Thursday, 29 August 2013

Windows 8.1 is near, is everyone happy?


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A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced the release date of Windows 8.1, the highly anticipated update to its latest operating system, Windows 8. The new version, previously known as Windows Blue will be available at no cost for existing W8 users from 17th October, while new customers can purchase it from 18th October.

Two days ago, the company issued another statement, namely that it was readying Windows 8.1 for release. According to Microsoft’s official blog the 8.1 version is a significant update thanks to customer feedback and of course the product teams. 
  


As of Tuesday 27th August, Microsoft has “started releasing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to their hardware partners.” However, there is one major difference. Microsoft changed the pattern of the release. Unlike in case of the previous updates, this time only original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are given early access, but developers and IT professionals, as well as MSDN and TechNet subscribers are all forced to wait until the general release in October.

Ed Bott in his report for ZDNet.com recently wrote that although, he has sympathy for subscribers of MSDN and TechNet, releasing Windows 8.1 to them would almost be the equivalent of releasing it to the public. However, he couldn’t see why developers and IT pros were not granted access. Thus, he asked a Microsoft spokesperson, who replied as follows:

“Only sharing RTM code with OEMs is really about optimizing the overall experience for our customers—putting our hardware partners in a position to prepare the variety of new and innovative devices consumers and businesses can expect later this Fall just in time for holiday. While our partners prepare their exciting new devices, we’ll stay close to them and continue to refine Windows 8.1 to ensure a quality experience at general availability for customers on October 18th. This includes commercial customers with or without volume licensing agreements, our broad partner ecosystem, subscribers to MSDN and TechNet as well as consumers.”

With the reasons remaining unclear and developers bitter, all we can do is wait and see how Windows 8.1 will do once it’s released to the public. 

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, 27 August 2013

More apprentice successes


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A Firebrand apprenticeship is a real paid job, in an IT-related business. Our apprentices learn on the job, gain hands-on experience and get trained through Firebrand’s Accelerated Learning technique.

Little over a year ago, a cohort of 8 determined individuals joined our apprenticeship scheme. Their goal was to gain knowledge, qualifications and experience. They succeeded. Every single one of them achieved the following certifications:
  • Level 3 Certificate in ICT Systems & Principles
  • Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence
  • MTA (Microsoft Technical Associate) Server Administration Fundamentals
  • MTA Networking Fundamentals
  • MTA Database Administration Fundamentals

Some of them took it even further and gained additional certs, such as the CompTIA Server+ or Functional Skills ICT Level 2.

We are happy to say that all their hard work and effort paid off, as now they all hold permanent positions in IT-related businesses. Charlotte, Declan, Haris, Ross, Tim, Alex, Liam and Luke well done to every single one of you!

Apprentices accompanied by our staff and Dominic Gill, Apprenticeship Lead at Microsoft

But the story of our great apprentices does not end here, as we have another committed bunch to talk about.

Last November, 7 committed youngsters decided to take on the challenge and become Firebrand apprentices. In their testimonials they all said college and university were “not for me”. Instead, they wanted to take a head start and dive into the working world, while being trained and mentored by our experienced instructors. 

10 months later, they completed their training. With several certs under their belts and some of them with job offers in their hands, our apprentices are ready to put their knowledge into practice.

Dylan, James, Scott, Louise, Divinia, Jodie and Billie with Charlotte Preece ad Gary Fildes of Firebrand

On behalf of Firebrand Training, we wish you the best of luck in the future. And remember, failure is not an option! 

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. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Attack techniques by the numbers


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Verizon logo

Verizon released its 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) which offers security pros a guide to the most persistent threats and where attention should be focused to defend against them.

The report used the data obtained from breach investigations that they and other organisations performed during 2012. The data includes a total of 621 confirmed data breaches and over 47,000 security incidents from around the world.

According to the report, 52% of the data loss incidents it examined were the result of some form of hacking.

The report considered more than 40 attack techniques (some incidents used more than one) the majority came from just 5 categories, which shows hacker preferences. Of the 52% of breaches that involved hacking, 80% involved guessing, cracking, or reusing valid credentials.

