Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Which Microsoft Azure certification is best for you?

 By Sarah Morgan


Adoption of cloud infrastructure is no longer a new trend or unknown entity. Cloud computing is now a mainstay in the IT industry and the numbers back this up. According to a 2016 IDC study, public cloud spending is growing at 6 times the rate of overall IT spending growth, due to reach £96 billion annually by 2019. Plus, there are now over 18 million cloud jobs worldwide.

Alongside cloud technology, usage of Microsoft Azure is also growing rapidly. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said there are now over 5 million organisations using Azure Active Directory, and over 50 trillion objects stored in Azure as a whole. This highlights the scale of Microsoft’s cloud operations, with Microsoft keen to grow and develop its cloud services in the near future.

Image from Microsoft
80% of Fortune 500 companies are now using Microsoft cloud technology and Azure is gaining 90,000 new customers a month. With worldwide adoption of Azure infrastructure increasing, having the skills to manage Azure systems is now a great asset to you and your business. Also, helping you take advantage of Azure’s benefits like Microsoft support resources, interoperability with many devices and high flexibility and versatility of Azure virtual machines. The range of Azure courses on offer has steadily grown alongside the cloud platform and there are now many to choose from, each offering you Azure skills suitable for different roles.  To help you decide which is best for you, in no particular order, below is a breakdown of all current Microsoft’s Azure certifications.


Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions


The Microsoft Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification is aimed at Server Engineers or Architects. It proves you know have the knowledge and skills to migrate your existing on premise architecture to Microsoft Azure. Perfect for anyone needing to migrate their legacy systems to the cloud where you'll need to create Azure virtual machines and networks, implement and manage Azure storage solutions, implement cloud and mobile services among other skills in migrating and implementing Azure.

To achieve the Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification, you’ll need to pass Microsoft exam 70-533. If you're looking to develop the skills and knowledge to pass this exam, you'll need to get to grips with course 20533B: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, which is aligned to the 70-533 exam. 

Firebrand has a 3 day accelerated version of the Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions course, 50% faster than traditional courses. You'll learn how to:

  • move your virtual machines, websites, storage and data services to Microsoft Azure
  • manage it all in the long term
  • get skilled up on Azure features like: 
    • Active Directory 
    • Content Delivery Network 
    • SQL Data Services 
    • managing Azure in a hybrid environment.

Image from Microsoft



Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions


The  Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions certification is aimed at Developers looking to specialise and take their skills onto Azure. This certification proves you can create an environment for web development on Azure virtual machines as well as design cloud applications on Azure.

You need to pass Microsoft Exam 70-532 to achieve the certification. You should look to sit course 20532B: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions as this is aligned to the 70-532 exam.  This will give you the best possible chance of getting Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions certified.

Firebrand has an accelerated 3 day Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions course. This is 50% faster than traditional training courses and will teach you to develop the following skills: 

  • ASP.NET web architecture and development skills 
  • Hosting on Azure 
  • Storage and management of SQL data on Azure.

Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions


The Microsoft Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions certification is most suited to Azure Cloud Architects or Azure Consultants. It demonstrates your skills to design and manage the technologies Azure offers and how they work together. It is best suited to those looking to design public and hybrid Azure solutions in their business.

In order to achieve the Microsoft Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions certification, you’ll need to pass exam 70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions. Whilst there is no specific course aligned to the exam, you can sit Firebrand’s accelerated 7 day course which includes all the skills you’ll need for the 70-534 exam. It covers topics like:

  • Designing best practices for virtual networks 
  • Network Security Groups (NSGs) and how they help to create perimeter networks
  • System Centre products and how they integrate with Azure


MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect


The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is the most comprehensive Azure specific certification currently available and combines all three of the Specialist certifications. As the title suggests, it is aimed at Azure Solutions Architects, proving you have all the skills to design, build and deploy an entire solution on Azure. To achieve the certification, you have to pass all three specialist exams 70-532, 70-533 and 70-534.

This means the best way to pass these is to sit all three Microsoft Specialist courses,  aligned to each exam. 

