at InfoSec 2016 affects you

 By Sarah Morgan


It is vitally important to be aware of what is changing in the cyber security industry so you and your business aren’t left vulnerable to cyber attacks. The keynote speaker at InfoSec 2016, the Right Honourable Lord Hague of Richmond, gave some valuable advice to UK businesses on how to ensure their IT security can be successful in the long term. Here, we break down what these comments mean for you, your business and the industry as a whole.


“Move with the times”


Lord Hague’s speech mainly focused on how industry leaders need to be particularly aware of the “critical economic importance” of cyber security. In 2015 it was reported that cyber attacks cost the UK economy £34 billion a year, affecting 1 in 4 UK businesses. Reinforcing that all businesses are at risk of an attack and cannot afford to become complacent with IT security.


Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /
freedigitalphotos.net
He went on to recognise that the speed of technological growth is having huge implications on the IT security measures businesses need to take. He warned, “being connected has a real price on security”. Alongside this, he cited the recent hacks of Mitsubishi and Jeep. By embracing new technologies and adding Wi-Fi connectivity, their vehicles have become hackable.

However, the former Conservative leader did present an encouraging solution to the industry. He asked business leaders to work together to create “a network of partnerships”. There was emphasis on the need for change, “moving with the times”, embracing technological advancement and strengthening cyber security together.

Hague then reinforced that creating partnerships can help us achieve this. Increasing and nurturing partnerships increases inter-business communication, shares skills and technology and grows opportunities to improve security. With the average cost of a cyber attack increasing by 14% year on year, this highlights the need to invest more time and money to protect our businesses.

Lord Hague’s InfoSec 2016 speech reinforces the industry wide need for more IT security skills to protect the data and finances of UK’s businesses. His focus on forming security partnerships as a long term solution, places the responsibility on the collective shoulders of business leaders to work together, improving security infrastructure. With these new partnerships in place, businesses will be able to develop the skills of security professionals, collectively strengthening the nation’s IT security.


How does this affect my business?



Businesses must make extra efforts to
protect their assets from cyber attacks -
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /
freedigitalphotos.net
The frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks is increasing. Just last week MySpace were the victim of what could be the largest attack ever, breaching 427 million passwords. The implications of these hacks could have financial costs of many millions to MySpace. The need for all businesses to increase their IT security efforts, ensuring they don’t lose vast amounts of sensitive data and enormous sums of money, has never been higher. 

However, tightening IT security is a complex task. This need could not have come at a worse time as currently, there aren’t enough skilled cyber security professionals to meet demand. (ISC)2’s 2015 Global Information Security Workforce Study projects there will be a shortfall of 1.5 million unfilled roles in five years time.  This will make it difficult for the industry to implement the changes Lord Hague is anticipating. Therefore, in order to protect your business and build IT security partnerships, it is vital to develop the skills of your IT security professionals.


How do I ensure my business is protected?



Image courtesy of Jon Whiles /
freedigitalphotos.net
Businesses need to take immediate action, starting with increasing their cyber security skills. Extra commitment is now coming from the government to support this. For example, an investment of £1.9 billion into cyber security was announced by the government back in November 2015. Much of the government money will be invested in the two new Cyber Security apprenticeships, Analyst and Technologist. This’ll give businesses funding to bring new professionals into IT security and boost their skills.  It will also give businesses opportunities to increase their investment in IT security training, improving the skills of established IT security professionals.


Improve the cyber security skills in your business


Outside of apprenticeships, there are certifications and training courses at every level of IT security, that can give your business the skills throughout every level of the organisation. For example, your team can get entry level courses like CompTIA’s Security+, which builds upon IT foundations. After five years of security experience, your team can progress onto courses like ISACA’s CISA or CISM courses, gaining the beginnings of specialisation into the technical or management areas of IT security. Once your team have developed their skills further and have more experience, they can get advanced skills with certifications like (ISC)2’s CISSP or CCSP. Alternatively, your team can specialise with EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker.

Plus, Firebrand have now added five new cyber security courses that teach you the latest cyber security skills to protect your business:



Firebrand’s accelerated cyber security courses are the fastest way to improve and validate your specific security skills, before you’re hacked and facing enormous costs.


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.

Monday, 13 June 2016

What is MCSA?

MCSA is an acronym for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate. It is applied to a series of certifications for Microsoft’s core platform technologies including Windows Server, Windows Desktop, SQL Server and Office 365.

Attaining the MCSA certification demonstrates you have the core technical skills to design and build solutions for your chosen Microsoft technology. The credential acts as a prerequisite for the expert level Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification.

Below is a video giving you a full overview of the Microsoft certification program:


Current Pathways to MCSA


There currently exist 8 certifications aligned to core Microsoft technologies at the MCSA level. They are as follows:

MCSA: Windows Server 2012 - this credential proves you have mastered the core skills for Windows Server 2012. Achieving the certification qualifies you to become a system admin or computer network specialist.

MCSA: Windows Server 2008 - validates your skills working with the legacy Windows Server 2008 platform. This certification is soon to be retired.

MCSA: Windows 10 - prove you have the skills to configure, manage and maintain a Windows 10 enterprise system with this credential. This certification qualifies you for the role of a computer support specialist.

MCSA: Windows 8 - this certification demonstrates your expertise in configuring, managing and maintaining a Windows 8 enterprise system. This certification will be retiring July 2016.