Types of attack can vary depending on the size of the company. Small companies tend to get more "brute force" attacks on authentication while larger companies have more issues with stolen credentials.

The best way to tackle these forms of attack are by moving to multi-factor authentication, but it isn't always the safest solution and the Verizon also notes that password issues are not an easy problem to fix. Policies for proper password lengths and complexities are vital and can help reduce the risk. We wrote about passwords on a previous post and how you can make them more secure, you can find it here.

When discussing the importance of information security, it’s important to remember that anyone can be a target. You've probably heard excuses like "we're too small to be a target" or "we don't have anything of value", but if there is anything the Verizon report shows us, is that breaches can and do occur in organizations of all sizes in all types of industries.

Profit drives several breaches, especially in the finance, retail, and food-services sectors, but they also target industries that possess assets in the form of property, such as manufacturing and professional services.

Below is a list of attack techniques listed by the overall.


Attack techniques - Verizon Report
By the Numbers: Attack Techniques by Verizon
The report contains a lot of information that paints a clear picture of the motives and techniques used by attackers to compromise their target organizations. It's an interesting read and there are many lessons that can be found within. You can download the report here.

About the Author:
Julian 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. Julian is the companies Digital Marketer.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

10 days left to Win Free Training for Life



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The final countdown has begun for Firebrand's Free Training for Life competition

Only 10 days remain in which you can enter for your chance to win a lifetime of free training on Firebrand's full portfolio of IT, Project Management and Security courses.

The closing date is: 23:59 GMT, Sunday 1st September 2013.




What courses are up for grabs?


Firebrand's full portfolio of courses are available from all the major vendors including Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, APMG, PMI, CompTIA, EC-Council and (ISC)2.

You can take all the industry leading certifications for Free! You heard me right....MCSE, MCSD, MCSA, CCNA, CCNP, CISSP, CEH, A+N+, PRINCE2 and PMP all free. This is just a short selection, you can check out the full range on our courses page.

How does the competition work?

It's a lottery, you can enter in 3 simple steps:

  1. Head to - www.firebrandtraining.co.uk/ftfl
  2. Fill out your contact details
  3. Confirm your entry by clicking the link sent to your email following your entry.

Upon entering you will receive 1 entry into the lottery.

Can I get more entries into the lottery?

Absolutely, below are several ways you can get additional entries into the competition to improve your chances of winning:

  • Share you URL - on entering FTFL you will be given a unique sharing URL, you can stick this on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even your blog. For every individual who enters using your sharing URL will secure you 1 additional entry to competition.
  • Write a blog post - create a 500-word blog post explaining why you want to win Free Training For Life. Make sure you include your sharing URL, and mention the first course you want to attend. Then email your blog link to ftfl@firebrandtraining.co.uk and you will receive 50 extra entries!
  • Create a YouTube video - record a short YouTube video, again explaining why you want to win Free Training for life. Make sure you include your sharing URL, and mention the first course you want to attend. Then email your video link to ftfl@firebrandtraining.co.uk and you will receive 50 extra entries!

ENTER NOW FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN!



Author Bio:
Edward is a member of the Marketing team focussing on Technical writing and Community Engagement for Firebrand. Working in the Industry for over 2 years, Edward has experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint and Windows Server and Exchnage Server. Edward writes for a variety of Blogs and Publications on all things Technology

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Microsoft by the Numbers


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Microsoft needs little introduction. The software giant, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, has been around since 1975 and gradually became one of the most influential enterprises of the world. With its extensive product portfolio the company is highly ranked in terms of gaming consoles, instant messaging, enterprise technology, apprenticeship programs and of course operating systems.


For the lovers of technology and numbers, Microsoft has created a fascinating collection of visual statistics about its products and services. 

Snapshot of some stats

Emails have become essential in our lives and thus so did email clients. Microsoft’s client Outlook now has over 400 million users. Besides the so-called traditional e-messaging, Microsoft also plays a key role in instant messaging, now that it has recently acquired Skype. Here comes a real shocker. Every single day, Skype users all over the world spend 2 billion minutes chatting. That is more than 3,400 years of time spent every single day! 