The best way to this is by sitting Firebrand’s accelerated 7 day MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect course, which is 40% faster than traditional training. It includes curriculum for Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure SolutionsDeveloping Microsoft Azure Solutions and Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, which are aligned to all three exams. This covers the full range of Azure topics including:

  • Designing cloud applications for resiliency
  • Hosting web applications on Azure
  • Implementing and managing virtual networks
  • Planning and implementing data services 

MCSA: Linux on Azure


The newest Azure certification on the market, the MCSA: Linux on Azure, is the first ever certification from a Microsoft and Linux collaboration. It is aimed at Linux Systems Administrators, Engineers and support staff. It proves your skills as a Linux systems administrator and your abilities to migrate and use these systems on Microsoft Azure.

You need to pass exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions and the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam. Sitting courses 20533B and LFS220: Linux System Administration will prepare you for both exams. 

On LFS220, you’ll learn about Linux processes, filesystems, backup and recovery methods and networking. The 20533B course will then cover Azure migration, so you can use your Linux systems on Azure. Firebrand has an accelerated MCSA: Linux on Azure course, which can get you certified in just 5 days.


What else?


As well as the Azure specific certifications we’ve mentioned above, there are other Microsoft certifications that include very useful skills relating to Azure. These could be useful to you before specialising with an Azure certification. Check out a breakdown of these below:

MCSA: Windows 10 – Microsoft’s cross-platform vision is led by Windows 10 and included in this is its combination and integration with Azure. Microsoft’s MCSA: Windows 10 certification is aimed at Support Technicians and Systems Administrators and teaches you about security, administration and technical support for Microsoft’s newest operating system. Crucially, the course also covers how to integrate Windows 10 with Microsoft Azure and features like Active Directory, Microsoft Intune and Azure Rights Management. 

MCSA: Office 365 – Office 365 is a cloud-based technology. This means it is closely linked to Azure. Much of what the MCSA: Office 365 covers is integrating Office 365 with supporting technologies including Azure Active Directory, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. All of these are based in the cloud. Getting MCSA: Office 365 certified is a great way to start building your cloud and Azure skills, whilst of course getting in depth skills on Office 365. This certification is aimed at Systems Administrators looking to specialise in Office 365, or if you need to setup Office 365 in your business.

MCSA: Windows Server 2012 – Getting certified in another of Microsoft’s most prominent technologies is most useful for Server Engineers, Server Support or Server Administrators. It gives you all the skills to implement, configure and manage Windows Server 2012. The certification also includes a brief overview of Azure and how Windows Server 2012 relates to it. This is an important factor as many System Administrators are using Azure cloud infrastructure that uses Windows Server 2012. If you’re planning to run your Azure architecture with Windows Server 2012, this certification gives you a useful bridge between the two technologies.


Now you know what skills each Azure certification demonstrates, you should be able to find an Azure certification that helps you achieve your goals. The range of Azure certifications from Microsoft is still relatively young and growing and as Azure develops, so will the accompanying certifications. This means if there isn’t an Azure certification that helps you do exactly what you need right now, Microsoft may well develop one in the near future.

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, 14 April 2016

5 ways the UK Government is rewarding Firebrand IT apprentice employers

 By Sarah Morgan

With apprenticeship starts making up 22% of the total number of people starting higher education in 2015, the UK Government is accelerating its Apprenticeships reforms in England. Substantial changes in legislation have already been made as part of a wider plan to make apprenticeships more accessible for employers, students and the industry.

Not only are current employers enjoying the financial and practical benefits of hiring an IT apprentice, they’re also taking advantage of the rewards offered by the UK government by doing so. Here’s how employers are benefitting from hiring IT apprentices – and how you could too...

1. Access brand new Trailblazer Apprenticeship programmes

The Trailblazer Initiative has given employers in the IT industry the power to design brand new apprenticeship standards. These standards have been specifically designed by major players and SMEs in the IT sector - so we know that our IT apprentices get certified with the right skills for their employer.

The IT Trailblazer group is constantly developing new standards to bring to the industry, meaning employers and their apprentices know their training programme is right for them. To see a full list of Firebrand programmes, head to our programmes page.

2. Pay nothing on National Insurance

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has scrapped all Employer National Insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25. This means that as of April 2016, it’s now even better value for you to hire IT apprentices as a way of bringing new skills to your business.

