Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Frequently Asked Questions about MCSE: Private Cloud


The MCSE: Private Cloud certification demonstrates your skills in deploying and managing Microsoft private cloud computing technologies. But what exactly is covered in this certification and what are the benefits of attaining MCSE: Private Cloud? In this post you’ll get all the answers to these and other frequently asked questions about the MCSE: Private Cloud certification.
What’s covered in MCSE: Private Cloud?

Microsoft’s private cloud solutions are built and managed through Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Centre 2012 R2, allowing you to maximise the flexibility of your IT infrastructure.

The MCSE: Private Cloud teaches you the following skills:
  • Configuring and deploying the cloud fabric.
  • Building the core components necessary for delivering services on the fabric.
  • Configuring data centre process automation.
  • Allocating resources to a cloud and grant access to a cloud.
  • Configuring a PXE server, an update server as well as a software update baseline.
  • Configuring Microsoft Server Application Virtualization (App-V).
  • Understanding how to monitor clouds using Operations Manager.
  • Understanding the tools necessary to extend and customize Operations Manager for cloud environments.
  • Setting up, configuring, and integrating the core components of Service Manager into a cloud fabric.
  • Configuring a service catalogue, and publishing it to the Self-Service Portal
Who is the MCSE: Private Cloud certification for?

The MCSE: Private Cloud is ideal for server administrators, network administrators and data centre administrators working with Microsoft technologies. This certification validates their skills in designing, installing and configuring private cloud infrastructures.

Are there any other cloud certifications from Microsoft?

Currently the MCSE: Private Cloud certification is the only strictly cloud-related credential available from Microsoft, however it would not be surprising if there were new ones coming in the next year or two.

How can I get MCSE: Private Cloud certified?

Building your private cloud requires an in-depth understanding of Windows Server 2012 and System Centre 2012. Therefore, as a prerequisite to getting this certification, you need to already hold your MCSA: Windows Server 2012.

Once you have completed the prerequisite certification, you can work towards the MCSE> Private Cloud. This involves passing the following exams:
  • Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 Exam 70-246
  • Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 Exam 70-247
How can I prepare for the MCSE: Private Cloud?

There’s a great set of resources that will help you with your preparation.  If you need exam help, visit the Microsoft Virtual Academy and/or watch the following preparation session from TechEd North America 2014:

If you’re after something more thorough, check out Keith Mayer’s comprehensive guide to building a private cloud in just one month. You’ll find loads of great articles, videos and ebooks here. 

What are you waiting for? Leave the world of public clouds behind and build your very own private cloud to ensure that your data stays safe.

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, 22 August 2014

5 ways to prepare for your CompTIA A+ Exams you didn't consider


Many an IT professional’s career has been built upon the solid foundation of knowledge that comes from achieving CompTIA’s A+ qualification. In fact, over 925,000 people around the world have achieved the A+ over the past 20 years.

Several major brands – like Dell, HP and Lenovo – require that their channel technicians are A+ certified in order to service their products.  It is also supported by government branches like the US Department of Defence.

Plus, the skills you’ll pick up from this certification are vendor neutral, making them infinitely useful across your entire career.

The A+ proves you have a good level of knowledge and troubleshooting skills needed to provide capable support to personal computers.

There are other ways to revise for the A+
Image courtesy of cohdra/morgueFile

Get A+ certified

In order to don your A+ badge with pride, you’ll have to pass two exams:

          CompTIA A+ Essentials, exam code 220-801
o   Which covers basic computer concepts, PC hardware, basic networking, soft skills and safety
         CompTIA A+ Practical Application, exam code 220-802
o   Which covers operating systems, security, mobile devices and troubleshooting

Each exam takes 90 minutes and you can expect to complete around 90 questions per test.

But, just because it’s an entry level certification, don’t think it’s a push-over. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is have misplaced confidence, if you don’t prepare for the exam, there’s a good chance you won’t pass.
So if you’re gearing up to take A+ or your 3 year A+ recertification is coming up – here are some ways to prepare you might not have considered:

      1. Dive into your desktop

The A+ assesses your knowledge of personal computer components like: motherboards, processors, memory, storage devices, power supplies, laptops and portable devices.

