Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Catch Cisco's TechHuddle in a city near you


By Sarah Morgan


Find out how to transform your IT infrastructure with Fast IT when Cisco’s TechHuddle road show returns in February 2015.


What is the Cisco TechHuddle?

TechHuddle is Cisco’s quarterly technical update, including live events and webinars from across the UK and Ireland. You’ll experience an interactive mix of essential Cisco tech updates and live demos.

These events, specially curated for technologists, are focused on discussion. You’ll be able to share your own experiences, opinions and challenges with like-minded professionals and Cisco experts.






This quarter the TechHuddle is focusing on Fast IT Orchestration with Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and UCS Director.

Fast IT allows IT departments to shift resources from providing basic services, to focus on innovation. You’ll be able to reduce IT complexity without sacrificing agility and security, addressing the concerns of IT decision-makers.

Instead of focusing on ‘keeping the lights on,’ IT departments can focus on orchestrating strategic outcomes on behalf of the business.



Agenda:

09.30 - Arrival and Coffee

10.00 - Opening and Introduction

10.15 - Fast It - The policy defined Datacentre

We see IT departments having to focus on innovation, shifting resources from “keeping the lights on” to delivering more strategic outcomes for the business. Transitions such as Agile development practices, the rise of the DevOps movement, Software Defined Networking are changing the way we deliver, manage and operate the infrastructure that underpins the businesses IT capability.

10.45 - Making Fast IT a reality

This session will look at the latest Cisco technologies that can be used to make Fast IT a reality. We will look at the components that can be used, how application, networking, security and server teams can use different tools, techniques and technologies to deliver dynamic DataCentre solutions.

11.30 - Break and chat with Cisco Experts

12.00 - Order and provision a 3-tier app

This session will cover the Fast IT concepts needed in building a three-tier web application. It will demonstrate the steps to provide a self-service portal, enabling users to order services and have them automatically delivered and billed. Using ACI and UCS Director, all system, network, security and application configuration is delivered in-line with enterprise policy.

13.15 - Wrap up and final Q&A

13.30 - Lunch and chat with Cisco Experts

14.00 - Close


Catch Cisco at a city near you

Discover the full potential of an agile Cisco environment when the road show makes its way across the UK:

  • Reading - 5th February, 2015 
  • Dublin - 10th February, 2015 
  • London - 10th February, 2015 
  • Glasgow - 11th February, 2015 
  • Manchester - 12th February, 2015 

Specific locations are available on Cisco’s TechHuddle site. Register now to secure your place at this quarter’s TechHuddle roadshow.

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, 16 January 2015

Microsoft ends mainstream support for Windows 7


By Sarah Morgan


Mainstream support for Windows 7, the world’s most popular operating system, ended on Tuesday.

Windows 7 is now entering an extended support phase that will continue until at least January 14 2020. After this January date it will take its place aside the now unsupported Windows XP operating system.




What is Extended Support? 

On the 13 January 2015, Windows 7 entered Extended Support. That means support for users will now consist solely of security updates. 

Users will now miss out on free incident support, warranty claims, fixes for non-security bugs, design changes and feature requests. Users will also no longer receive new features or be able to call Microsoft for free tech support regarding issues with the OS.

Essentially, Windows 7 will not be receiving any more significant updates, though security vulnerabilities will still be dealt with. There’s nothing to worry about, so long as you regularly run Windows Update

You can also take a look at the Windows Lifecycle page for additional upcoming sale and support dates covering Microsoft’s desktop operating systems. 


The world’s most popular operating system 

In October 2014 Microsoft ceased shipping Windows 7 to retailers. But despite the operating system now only being available to consumers whilst stocks last, it remains the world’s most popular operating system with over 50% market share. The release of Windows 8 didn’t do much to damage this market share but that’s set to change with the release of Windows 10.

If you’re sticking to an older Windows OS, 2015 is set to be the year to upgrade. Windows 10 is around the corner and with it comes the return of the start menu, as well as a host of other improvements. And if you are running Windows 8, you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free





Find out more about what to expect from Windows 10 here.


Related Articles:
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, 15 January 2015

Best Cloud Certifications for 2015


By Sarah Morgan


Certifications are a great way for IT professionals to prove that their knowledge and skills are up-to-date. They can be especially crucial in a fast moving industry like cloud computing, where importance is placed on keeping up with new technology or running the risk of becoming outdated.

Cloud now encompasses hybrid, public and private technologies as well as the software and dedicated hardware that enables these systems to work together. For businesses to reap the full benefits of cloud these systems must be built, maintained and secured by skilled IT professionals.