3. Access the £2.5 billion apprenticeships budget

The UK government has put aside over £2.5 billion towards training apprentices until 2020, according to FE Week. From April 2017, employers who pay more than £3 million in wage bills (less than 2% of businesses) will pay a 0.5% payroll levy to fund apprenticeships in England. Unclaimed funds from contributing employers of the Apprenticeship Levy will be used to support apprenticeships at 5.3 million employers, providing the financial means to upskill and develop their staff with apprenticeships.

4. Get paid to hire IT apprentices

Trailblazer Apprenticeship employers receive up to £10,800 in cash incentives from the government. How much money you receive depends on a few factors, including the size of your business and the age of your apprentice.

5. Only pay a third of all training costs

Trailblazer IT apprenticeship programmes like Level 3 Infrastructure Technician and Level 4 Network Engineer are eligible for maximum funding from the government. This means that for every £1,000 you contribute to your apprentice's training, the government adds a further £2,000 – so you’ll pay a maximum of a third of the costs to train with Tech Industry Gold providers like Firebrand.



With apprenticeships high on the agenda for this government, now’s the time to reconsider how you or your business will be bringing in new tech talent in 2016.



Friday, 8 April 2016

5 tips to help you pass your Six Sigma Green Belt exam

 By Sarah Morgan


Lean Six Sigma’s Green Belt certification introduces managers to process improvement, waste minimisation and value maximisation. You don’t need to possess any specific prerequisites to take the Green Belt exam. It is aimed at professionals with a definite interest or need for process improvement techniques in their role. 

If this sounds like you, and you’d like to implement Lean Six Sigma’s methodologies in your workplace, the Green Belt certification can be of huge benefit. It teaches you to reduce errors, control costs, streamline processes and improve the success rates of your team’s projects.

Below are a list of tips to help you study for the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt exam. These will help you gain as much knowledge and skills as possible whilst preparing for the exam. Follow these study tips and you should have the best possible chance at exam success.

1. Practice questions


The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt exam is in a multiple choice format. Whilst it’s clearly extremely important to gain as much knowledge as you can, try and tailor your exam preparation around the format. Completing numerous practice tests is the best way you can do this, honing your exam technique.

sixsigmastudyguide.com has a broad collection of practice tests, exams and questions from a range of sources. This gives you good variety in the sorts of tests and questions you’re answering, whilst still remaining true to the real thing. 

Another website useful for your Lean Six Sigma studies is sixsigmatrainingfree.com. This also has a great selection of resources. This includes practice exams specifically for Green Belt as well as for general Six Sigma study. It also contains a host of other resources that can help you answer any questions or issues that arise during your studies. 

2. Use a Lean Six Sigma study guide


There are a wide range of study guides specifically designed to help you study for the Green Belt exam, as you may have seen in our previous post, “10 best books to help you pass your Six Sigma certification”. This post gives you further detail on Lean Six Sigma study guides. However, for your Green Belt exam, either or both of the two below will be sure to help your studies.

The “Six SIGMA Green Belt Study Guide: Test Prep and Practice Questions for the Six SIGMA Green Belt Exam” from Trivium Test Prep is the one of the most direct study guides available for the Green Belt exam. It doesn’t include any distractions from what you need to know, whilst still fully explaining every exam topic. The book’s uncomplicated style makes for very efficient and productive studying. 

If you don’t learn best through intense study and revision, there is a study guide that can assist you through practical learning for the Green Belt exam. If you’re already trying to implement Lean Six Sigma methodologies in your team or business, the “Lean Six Sigma and Minitab (4th Edition): The Complete Toolbox Guide for Business Improvement” by Quentin Brook, is the book for you. This is designed to give practical advice to people using Lean Six Sigma. Having already sold over 100,000 copies, it helps managers implement process improvement all over the globe. Its features include easy to navigate DMAIC tabs, interactive examples and logical routemaps through the Six Sigma DMAIC flow. 

3. Sit a course


The best way to prepare for any certification’s exam, is to sit a course. They are specially designed to give you as much knowledge and skills as possible to pass the exam and to use the methodology in the real business environment. The benefits you receive depend of the type of course you choose to sit. A classroom based course gives you the benefits of an instructor available at all times to answer your questions as well as other students learning at the same pace who you can bounce questions and ideas off. 