This focus on computer hardware gives you the perfect opportunity get your hands dirty. Revision doesn’t have to just involve stooping over a study book – exploring real hardware can be a valuable, effective and enjoyable method of studying for this section of the A+.

Chances are you probably own a desktop computer, or at least have one somewhere in your house. If not, ask around for an old computer (it doesn’t have to work, it just has to be fairly intact). Get yourself a screwdriver and start dismantling the machine – don’t go overboard though, if you don’t know how to reassemble the hardware - but still need to use the PC- don’t take it apart to begin with.
Here’s a quick guide on how to disassemble your PC.

If you can find an old dilapidated desktop computer or printer, dismantle it as much as you can. The more familiar you are with the inner-workings of computers, laptops and printers – the better prepared for the exam you’ll be.

Even if you can’t dismantle the whole computer, you’ll still be able to identify the components you know and research the ones you can’t recognise. It’s a fun diversion to typical revision and will definitely translate into a better exam score.

      2. Make friends with Professor Messer

Check out Professor Messer’s CompTIA A+ guide on YouTube, you won’t be disappointed. These quality, in-depth videos are an absolutely brilliant study resource.

Oh, and they’re all totally free. You won’t need to register either – everything is uploaded full-length on YouTube. You won’t have to give over any of your time or money.

Each video segment is around 20 minutes, enough time for a very in-depth lecture. Grab your notepad and a cup of coffee and settle in. It may take several viewings to really embed the stuff in your brain but once again, it’s a great, more passive alternative to poring over a textbook all day.

      3. Don’t trip up on the legacy questions

You’ll undoubtedly find some topics in the A+ exam harder than others. That being said, the legacy/older information is sometimes neglected and definitely could trip up students who aren’t prepared for it.

The CompTIA A+ does still cover outdated hardware. You could get a question on floppy disks (yes, really). It’s unbelievable but it could happen, don’t just gloss over these sections when revising – you never know which parts of the curriculum will show up in the exams.

      4. Know the question style

You can expect 3 distinct question types on the two exams:

Multiple choice with single answer – you will be required to select a single answer from a range of options (generally 4-5) by clicking a radio button.

Multiple choice with multiple answers – you’ll have to select a range of options from a given set to get the mark.

Fill in the blank - select the missing text to complete the sentence (essentially a multiple choice question in a different format).

      5. Check out Firebrand Learn

We’ve uploaded our entire A+ courseware on 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, this is your best bet.

Plus, as this courseware makes up part of Firebrand Training’s A+ syllabus – get trained with Firebrand  and you’ll be more than prepared to score an A+ on the A+ (sorry). 

About the Author:       
Alex writes for Firebrand Training on IT and certification related topics. He also serves as the in-house designer at Firebrand's Regent Street office.  

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The tech that gets you (A-level) results


Thursday 14th August marked the day students across the country received their A-level results. But it wasn’t just stressful for the students - take a moment to appreciate the titanic task of UCAS’ IT team working behind the scenes.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (known to us as UCAS) is responsible for managing all university and college applications. It processes over 650,000 applications a year with the service peaking massively in mid-August.

And this time last week, UCAS sprang into action for what was undoubtedly one formidable working day.

Comprised of about 20 people, UCAS’ Joint Operations Centre (JOC) features the organisation’s IT director, systems operations staff, architects and workers from suppliers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle.

The JOC works with operational intelligence provided by machine data indexer, Splunk. Following a migration to the cloud, UCAS has been using Splunk to monitor its IT infrastructure (the migration actually won a Computer Weekly User Award).

Before the introduction of this cutting-edge tech, UCAS was faced with the monumental challenge of searching and visualising a massive volume of machine-generated data. Now, with the introduction of Splunk, UCAS can troubleshoot, manage performance and use analytics to support the IT team.