Game consoles also constitute a large chunk of Microsoft’s product portfolio. Since its launch in 2005, over 76 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide, accompanied by more than 24 million Kinect sensors.

Having won more than 320 major awards, the company is referred to as one of the best and most prestigious employers and they definitely know a lot about hospitality. Their employees consume around 2.6 million gallons of free beverages and over 550,000 slices of pizza each year. However, since they employ around 97,000 people, these figures are probably less shocking than the statistics of Skype mentioned earlier.

For further facts and the entire collection click here.

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, 19 August 2013

Why mobile security is important


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We love our gadgets, regardless of whether they're for work or entertainment, we just love them. We browse, we shop, we even bank with them. With the continuous increase in both smartphone and tablet sales, it is fair to say that every day more and more of us get enchanted by the never-ending range of games and applications available in the various e-stores. However, we must not forget that we might not be the only ones trying to make a transfer from our own bank account.


Android browsing alert

Security-testing specialist Veracode has created an infographic with a set of important information and statistics we are probably not aware of. According to this infographic, 40 million tablets were sold between 2011 and Q3 of 2012, so in less than 2 years. Evidently this number has rapidly been increasing ever since.  By the end of last year, around 1 billion mobile devices had been activated and numbers of mobile broadband subscribers are estimated to increase to 3.1 billion by the end of 2015. Big figures.  

But what does this mean? Apart from more train passengers with their heads down, it means there is a continuously growing target (or rather targeted) audience to hackers and cyber-criminals. Malware, phishing, dodgy background processes, hidden spyware, you name it, they are all out there. In fact, one of these may be hidden in the next app you are going to download. So, if you want your data to be intact, it is time to take some countermeasures: 
  • Use Password Protected Access Controls
  • Control Wireless Network and Service Connectivity
  • Try Mobile Antivirus Software or Scanning Tools
  • Back Up Your Data
  • Beware of Free Apps
For further statistics and tips on mobile security see the complete infographic by Veracode here

About the Author:       
Peter 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.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cloud Computing – important points to consider


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According to CIF's estimates, 75% of UK companies will be using at least one cloud service by the end of the year. The adaptation of your business to cloud computing is easier and more beneficial than you would first think. Via cloud technology, your business can save on IT costs, increase market share and avoid the setbacks of an on-premise IT infrastructure, such as the need for regular renewal.  

Fasthosts' guide to switching and using the cloud lists the following noteworthy points:


  • Know where you are – It is always important to evaluate your business’ current IT infrastructure. Once that’s been done, compare and contrast your current needs with your future requirements. Doing this will enable you to see clearly what is essential to stay on-site and what can go to the cloud.


  • Pick the “right” cloud – There are several types of cloud services (public, private, hybrid, on-premise, off-premise) and it is vital to pick the right one. However, if you have thoroughly considered step 1, this shouldn't be an issue.


  • Find a plan – By plan we mean your preference to pay. Cloud services are flexible, offering business to pay monthly, per licence, per user or simply by the amount of space they use. This does not only affect your direct costs, but in the long run, it has an effect on your indirect costs. Think about labour vs. productivity.




Now that you have put down the foundations of adapting to the cloud, it’s time to think about further points:

  • How can it make me work better? – Having an internet-enabled device (laptop, smart phone, or tablet) is all you need to access the cloud and everything on it. Now you and your colleagues are able to work from home or on-the-go and also connect with each other in real-time.


  • How secure is it? – First and foremost it is important to find a trusted provider and to ensure that data sovereignty remains under your control. If this is done, take a deep breath, your data is going to be safer than it would be on your internal servers. After all it is going to be protected with latest security measures and looked after 24/7 by IT professionals.  


  • Is the cloud environmentally friendly? – Switching from on-site servers and hardware to hosted services will significantly reduce your company’s carbon footprint. Apart from this, the switch will also result in decreased energy usage, saving on utility bills.


  • How is IT easier with the cloud? – Simplicity is, without doubt, one of the major advantages. There’s no need for visits from IT professionals to fix problems, there’s no need to worry about taking care of the physical hardware and there’s no need for manual updates, everything is done through the cloud.


  • What if something goes wrong? – Cloud computing offers simple and effective disaster recovery. Since cloud services back up data in real-time, there’s no need for back up processes on a regular basis. 