Taking cloud a bit too literally...
photo by George Thomas, licensed under Creative Commons














 
Industry experience combined with official certification can go a long way to getting you hired by businesses in need of cloud-skilled employees. So, if you need to advance your cloud knowledge or are looking for a career-changing technology in 2015, some of these certifications may be just what you need. Let's take a look at the best cloud certifications for 2015:

1. CompTIA Cloud+

The CompTIA Cloud+ will validate your cloud knowledge and prove you understand the best practices required to work within cloud environments. 

This certification has been designed by CompTIA to act as a career step toward cloud focused roles for experienced network, storage and data administrators. Because of this, it’s recommend you have at least 2-3 years’ experience with networking, storage or data centre administration as well as familiarity with hypervisor technologies. 

With the Cloud+ you’ll prove you can:

  • Understand the available cloud delivery models and services
  • Maintain, implement and provide cloud infrastructure 
  • Explain, identify and implement security techniques
  • Implement and use resource monitoring techniques

The Cloud+ is a well-rounded certification used in a wide range of jobs from cloud engineer to business analyst. 

If you’re more interested in cloud technology from a business and technical perspective, we recommend you take a look at CompTIA’s Cloud Essential certification. This alternative certification focuses on the business value of cloud, steps to successful adoption and the risks and consequences of the technology.


2. Microsoft Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions

Microsoft’s Public Cloud service, Microsoft Azure is gaining popularity worldwide with 1000s of new customers joining every day. Microsoft have made a clear commitment to Azure, investing over $15 billion in building and maintaining the datacentres that power the platform.

To complement their cloud portfolio and to encourage Azure uptake, Microsoft introduced two new specialist certifications in 2014.

The first of these – Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions – is focused at IT developers with basic experience in implementing and monitoring Microsoft Azure solutions.
Achieve this certification and you’ll be able to establish your own Azure virtual network environment, construct Azure Virtual Machines, host azure websites and design your own resilient cloud applications.




If you already hold the MCSD: Web Application cert, this qualification is a brilliant way for you to achieve a rounded understanding of the Azure platform.

To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass Microsoft Exam: 70-532. Plus, both specialist certs do not require any pre-requisites as they are not part of Microsoft’s typical certification track.


3. Microsoft Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Solutions

The second of Microsoft’s new specialist Azure certifications is aimed at experienced IT professionals who administer on-premise infrastructure. As such, you’ll be expected to possess an understanding of virtualisation, network configuration, Active Directory, and database concepts.
Complete this certification and you’ll prove your ability to:

  • Implement and manage virtual networking within Azure
  • Plan and create Azure virtual machines
  • Deploy and configure websites in Azure
  • Manage and backup monitor storage solutions

To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-533. Both specialist certs do not require any pre-requisites as they are not part of Microsoft’s typical certification track.


4. VMware® vSphere 5.5

When it comes to cloud, experience with virtualization technology is "very important, since that's essentially what makes cloud computing more flexible and increases utilization," argues Wendy Duarte, vice president of recruiting at Mondo.

As one of the fundamental technologies powering cloud computing, it’s no surprise that a virtualisation certification would feature on our top 5 list.

VMware’s Mike Adams states the relationship between virtualisation and cloud succinctly, - “Virtualization is a foundational element of cloud computing and helps deliver on the value of cloud computing…Cloud computing is the delivery of shared computing resources, software or data — as a service and on-demand through the Internet."

Products like VMware vSphere allow businesses to cut the cost of their server sprawl by running multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer, which can then be easily accessed remotely.

vSphere 5.5 eliminates the need to run several sub-optimal servers, but as always, it takes skilled IT professionals to implement and manage this powerful technology. So, to sharpen your virtualisation skills or to take the first steps towards bringing virtualisation to your organisation, we recommend you take a look at VMware’s vSphere 5.5 certification

Find out more about vSphere 5.5 here, but bear in mind, this certification may change with the release of vSphere 6 sometime in 2015.


5. Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

Security is a primary concern for businesses pre and post cloud migration. With the CCSK, you’ll prove you can handle cloud security vulnerabilities.

The CCSK is a web-based certification that tests for a broad knowledge of cloud security and includes topics from architecture, governance, compliance, operations, encryption and virtualisation.

To complete this cert you’ll need to pass the CCSK examination: a 60-question multiple choice exam, completed within 90 minutes. Don’t be fooled by the open-book nature of this assessment - you simply won’t have enough time to research every answer individually (and still pass).