'Artists' intepretation
Image courtesy of Grafixar/morgueFile

Ensuring an uninhibited service is paramount. No more so than during Thursday’s ultra-peak time, where thousands of students will be simultaneously accessing information through UCAS’ Track portal.

Splunk Enterprise is deployed across 40 servers and about 70 log sources, which are in turn deployed through Amazon Web Services. By indexing, searching, alerting and reporting on data from across UCAS’ entire infrastructure, Splunk provides the JOC with a series of visualisations of their performance, key operational metrics and the queries they are running.

Keeping the system operational is a considerable challenge – last year saw the Track system, hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud service, dealing with more than 180 logins per second.

The operation is based in Cheltenham, where 10 gigantic screens monitor the entire system. Two of these screens are devoted to Splunk which in turn has 10 dashboards created through queries in the software. Some dashboards are devoted to tracking the response time on an applicant enquiry whilst others display response time over a 24-hour period.

Like the phoenix, ‘UCAS lives and dies on one day a year,’ states Peter Raymond, Enterprise IT Architect at UCAS.

Chances are, it’s wasn’t just students experiencing sleepless nights last week.  

About the Author:       
Alex 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.  

Here's why every organisation needs an ethical hacker


Protecting sensitive information should be every business’ number one priority, especially when high-profile data breaches are becoming increasingly common. But what can organisations do when cyber-attacks become more and more sophisticated and hackers are able to steal 1.2 billion username and password combinations? Well, as the well-known adage says “the best defence is a good offence”, so it’s time to recruit your in-house (ethical) hacker, if you want to keep your data safe.

Ethical Hacking from a company’s perspective

Every organisation is different; with different goals and objectives, different ways of operating, different websites, and of course different potential vulnerabilities.

By definition “an ethical hacker is a computer and network expert who attacks a security system on behalf of its owners, seeking vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could exploit.” The process of performing such attacks is called penetration testing and it allows companies to remediate critical vulnerabilities.

Tests like this are quite costly, normally starting from around £2,000 for a small company and increasing in proportion with the size of the organisation. These expenses are often hard to justify, especially for those who do not understand the magnitude of potential damages caused by a security breach.

Do you know the average cost of an attack? According to IDG Research a single hack can cost your small or medium sized business up to £600,000 before mitigation even begins. Not to mention the damage to brand reputation.
Photo courtesy of chanpipat/

Hire a hacker to protect you

It’s better to be safe than sorry, now is the time to get an ethical hacker on board. But bear in mind that penetration testing is sensitive work and you need to be confident about who you are dealing with.

A Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is an expert in the fields of penetration testing, as well as everyday network and application security. They will be able to perform session hijacks, SQL injections, mobile platform hacks and other critical tasks to discover your network’s weak spots, including physical security, such as access to server rooms.

Tools, trick and techniques for future ethical hackers

Do you think your organisation could benefit from having an ethical hacker on board? Then why hire someone external, develop your own ethical hackers instead. The CEH course will teach your employee(s) the most up-to-date techniques to hack into the latest operating systems, such as Windows 8.1. They will learn practical skills, enabling them to thoroughly test your systems and ensure that vulnerabilities are patched.

Retrieving malware directly from hosting locations, tracking devices through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or improving penetration test effectiveness – these are all possible with the help of some of these new tools, introduced at Black Hat USA 2014.

Are you interested in more of the latest methods and ways to protect against hackers? Don’t miss out on the European edition of Black Hat 2014, this October in Amsterdam.

Will you wait until it’s too late?

According to Katy Reynolds, a security consultant for Context Information Security, “there is a tendency for companies to bury their heads in the sand as no one wants to believe they are vulnerable to hackers or identify that money must be spent to fix potential problems,” which often brings devastating results.

What will your company do?

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, 20 August 2014

Cisco Tech Huddle – Addressing the full attack continuum


Security savvy Cisco enthusiasts unite! The new Tech Huddle event series is just around the corner. The focus will be Cisco Security, with a comprehensive “Before-During-After” overview of the full attack continuum, i.e. the life-cycle of an attack from start to finish, including the possible aftermath.

