Monday, 21 December 2015

10 best IT certifications for 2016

 By Sarah Morgan


1. (ISC)2’s CISSP


The Cyber security skills gap has been around for years now, and shows no sign of closing. The Financial Times described it as the “largest human capital shortage in the world”. (ISC)2’s CISSP continues to establish itself as the top IT certification and global standard in the field and is the perfect certification to elevate you into top level roles. It’s also now required by a vast amount of top jobs. 

It is so coveted because it covers the elite skills in both technical and managerial aspects of security including security engineering, risk management, access management, software development security and network security.

The demand for IT security will continue to soar in 2016 and getting CISSP certified will continue to be a fantastic way to reach the top security roles within the growing industry.


2. EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker


EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker certification can be directly used to prevent the cyber-attacks that have been making headline news recently. Ethical hackers carry out processes to simulate a real life cyber-attack on a business’s network. The difference being that when they find a weakness that could be maliciously exploited, they use their skills to protect businesses and close the gaps in security.

Because of these high profile attacks, such as JP Morgan Chase who recently lost 76 million data records, EC-Council’s CEH is continuing to be in high demand. This means the CEH is going to continue to grow to become a massive certification in the IT industry in 2016. 


Image courtesy of EC-Council

3. Cisco’s CCNA (Routing and Switching)


The skills gap is not exclusive to security. In a recent TEK Systems survey, 81% of bosses from all areas of IT say they have difficulty finding the right talent. Another of the most in demand areas is networking.

Cisco’s CCNA (Routing and Switching) is the best certification for you to get into a networking role and teaches you all the fundamental skills in areas like IP addressing, network device security, IP routing and LAN switching technologies.

The CCNA is not just a great certification to get into networking, but is a great certification to get into IT. This is because these skills are versatile, and networking is applicable in many other areas of IT. Getting CCNA certified in 2016 is a great move to get your IT and networking career moving in one of the best directions possible.


4. Microsoft Specialist: Windows 10


The release of Windows 10 back in July was probably one of the most exciting IT events of 2015. Certifications to accompany it, helping you get skilled up on the operating system are rapidly being released.

The primary certification for Windows 10 in 2016 is likely to be the new Microsoft Specialist: Windows 10. Following Microsoft Official Curriculum, the course will take you right through from installing Windows 10, to using all of Windows 10’s advanced capabilities. These include managing user profiles and state virtualisation, managing Hyper-V and managing devices using Enterprise Mobility Solutions and Enterprise Desktop.

With further development to the content and refinement as more and more people get certified, Microsoft Specialist: Windows 10 will be one of the certifications to get excited about in 2016.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

5. AXELOS PRINCE 2 AGILE


Brilliant managers who complete successful projects at a high rate are hard to find. This is why project management skills are useful in almost any workplace at almost any time, particularly in IT.

The PRINCE2 Agile certification from Axelos is one of the most comprehensive in the world as it combines two of the most popular project management methodologies. PRINCE2, the most popular methodology in the UK, along with Agile, give you unrivaled breadth of project management knowledge from a certification.

Learn the highly transferable skills that the PRINCE2 and Agile methodologies include, and you’ll be much more able to move up the careers ladder, completing successful projects at a higher rate. 


6. The Open Group TOGAF® 9.1 Certification


1000s of companies worldwide have implemented TOGAF skills to improve their productivity and the UK leads this trend accounting for 16% of all TOGAF certified professionals. Continuing this trend, many businesses are now making a TOGAF certification a requirement for a wide variety of roles in IT. 

This trend of more businesses adopting Enterprise Architecture skills like those in TOGAF, means getting certified in 2016 will be a great move for almost anyone in IT. Gaining skills and knowledge in the Architecture Development Method (ADM), The Enterprise Continuum and the TOGAF Resource Base can help you get a better return from your IT operations, helping things run faster, cheaper and reducing risk.


7. Microsoft MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect


Cloud technology made huge strides in 2015, becoming much more important to businesses and the momentum will continue throughout 2016 and beyond. In the coming year we’re likely to see an increase in the capacity and reliability of cloudops - analytics that will allow cloud performance to be monitored more closely and predict when it is likely to suffer.

Microsoft’s Azure is at the forefront of the cloud movement. If you haven’t migrated your existing on premise infrastructure to Azure (or another cloud offering), 2016 is a great time to get your business’s architecture prepared for the future.

Getting Microsoft MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certified will teach you how to integrate into one of the world’s leading cloud platforms. You’ll have the skills to migrate your business’s architecture to the cloud, managing Azure Virtual machines and the hosting and storing of web applications and SQL data.

You’ll then be able to start reaping the benefits cloud technology brings like increased flexibility, simpler disaster recovery, better security, automatic software updates and capital-free expenditure.