MCSA: SQL Server 2012/14 - updated to align to SQL Server 2012 and 2014, this certification demonstrates your skills to query, administer and implement a SQL database. The credential qualifies for the role of database developer or database analyst.

MCSA: Office 365 - this certification proves your ability to migrate and administer business applications in the cloud with Office 365. Attaining the credential qualifies you for positions such as cloud applications administrator focussing on Office 365 business productivity applications like Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business

MCSA: Linux on Azure - a first for Microsoft, this certification proves your skills in designing, architecting, implementing, administering and maintaining cloud-based Linux systems on the Azure platform.

Below is the latest graphic from Microsoft detailing the Microsoft certification pathways to which MCSA fits into. Click the image to exapnd:




Future pathways to MCSA


As Microsoft continue to launch new core technologies, the pathway to MCSA will evolve to align to the latest platform. With the launch of SQL Server 2016 and the imminent public release of Windows Server 2016, the following credentials are expected in the second half of Windows Server 2016:

MCSA: Windows Server 2016 - the latest version on the server operating system will promise greater integration and streamlining for a cloud world. Whilst the new credential continues to demonstrate you have the core skills to manage Window Server 2016, these skills will likely be evolving to become more focussed on cloud integration with the Azure platform. 

MCSA: SQL Server 2016 - like the Window Server credential, the new SQL Server certification will demonstrate core skills to manage the new database platform. Though these skills will be evolving towards the cloud with a greater focus on individual disciplines including business intelligence, database administration and database development.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Discover 5 new accelerated IT security courses from Firebrand

 By Sarah Morgan


With over 700 million data records estimated to have been stolen in 2015, security is currently one of the most sought-after skills in IT. It is expected that the cyber security industry will be short of 1.5 million skilled professionals by 2019, as demand outstrips supply. For businesses, it is more important than ever to stay ahead of cyber criminals, implementing rigorous IT security infrastructure. Demand for skilled IT security professionals has never been higher. 
The costs of cyber crime to businesses are huge.
Photo courtesy of Flickr / SEOPlanter

This has fuelled demand for cyber security certifications alongside the development of brand new ones. Firebrand has released five new accelerated certification courses at the forefront of IT security. Below we breakdown the key information of these new certifications, highlighting what skills they’ll teach you and what makes each of them unique.

1. AXELOS Cyber Resilience: Foundation & Practitioner (RESILIA™)


The AXELOS RESILIA course gives you the knowledge and skills to prevent, detect and respond to organisational cyber attacks. It teaches you to manage the components of Cyber Resilience and blends the techniques with your existing managerial systems. It covers topics like risk management, cyber security resilience operations and continual improvement. It is the perfect certification to give you a managerial overview of implementing cyber security best practice.

Firebrand’s accelerated 3 day course, which is 50% faster than traditional training, covers both the Foundation and Practitioner curriculums and includes both exams at our training centre. This certification is from AXELOS, the creators of the world famous PRINCE2.


2. ISACA Certified Cybersecurity Practitioner (CSX)


ISACA, the creators of the CISA and CISM certifications, have recently released the CSX Practitioner. It is one of the most hands-on cyber security courses available, teaching you real-world skills you can implement immediately. It does this through five domains: Identify, Detect, Protect, Respond and Recover. These cover every stage of a potential cyber attack, giving you the complete range of knowledge and skills. Specific skills you’ll learn include implementing cybersecurity controls, analysing and monitoring network output and escalating incidents and attacks. 

Our accelerated 9 day course is 44% faster than traditional training and includes learning half of your skills through practical lab exercises in a virtual cyber environment. You’ll sit a practical performance based exam, demonstrating your skills as a cyber security first responder.


3. EC-Council Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO)


The CCISO teaches you to master the technical aspects of security management through the five domains of EC-Council's CCISO Body of Knowledge. These are Governance, Information Security Management Controls and Auditing Management, Management – Projects and Operations, Information Security Core Competencies and Strategic Planning & Finance. You’ll learn knowledge and skills in areas like information security laws, regulations and guidelines, the Audit Management Process and security strategic planning.

Firebrand is the exclusive launch partner for the CCISO in England. Our 3 day course is 25% faster than traditional training and includes the exam. It’s creators, EC-Council, are the force behind the popular Certified Ethical Hacker certification.


4. GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)

Photo courtesy of Flickr / Yuri Samoilov

The GSEC course from GIAC is among the most popular entry-level security certifications on the market. It is designed to build the strong foundations of your cyber security knowledge or bridging any gaps in your existing knowledge of IT security fundamentals. The GSEC covers a huge range of security topics like firewalls, DNS, common types of attacks, authentication and password management and vulnerability scanning.

Firebrand’s GSEC course is only 5 days (28% faster than traditional training) and is ideal for developing the knowledge of security professionals as well as managers. GIAC are also the providers of the GICSP certification in IT security. 


5. GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)


Learn specialist penetration testing skills with GIAC’s GPEN course. It teaches you to assess networks and find vulnerabilities that could be maliciously exploited. Penetration testing skills are rare and valuable to employers. The GPEN certification proves you have diversified your security skills into a unique and technical area .These skills increase your worth to employers. The GPEN covers areas like reconnaissance, web application probing and advanced password attacks.

On our accelerated 5 day course (28% faster than traditional training), you’ll conduct a real penetration test, giving you practical skills that are relevant and can make an immediate impact in the real-world. Plus, GIAC are the official certification body of The SANS Institute. 


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.