Source: Addressing the Full Attack Continuum: 
Before, During, and After an Attack Whitepaper by Gartner/Cisco

Before: You’ll learn how to provide secure access to your data centre and remote resources using the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) combined with Cisco TrustSec.

During: Uncover the secrets of phishing and familiarise yourself with the latest methods, tricks and techniques used by attackers. You’ll also learn about why traditional detect and block technologies fail against phishing, and what you can do to protect your systems.

After: What happens when malware protection fails? Learn how to identify attacks, evaluate damages and respond to incidents with Cisco’s Advanced Malware Protection tool.

Besides the three 45-minute presentations, you’ll also see some live demos and have the chance to exchange ideas, experiences and practical tricks with your peers through interactive discussions.

To wrap everything up there'll also be a Q&A, where Cisco experts will answer all your questions.  In addition, you’ll have the chance to win an iPad mini, when attending the Cisco Tech Huddle.
When and where are these events happening?
  • London: 23rd September
  • Dublin: 23rd September
  • Glasgow: 24th September
  • Manchester: 25th September
  • Belfast: 25th September
  • Reading: 30th September
If you can't make the dates above, there's also a summary webinar taking place on 30th September 11:30-13:00

For all of the above dates, you can register on the Cisco website and see the full agenda 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, 18 August 2014

10 simple steps to improve your chances of winning Free Training for Life


With less than a month till the end of our Free Training for Life competition, time is running out to increase your chances of winning.

For the unfamiliar among you, Free Training for Life gives you the chance to get every certification you've ever wanted. For free!

One lucky winner will gain access to all of our training courses for free, for life. Chose from more than 165 courses from the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, CompTIA and EC Council to name a few. 

The prize, if used to it's full potential, is estimated to be worth more than £1 million

If you haven't entered yet, head to our Free Training for Life entry page and fill out the form. You'll then be given a unique sharing link, which you can spread across the world. Anyone who enters using your link will then earn you one extra ticket to the lottery.

To help you out we have compiled 10 simple ways in which you can earn extra tickets using your unique sharing code. But hurry as there is less than month to go as the competition closes on Sunday 14th September 2014 at 23:59 GMT.

So here they are:

  1. Share your unique sharing link on your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or even Google+ profile
  2. Follow +Firebrand Training UK on Google+ to find elaborate ways to earn more tickets in the coming weeks
  3. Email your work colleagues with your sharing link telling them about the competition.
  4. Scour your LinkedIn contacts to find those working in IT careers and message them about the competition
  5. If you have a blog, write a post about the competition and what course you want to do.
  6. Follow @beafirebrand on Twitter and keep your eyes peeled. There will be several ways to earn more entries in the coming weeks.
  7. If you are an active member of a IT forum like TechNet or CertForums, you could share the competition with people on there.
  8. Add your sharing link in the signature of your email. Every time someone reads an email from you they will have the chance to see and enter the competition
  9. Head to Firebrand and sign up for our latest news and offers including exclusive opportunities to earn more tickets
  10. Comment on this post and tell me which courses you'd do and why. The best response will earn an extra 50 tickets. (don't forget to include your unique sharing link)
Searching for inspiration for numero 10? This is what last years winner had to say about which course he would do first and why.

So what are you waiting for?

About the 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.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A-level results day - Life doesn’t end if you don’t go to university


Thousands of students across the country are now experiencing the dramatic highs and lows of A-level results. Right now, it might be hard to see past university, but it’s not your only option and there are other paths to pursue your career.
An apprenticeship shouldn’t be thought of as something you do just because you’re not going to university. It’s not a glorified internship; it’s a real job where you get real training and experience that will give you a solid advantage in the job market.
They are already an incredibly popular and viable alternative to university. More than a third of A-level students in London currently opening their results are considering an apprenticeship instead of university, a poll by British Gas found.
Also, 15% said they would be more likely to get a higher paid job if they secured an apprenticeship instead of a university degree.