  • Does it really help to grow my business? – With the help of cloud services there are no more restrictions. You have 24/7 access to all your data, so you may work anytime, anywhere.

It is worthwhile to bear in mind that the aforementioned points constitute only a segment of Fasthosts’ Introduction to Cloud computing, for further information read the full version.

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, 6 August 2013

Kodu – programming game for kids


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Kodu Programming for KidsTry to teach programming to a 10-year-old. It won’t be easy, unless you do it the fun way, with Kodu. Kodu is a visual programming tool developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs with the purpose of teaching basic programming skills to children, whilst they are playing on their PCs or Xbox.

Since the revelation of Microsoft’s intriguing Project Spark at this year’s E3, Kodu has recommenced to receive recognition. Although the former is “far grander in scale” (WPCentral) parallels between the two are still drawn, which place Kodu on the radar.



In Kodu, anyone can create a game let it be young children or adults. It’s easy, good fun and requires no design or programming skills. Isn’t it great?  And that’s not all. According to FUSE Labs “Kodu Teaches more than Programming”:

  • Kodu is a rich tool for narrative creation and storytelling
  • Kodu demonstrates that programming is a creative medium
  • Kodu helps children with critical thinking, breaking a complex goal into manageable steps, and iterate on the design process – an approach applicable to all academic subjects, business and personal relationships
  • Kodu introduces the logic and problem solving of programming
  • Kodu introduces conditions and sequences, which teaches cause and effect
  • Students learn about cooperation, logic and creativity in addition to programming

what most schools don't teachAs we mentioned earlier this year, “the career opportunities for coders is vast”, so it cannot be early enough to start, but only in 1 out of 10 schools do children learn coding.

You can check out the original video on Code.org's YouTube page - What most schools don't teach

“Children are the future of our world” and Microsoft seems to agree, hence the creation of this unique game. 

About the Author:       
Peter 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.

Friday, 2 August 2013

What's New in Windows Server 2012 Networking?



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Microsoft recently launched the trial version for their latest instalment of the Server OS, Windows Server 2012 R2. As many scramble for the new release and begin to get a glimpse of the new features, here at Firebrand we will be reflecting on some of the new editions Microsoft have made to networking in Windows Server 2012 and the R2 edtion.

A focus on Cloud

Some of the major investments in Windows Server 2012 have been in the areas of failover clustering, virtualization and file services. While these are all networking-related, at first glance it might seem that not so much work has gone into the pure Windows networking features. One of the reasons for that is that Microsoft is increasingly interested in cloud computing and providing an operating system that consumers of the cloud service will be able to deploy in a cloud environment. 

However, there have been some nice improvements in 802.1x authenticated wired and wireless access, BranchCache, Data Center Bridging or DCB, the Domain Name System Server and client, and the DHCP server and client. 

Windows Networking did a great series on this, read more about the new improvements here.

Time to get abstract...

Abstraction is a key feature of cloud computing and when we are able to abstract network, compute and storage completely, we will come very close to fulfilling the promise of cloud computing. Microsoft has taken a big step in that direction by introducing Hyper-V Network Virtualization

It's all about IPAM

IPAM is an important new feature in Windows Server 2012. The built-in IPAM feature will save companies money and ensure better compatibility and because IPAM has the potential to be one of the most universally useful new features in Windows Server 2012. 

Read more about IPAM here.

Data Center Bridging (DCB)

Data Center Bridging is an important technology for businesses that want to increase performance, decrease administrative overhead and leverage existing Fibre Channel or iSCSI mass storage assets. Microsoft’s implementation of DCB in Windows Server 2012 will make it easier and less expensive to deploy on Windows-based networks. 

What next?
So as you begin to digest all the new features of Server 2012, keep your eyes peeled as we look to cover SQL Server 2014 and System Center 2012 R2 in the coming weeks.



Author Bio:
Edward is a member of the Marketing team focussing on Technical writing and Community Engagement for Firebrand. Working in the Industry for over 2 years, Edward has experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint and Windows Server and Exchnage Server. Edward writes for a variety of Blogs and Publications on all things Technology