It’s worth noting that the CCSK is not a substitute for other cloud certifications. Instead, the CCSK augments your other credentials by proving your knowledge and competency in cloud computing security.

The CCSK is a great supporting certification for IT professionals holding ISACA’s CISA qualification. CISAs emphasise that the CCSK provides the necessary context and focus to effectively audit cloud environments.
Plus, the CCSK can also be employed effectively aside (ISC)2’s CISSP due to the parallels between both certifications Bodies of Knowledge. Additionally, the CCSK builds upon the CISSP by providing context that is important to the cloud.

Since Cloud Security Alliance first released their Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) in 2010, thousands of IT and security professionals have utilised it as an effective way to upgrade their skills. 


Prove your knowledge

Cloud computing, one of Gartner’s top 10 technology trends for 2015, has already attracted 90% of businesses who now operate using the technology. Cloud’s flexible cost scaling and cost saving has resulted in a massive demand for cloud-ready IT professionals. 

In fact, 65% of IT departments can’t find enough qualified staff to support their cloud projects, report IDC. 

Now you just need the qualifications to prove you can support this in-demand technology.

Related articles:

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, 9 January 2015

How to retake your Microsoft exams for free


By Sarah Morgan


Want to become a Microsoft certified professional or master a new Microsoft technology in 2015? Second chances don’t come around every, day but with Second Shot you can now get a free retake for that tricky Microsoft exam.


How to get your free exam retake


Take any MCP exam between 5 January 2015 - 31 May 2015 and if you don’t pass you’ll get a free retake.

Failing your first attempt isn’t fun and it’s even worse when you have to shell out £99 for a retake. Luckily for IT professionals out there who want to get Microsoft certified in 2015, over the next five months, your second attempt will be free.



Plus, Microsoft Second Shot is redeemable for every different exam you take.

To schedule your retake, sign in with your Microsoft account, select your exam from this list and select ‘Schedule now for free.’


Frequently asked questions


Q. Which exams qualify for Second Shot? 

A. Second shot applies to every exam in the MCSA, MCSE, MCSD, Microsoft Specialist and Microsoft Dynamics courses.

However, it does not apply to the MTA and MOS exams as these do not qualify you for the MCP certification. 


Q. How many exams can I take with the offer?

A. You’ll get one free retake for every exam that you do not pass first time. However, the retake must be the same exam as the one you didn’t pass.


Q. Will my free retake expire?

The Second Shot offer is only valid for 30 days from the date of your first exam.


Q. I’m a government employee, can I participate?

A. Due to government gift and ethics laws, government employees (including military and public education employees) are not eligible to participate.


Q. Can I schedule my first attempt and retake at the same time? 

A. No, you will not be able to register for your exam retake until you have taken (and failed) the initial exam.


Q. I missed my initial exam appointment. Can I use Second Shot to schedule a new appointment free of charge?

A. Nope. The free retake offer will only be useable if you do not pass your initial exam (you must attend the exam).

However, if you provide 24 hours notice you will be able to reschedule your first exam. The same applies to your retake (providing your newly scheduled exam is taken prior to Second Shot’s 30 day expiration).


Q. Can I combine Second Shot with other offers?

A. Yes, Second Shot can be combined with other Microsoft offers. Find out more about Microsoft’s current IT training and certification offers here. Or find out more about software assurance training vouchers here.

You can also combine Second Shot with Firebrand offers.


Q. I’m a student eligible for academic exam pricing. Does this offer apply to me too?

A. Yes.


Q. Can I redeem Second Shot for cash or credits?

A. No.


Q. Can I redeem my Second Shot in a different region to the one where I purchased the initial exam?

A. No, Second Shot exams can only be retaken in the same region they were initially purchased.


Related Articles:

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, 7 January 2015

How to stay ahead: IT skills you'll need in 2015


By Sarah Morgan
When Microsoft Evangelists Ed Baker, Andrew Fryer and Susan Smith began their TechED presentation, they asked a simple question – ‘Are you still doing the same thing at work as you were 5 years ago?’ Attendees replied with an overwhelming No

And undoubtedly, if they asked that question in another 5 years to the same audience of IT professionals, the answer would again be a resounding No

The IT Industry is changing rapidly. Consumers, clients and businesses all expect IT to do more and more. Fail to keep up with new technology and you might find you’re hard earned skills have suddenly become obsolete. 