As this survey shows, school leavers are rightly considering an apprenticeship as a serious option when deciding their future. With over 1.8 million starts since 2010, and our reforms to improve their rigour and quality, apprenticeships are now a respected and rewarding route in to the world of work.’ states Skills Minister Nick Boles.

If you live in England, are 16 or older, and not in full-time education, you can apply to be an apprentice. The more you know about, the better your decision will be. Just consider this:

You’ll be earning money, not losing it

Those who start university this year could get stuck with more than £44,000 of debt by the time they graduate in 2017.
What’s more, researchers predict that the majority of university students will still be paying back their loan well into their fifties.
Getting stuck with a debt that could follow you into middle age isn’t a rite of passage. It’s not necessary to invest so to pursue your chosen career.
The phrase ‘earn while you learn’ has become a buzzword but it really does hold true for Apprenticeships. Get employed within a company and you’ll be a valued member of staff.
Get paid on average £170 per week and start earning the day you start. Plus, you won’t need to pay those much hated tuition fees. In fact, as your skills develop, your pay will increase accordingly.

Practical, hands-on and relevant

By working alongside experienced industry professionals, you’ll pick up first-hand job and workplace skills that just can’t be taught at university. Employers across the country value Apprenticeships because it proves you can work effectively within a professional environment.
Throughout my career, some of my best hires have been people who have bypassed the traditional route of university and learned their skills through apprenticeship schemes or alternative education courses.’ Peter Jones, Dragons Den entrepreneur, The Guardian, July 2012
And it’s not just first-hand experience that will showcase your skills – you’ll be able to back it up with industry recognised qualifications and training worth up to £10,000.

Stay Employed

The vast majority of university students have to search for a job once they graduate. But, a recent survey shows that 83% of apprentices still work for their employer a year after their course finishes. Plus, 42% had even received a promotion after completing their apprenticeship.
Susan Hooper, Managing director at British Gas explains how – ‘Just last year we recruited 900 young people…you could call this the age of the apprenticeship.’
 She also stressed the job prospects that come with apprenticeships. ‘Many of our apprentices have long careers with the company, often moving into management positions.’

Not to be overlooked

It really is the age of the apprenticeship and you would be doing yourself a disservice to overlook them. Just like university, an apprenticeship is a brilliant route into your chosen career – only it’s 3 years quicker and £44,000 cheaper

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. 

How to convince your manager to pay for PRINCE2 Training


Becoming PRINCE2 certified will verify your ability to manage and organise successful projects. But, it’s not always easy to get certified independently - especially whilst trying to juggle your career, family and social life. A helping hand from your organisation could make all the difference.

After all, it’s in your manager’s best interest for you to be more qualified.  The more skilled you are at your job, the more you can contribute to your company.

Educate yourself about PRINCE2 and put across a compelling argument. Get started with these convincing points:

Keep an eye on scope creep
courtesy of 2nix
1. It will save your organisation time and money

1 in 6 projects have a cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of nearly 70%, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review.

Scope creep is defined as uncontrolled and continuous change or growth in a project’s end date. It will cost your organisation the most finite of resources - time and money.

The ‘moving goal posts’ effect of scope creep is often a result of unforeseen changes to the projects requirements. Unfortunately, this typically results in exceeding your initial timescales and budgets. It also has the potential to worsen as the project progresses - you’ll have a hard time planning for a project that is in a constant state of flux. 

But, by using an established project management methodology like PRINCE2, you can manage and prevent scope creep as it happens. Topics like The Process-based Approach, Risk Management Strategy and Baselines for Control will teach you valuable lessons in the management of scope creep.

A reduction in the cost of projects across your organisation is a tangible bargaining chip for winning over your manager. Plus, with PRINCE2’s standardised methodology, you’ll be able to manage any unavoidable change within your projects whilst still maintaining your original objectives.