8. (ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) 



(ISC)2’s CCSP specialises in cloud security. The above-mentioned growing cloud market needs IT professionals to adopt vital skills including security, another industry currently in high demand.

The CCSP will teach you comprehensive knowledge of cloud security operations. It covers data protection, data recovery, access management, the software development lifecycle and every aspect of cloud infrastructure protection.


Image courtesy of FutUndBeidl/Flickr
2016 is a fantastic time to get cloud certified. As the technology continues to develop and expand, more professionals with cloud skills will be needed to deploy and maintain cloud architectures. It’s worth mentioning those who are slow to adapt their skills to the cloud now, will be left regretting it in the future when cloud technology becomes the norm.

9. VMware® vSphere: Fast Track [V6]


VMware’s vSphere v6 was released earlier this year and is now established in the market. It is the best way to learn how to introduce and manage a vSphere infrastructure into your business. Version 6 introduced new capacities, supporting up to 64 nodes and 8.000 VMs as well as 12 vCPUs and 4 TB vRAM. These now allow you to make more of the high availability, hardware flexibility, reduced power consumption and faster provisioning that VMware and vSphere can bring to your business and help make it more efficient.

All of this means that 2016 is an excellent time for you to introduce vSphere to your business with the skills the VMware® vSphere: Fast Track [V6] certification can give you. Or if you’re already implementing vSphere, learning to use vCenter Server, manage host storage, configure virtual networks, create a vApp and how to install vSphere components will be valuable in improving how you currently manage the technology.

10. Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2016


The launch of Microsoft’s Windows Server 2016 platform has been highly anticipated. Since early 2015 Microsoft has been drip-feeding snippets of information about their new offering and while the technology is still yet to be officially launched, Microsoft did recently announce the launch of the MCSA: Windows Server 2016 certification. Firebrand also had the fantastic opportunity to have a sneak-peek at Windows Server 2016 back in August which further built anticipation.


The exact curriculum still remains unannounced, but the course will teach you to implement and manage Windows Server 2016, as well as covering server security, storage and architecture management. It will be exciting to see what developments Microsoft has for their new Windows Server platform in 2016, as well as the MCSA that will accompany it. 

Many people are already eager to get skilled on the latest Microsoft technology and as the certification officially launches, it will be one of the hottest new certifications to hit the market in 2016.

 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, 7 December 2015

Which IT security certification should you choose in 2016?


Security is the hottest topic in IT at the moment. Numerous high-profile IT security breaches mean  businesses are upping their game to ensure they’re not the next company in the headlines. British Airways, TalkTalk, Uber, T-Mobile, Sony and Staples are just some of the companies that have had records breached since the beginning of 2015.

This means the demand for IT security skills has never been higher. For example, the government announced it’s doubling the cyber security budget to £1.9 billion over the next five years. This is to protect government assets and information, UK businesses and citizens. Also, ComputerWeekly.com state that 14% of all UK IT jobs are now cyber security related, with 42 universities now offering cyber security related degrees. Take advantage of this demand by improving your security skills through certifications, helping you to protect your business or move up the ladder of IT security roles.



Solid Foundations


If you’re not yet involved in IT security, now is a great time to start. A solid starting point to build your foundation knowledge is CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ certifications. To sit the courses, you only need 6-12 months of hand’s-on experience and familiarity of Windows operating systems. Achieving the A+ would help you get an IT Support Technician role with an average salary of £24,000. (*All average salaries from itjobswatch.co.uk).

The Network+ could get you a Network Support Technician with an average salary of £30,000. These CompTIA certifications give you skills in network architecture, operations, security and troubleshooting. These will give you strong foundations from which to grow your skills in future.

Image courtesy of Yuri Samoilov/flickr.com

After 2 years’ experience and further understanding of operating systems, you’ll be ready to take a more advanced certification. You can take CompTIA’s Security+. It’s a deeper look at IT security from CompTIA, teaching you skills in compliance and operational security, threats and vulnerabilities, access control and identity management and cryptography. This certification can help you achieve a role like Security Engineer with an average salary of £52,500.

An alternative to the Security+ that’ll teach you different skills, is Cisco’s CCNA Security. You’ll learn to apply security through the in-built features of Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System. Focused more towards the management side of IT security, you’ll learn how to develop security infrastructures, recognise threats and vulnerabilities to networks and mitigate security threats. However, the CCENT or CCNA Routing & Switching certification is required before you can attempt the CCNA Security.

Building your skills


When you’ve gained a year or more’s experience in the IT security industry, you’ll be looking to get skills that’ll help you stand out and push you up the career ladder. (ISC)2’s SSCP is a great certification to help you do that. It teaches you security skills in areas like access controls, malicious code, networks and telecommunications and security policy administration. Also, there are seven reputable domains created from (ISC)2’s SSCP CBK (common body of knowledge). With skills like these, you could get a role like Security Engineer with an average salary of £52,500. Achieving a certification like the SSCP will help separate you from other mid-level IT security professionals and help your transition into elite level IT security roles.