Firebrand’s accelerated and combined Green and Black belt course gives you 12 hour training days, giving you the most learning time possible in a distraction free environment. You can also learn skills from the Black Belt certification while your Green Belt knowledge is still fresh. 

4. Immerse yourself in the methodology


With many topics and exams, an invaluable tip would be to get hands on and learn through your experiences with a trial version of the product or technology. With the Lean Six Sigma methodology, that’s a little trickier. The best alternative though, is to immerse yourself as much as you can in Lean Six Sigma outside of directly studying for your exam.

To do this, you should take advantage of the myriad of websites, blogs and other content available online that gives you information on Lean Six Sigma at a Green Belt level. For example, www.leansixsigmaninja.com is an excellent website created by a Green Belt alumni that breaks down Green Belt in a straightforward and easily digestible fashion. It has a lot of information for “newbies” and explains many of Lean Six Sigma’s tools and terminologies. Getting truly familiar with these will help your learning a great deal going forward.

There are many writers out there blogging about the latest trends and developments in Lean Six Sigma, and specifically the Green Belt’s exam content. Reading and staying current with these can give you a wider understanding of the methodology; how it’s evolving and how your knowledge and skills can be utilised in the real world business environment. Check out the full list of 20 Lean Six Sigma blogs here.

5. Use a Six Sigma Green Belt forum

Image courtesy of David Castillo
Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net

Due to the broad and widely applicable nature of project management there are a wide range of forums and discussions you can find online – all with varying levels of quality. One the best out there, with a large number of contributors and topics is from isixsigma.com. It has a comprehensive range of Lean Six Sigma topics and is nicely divided into topic areas for easy navigation. As with all online forums though, be aware that not everyone is an expert and not all contributions will be applicable or useful. 


If you use these five tips, you should give yourself the best possible chance of passing the Lean Six Sigma Green belt exam. Also, learning as much as you can in preparation for the exam, should put you in a great position after the exam to bringing the knowledge you’ve learned into your business, improving processes and reducing errors.

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, 1 April 2016

Shock your brain into learning faster

 By Sarah Morgan


Now you can learn Microsoft in minutes and Cisco in seconds, thanks to neurostimulation. Firebrand Training is firing electric energy at students’ brains in the classroom, with astounding results. They call this ‘electric-learning’, or e-learning for short.

As the providers of Accelerated Learning, Firebrand Training is constantly looking for new ways to help its students learn faster. They’ve now taken this to controversial new levels, by sending electric signals to students’ brains through a futuristic headset. All with very few side effects…

It sounds like something from the Matrix; though increased brain functionality is possible using neurostimulation. Through transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) a constant current is applied to the surface of the scalp, which increases cognitive performance.

Introducing the Firebrand FastLearn Headset


Firebrand’s Learning Labs have worked with the country’s leading scientists to develop the FastLearn Headset. The student puts the headset on for 10 minutes just three times a day, and their learning speed is supercharged to 10 times the speed of traditional training. The headset wraps a magnetic coil over the student’s scalp, inducing an electrical current in the brain.

Scientific studies have proven that tDCS has the ability to enhance attention span, problem solving and memory. This is because synapses are jolted to conduct nerve impulses 10 times faster, allowing information to pass between neurons more quickly.

How to learn at 10 times the speed of regular training


Studies showed students using tDCS were able to learn technical IT skills 10 times faster than the control group. Weeks later the students still had those new skills, meaning tDCS allowed them to unlock their brains’ true potential.

Firebrand’s Lead Instructor Yardis Alpolfo explains: “Firebrand students learn through 12-hour training days, so every four hours they come to our FastLearn Lounge, to get a quick blast of electricity to the brain. Neurostimulation has been proven to be completely safe, through rigorous FDA clinical trials. We’ve trialled the headset on some of our staff; all are expected to make a full recovery, and only a few have lost their hair.”

“We also offer IT apprenticeships, and the younger generation are mad for the tDCS. They’re gaining a lifetime’s worth of IT knowledge in a week – and taking this back to the office and embarrassing their bosses. Now those bosses are sending more of their staff to Firebrand to learn faster.”



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.