2. Bring some much needed clarity to your projects

PRINCE2 focuses on providing a tried-and-tested framework and methodology in which to manage projects clearly and efficiently. Your projects will benefit from a common and consistent approach that your stakeholders can take confidence in. 

Clearly measure the success of your endeavours within a standardised system and you’ll be able to provide accurate reports to your project’s stakeholders. Without an over-reliance on bureaucracy, PRINCE2 promotes consistency, continuous improvement and troubleshooting for your projects.

Explain to your superiors how PRINCE2 can provide a standardised framework for every project your organisation undertakes. PRINCE2 gives your organisation greater control of its resources.

The earlier you can adopt the methodology, the better. Fewer costly organisational mistakes will be made and those that are made can easily be tracked and improved upon.

3. It’s Government-backed

PRINCE2 was launched by the UK Government in 1996 and is now recognised as the international standard method for project management because it embodies years of best practice.

According to arras People’s 2013 UK Project Management Benchmark, the PRINCE2 qualification is held by 63% of all Project management professionals - that’s markedly more than the competing PMP (9%) and MSP (23%) accreditations.

With over a million exams taken globally, it’s already recognised as the world’s most popular project management methodology. Press the importance of getting your organisation to take advantage of this industry standard.

4. You’ll only have to take 1 day off work to get fully certified

PRINCE2 is split into a Foundation and Practitioner level. Foundation measures whether you would be able to work within a PRINCE2 project team whereas the Practitioner focuses upon your skill at leading your own PRINCE2 project.

Complete both qualifications in just 3 days and return to work fully qualified to lead a PRINCE2 team. It’s taken over the weekend with only 1 day out of the office - even your manager will have a hard time arguing with that.

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. 

Top Five resources to help you with your CCNA studies


The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is one of the most popular networking credentials. The certification demonstrates your abilities to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot small- and medium-sized routed and switched networks.

As the prerequisite for most of the more advanced Cisco certs, such as CCNA Security, CCVP or CCNP, the CCNA is a must-have for every networking professional.

So to help you get CCNA certified, we've put together the top five resources that will boost your studies and preparation.

#5 CCNA Blog

Blogs always come in handy when you want to read something less formal and difficult to digest, but still informative and useful. The CCNA Blog offers 40 CCENT & CCNA lessons, as well as a set of blog entries focusing on exam questions and the benefits of certifications.
Start reading through the lessons now and learn everything from “The world of networks” all the way to “IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6)”.

#4 is a popular source of certification news, press releases, reading materials and of course exam and revision tips. Whether you are preparing for your CCENT, CCNA or a concentration, such as the CCNA Security, you’ll find a useful set of quizzes and flashcards, that’ll help with your learning.

Sample question for CCNA Security: What protocol is responsible to synchronize clocks in a network using syslog?

Answer: NTP

Explanation: The Network Time Protocol (NTP) uses TCP port 123. Its purpose is to synchronize clocks of network devices. NTP is important because if attacked, an administrator will use syslog as a tool to identify when a device was compromised. It is also important when implementing NTP that version 3 or better is used, because of the additional security provider.

Find more questions and answers at:

#3 Firebrand Learn

Firebrand Learn is a free platform for self-study, designed to help you to acquire knowledge and prepare for world renowned certifications in the fields of IT, Security and Project Management.

Are you interested in the lab exercises for ICND1 and ICND2? Head over to Learn, where you can start right away. The two comprehensive lab guides will give you a good starting push to prepare for your CCNA certification:

#2 is the website of Wendell Odom, the best-selling author of Cisco certification books. As you can expect the world’s most respected Cisco expert offers a great amount of information on every Cisco certification out there.

However, exam guides and labs are not the only resources you’ll get. also dedicates a section to Cisco Lab Gear, describing the features of various switches, routers and topologies.

Image courtesy of Wendell Odom/

#1 The Cisco Learning Network

You can never go wrong with the official resources, so our #1 recommendation is The Cisco Learning Network, which is a fountain of useful information. The site features forum discussions, videos, games, study groups, FAQs, data sheets and other self-study resources, most of which are free, but there's some premium content too. 

