Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Frequently Asked Questions about MCSE: Private Cloud


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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


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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


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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


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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/Freedigitalphotos.net

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


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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

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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.