An alternative is ISACA’s Certified Cybersecurity Practitioner CSX, which is broken down into three levels. Level one teaches you how to identify weaknesses and protect your network. Level two covers detecting cyber-security incidents and attack analysis. And in the third level you’ll learn how to respond to and recover from cyber-attacks. These are broken down into five domains of Identification, Protection, Detection, Respond and Recover, contained within ISACA’s new security program, the Cybersecurity Nexus. This certification introduces you to the Cybersecurity field and can help you become a Cybersecurity Specialist with an average salary of  £59,000. If you wanted to focus on the technical side of IT security, the CSX Practitioner program would be a great place to start as it builds practical skills relevant to real world situations.

Specialising in security management


Generally speaking, management and technical are the two major directions of specialisation in which you can take your IT security career. A great certification to train your management skills is ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor. You need a minimum of five years’ experience in the information systems auditing, control or security. In the CISA, you’ll learn how to audit, manage, maintain and support information systems. The skills will help you protect the information assets of your company. This certification can help you become a IT Security Officer with an average salary of £55,000.

You can take your management skills further by taking ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager. The CISM requires a similar amount of experience to the CISA, but you are able to sacrifice experience for a degree or other certifications. You’ll learn to establish and manage a security governance framework and how to align it with your company’s goals and objectives. Your CISM certification can help you become an IT Audit Manager, with an average salary of £70,000.

Specialising in technical security


When you’ve established your career, if you’d like to take it down the more technical route there are several ways in which you can do this. Cisco’s CCNP Security helps you develop your network security skills to defend your systems. You’ll learn how to use Cisco Switches, Cisco ASA and the router security appliance feature. The CCNP Security will help you become a Network Security Engineer (average salary of £50,000). This is because on the CCNP Security you’ll learn to deploy perimeter security and VPNs, monitor and detect security events and manage network security to improve productivity.

GIAC’s Penetration Tester (GPEN) teaches you the skills to find and nullify security vulnerabilities. You’ll learn to protect your business and stop weaknesses from being exploited. You’ll develop skills in areas like exploitation fundamentals, vulnerability scanning, password attacks, reconnaissance, scanning for targets and the pen-testing process. The GPEN is one of the most recognised penetration testing certifications and can help you get a penetration testing role with an average salary of £60,000.

Image courtesy of hin255/freedigitalphotos.net
You can also specialise to become an Ethical Hacker. EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker is the best certification to help you do this. It contains 18 established domains that cover topics like malware threats, social engineering, session hijacking, hacking web servers and cloud computing. These skills will help you protect your business by identifying weaknesses that are susceptible to cyber-attacks and preventing them from being exploited by genuine security threats. The average salary for an Ethical Hacker is £75,000.




Mastering IT security


(ISC)2’s CISSP is often considered the gold standard certification for IT security professionals. It is comprehensive in its coverage of both the managerial and technical sides of IT security. You’re eligible for the CISSP after five years’ experience. The CISSP CBK (common body of knowledge) contains eight domains covering topics like security engineering, communication and network security, software development security and security testing. The CISSP can set you on your way to getting a Chief Information Security Officer job, with a salary in excess of £100,000.

An alternative to the CISSP, is the CCSP which will give you skills in cloud computing security. This contains topics like cloud data security, cloud application security and architectural concepts and design requirements. As more businesses move to cloud technology, it’s becoming a bigger target for hackers. This means data stored in the cloud needs a new approach by security teams to properly protect it. This certification will give you the skills to master the security within cloud systems.

If you’re in a top IT security role, you can add extensions to your CISSP. The CISSP-ISSMP will further develop your security management skills. It tackles legal issues, plus project and risk management within IT security. The CISSP-ISSAP is the technical equivalent and teaches you advanced skills in areas like access control systems, communications and network security  and security architecture analysis.


IT security has so many areas that you have the luxury of being able to pick and choose the direction you career can take within it using certifications. This allows you to protect your business in each area by improving your skills exactly how you want.

 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, 3 December 2015

Office 365 Global Outage

There is currently a severity "A" global outage with Microsoft affecting Office 365; this includes access to the Service Health Dashboard so official information from Microsoft is sparse at this time.

“I confirm that Office 365 Portal is undergoing a global breakdown, and users are not able to log in. Our engineering team is working on it right now, as it is our top priority. “ - Microsoft Partner Cloud Regional Support Centre.

This will affect all Office 365 applications including the SharePoint Portal and online services to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The issue currently affecting services appears to be the inability to load login screens. 

Starting at approximately 09:00 on 3rd December, the outage is primarily affecting Microsoft's European region. Microsoft has linked the outage to issues affecting Azure Active Directory.

Are you affected?