In addition to the material, you can also view and participate in live technical webinars. If you miss them, you can always watch the recording.

Get started with your CCNA preparation here:

There you have it, the top five resources to help you with your CCNA studies. Discover them thoroughly to make sure that your efforts are rewarded with 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. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Higher education is crucial – You might not be aware of all the options


Over half of students in England and Wales have no back-up plan if they fail to get the grades they need, research by Which? University found.

Researchers questioned over 1000 17 and 18-year-olds and found that 54% said they had not made any preparations for the possibility that they might not get the grades for either their first or second choice universities.

A typical University degree isn’t the only way to progress your career

University is an experience, but it’s not for everyone and there are other paths to your dream career.  
It’s important that you don’t feel pressured into taking a university course that you don’t like. Tuition fees could be raised even further past their current £9,000-a-year cap. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you are paying £27,000 in tuition fees for a degree that you don’t value.

Make sure you are choosing university for the right reasons. Many often believe it is the only option, even if it doesn’t fit with your goals.

Students need to weigh up what their employment prospects will be after degree study against the debt they will accrue and seriously consider what an alternative educational and training route may bring in terms of expense, career progression and financial rewards,’ writes Jason Geall from The Student Room.

What else is there?

Avoid making a snap decision that could affect your future career and financial standing; educate yourself on all of the opportunities available.


You could be earning money, getting hands-on experience and making a real contribution to a company with an Apprenticeship. You’ll also completely bypass massive student debt and will finish your apprenticeship with more first-hand work experience than the majority of students graduating from university.

Apprenticeships combine hands-on experience with industry qualifications

What’s more, you’ll also get training leading to industry recognised qualifications. When 
you’re Apprenticeship ends you’ll be fully qualified to work. Plus, once you finish, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to stay with your employer and continue working. In fact, 98% of Firebrand Apprentices stay with their employer’s after their Apprenticeship finishes.

Thousands of organisations across the UK value and support their Apprentices. With a massive range of areas to work within, you’ll find a great entry-point to get on track to your dream career.

If you want to pursue a career in IT – you’re in luck. The IT industry is booming but the UK just can’t keep up with the demand for skilled professionals. As a result, we are currently experiencing a skills gap that could cost the UK as much as £2bn a year.

There are hundreds of great IT Apprenticeships available - with a bit of determination you’ll soon see your skills in demand across the country. The UK will need an additional 750,000 skilled digital workers by 2017 – you could be amongst this number.

School leaver’s programmes

A school leaver programme is a fixed-term, paid job available to students after sixth form that provides an intensive, structured training programme and in some cases, professional qualifications.

Over 300 top employers offer these competitive programmes and many more join this number each year. Companies are beginning to recognise the talent and enthusiasm younger students can bring to their organisations. As a result, they are investing time and money into training and developing their School Leaver programmes.

The majority of programmes offer a competitive salary and on top of that, you won’t have to pay for the valuable qualifications.

Sponsored Degrees

Sponsored degrees aren’t a typical university experience. Companies want to develop their own talented graduates by taking students and sponsoring them through degree level courses. The end result is a highly-trained graduate who understands their sponsor company in-depth.

You’d work with the company during holidays or work part-time and study at university for the rest of the time.

You’ll benefit from a salary and valuable work experience. Plus, you’re likely to finish your degree without any debt and be able to walk straight into a job with your company at the end of the process.

It’s important you consider your career choice as some sponsored schemes may require you to work for the company immediately after your graduate. Also, you will have a very different experience to most undergraduates – you will likely be working when others are socialising (especially during the holidays).

It’s not too late to plan ahead

Whatever you plan to do once you receive your results - keep Jason’s words in mind - "The worst thing would be making a snap decision under pressure that could affect a future career and finding yourself on a course you don't like.”

"There's still time, now, to get it right."

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.