IT job roles are always changing 
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)

The challenge you continue to face in 2015 is this: how will you develop your career and stay 
relevant in a job market that is always changing?

Perhaps the best way is to hear from some of the pioneers themselves, specifically the three Microsoft Evangelists who spoke at 2014’s TechED on the panel titled: ‘Career Development: Next roles, Next skills and Staying Relevant in an evolving IT World’ 

What did Ed Baker, Andrew Fryer and Susan Smith have to say? What cutting-edge technologies do they have their eye on? Here's how to stay ahead with the IT skills you'll need in 2015.

Data Science 


Andrew Fryer, Microsoft Technical Evangelist UK, spoke about Data Science, dubbed 2015’s hottest profession.

Tech firms like Google, Amazon and Netflix are already using data science. But now non-tech companies, like Wal-Mart and Gap, are beginning to awaken to the benefits of data scientists.

But how would it help out your organisation? Well, you’ve likely backed up data, made logs of your website and recorded how your servers are running. And now it’s just sitting there, gathering dust. A data scientist would sift through this to find a previously hidden insight into what’s going on inside your business.

Data Scientists use a number of tools like Real Time Analytics, Big Data, Data Mining, Open Source and Machine Learning technologies to achieve their goals.

How do data scientists achieve their goals?
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)
To become a data scientist, explains Andrew, you’ll need skills in business knowledge, maths and statistics. On top of this, you’ll need to be infinitely curious.

‘This is all about experimentation and play…working out what might work and then rigorously testing it. That technique works really well if you have knowledge of business and maths.’


What you'll need to succeed as a data scientist 
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)



Andrew highlights Microsoft Azure machine learning (computers acting without being explicitly programmed) as a particularly good tool for taking raw data and making accurate predictions (take a look at his demo at 13:44).

Andrew has spent 15 years working in the business intelligence field and describes data science as ‘a big market for everybody.’ Data Scientists are now massively in-demand and make a good living. As Andrew simply puts it – ‘[he] gets nice holidays.’



Enterprise Mobility


Enterprise mobility describes the shift in work habits where more employees now work out of the office, using mobile and cloud services to perform their business tasks.

As the BYOD (bring-your-own-device) culture continues to take hold of the workplace and with the rise of wearable technology, more IT professionals are needed to keep these devices secure.

‘Mobility has been around for a long time, and security issues have always been present’ states Ed Baker, Microsoft UK Technical Evangelist.

‘All devices have massive amounts of data that we need to secure…and manage.’ So, argues Ed, the methods we implement to control this valuable data need to be managed.

But how will you manage (and secure) this new environment of enterprise mobility?

To begin with, states Ed, you’ll need security skills: ‘If you lose your data as an organisation, not only are you going out of business but you’re probably going to get fined, jailed or both, depending on what type of data…What we need is total control over our data.’

And to be able to do this, states Ed, we need to enable some form of Device Management through hybrid or cloud only technology. But to do this, IT pros will also need to develop their networking skills to implement group policies and maintain the security of your data.

Enterprise mobility skills 
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)





Take a look at 29:31 for Ed’s Enterprise Mobility from the user perspective demo.



DevOps


Necessitated by the IT industries rapid release cycles, DevOps is a ‘collaboration where Developers and Operations work together for continuous improvement.’

So collaboration is key, but how do you achieve it? According to Susan, Dev Ops is more than just application lifecycle management: it’s about maintaining and supporting your application after it’s been deployed.

But what do DevOps job specifications desire? As Susan revealed during her presentation, the current DevOp job postings are looking for skills in:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Scripting (Linux, Windows etc)
  • Infrastructure as Code – being able to automate your application environment
  • Collaboration
  • Security - to create compliant apps

Key skills you'll need to succeed as a DevOp
(image courtesy of Microsoft TechED)





Don’t feel put out if you don’t have every skill listed. What’s really important, according to Susan, is a broad knowledge of both Developer and Operations roles.

However, actions speak louder than words and Susan recommends that you become active within the DevOps community. Speaking at events, attending meet-ups and becoming prominent in the DevOps space will be a massive bonus to anybody seeking this kind of role.

To get DevOps moving in your organisation, take a look at this useful article from ZDnet.


Will your role change?

There you have it, three IT skills to keep an eye on in 2015, straight from the pioneers themselves.

Will your role in 2015 be affected by data science, enterprise mobility or DevOps? If so we’d love to hear from you, and if not – how else will your role be changing in the new year?


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, 2 January 2015

Certifications to start your IT Career in 2015


 By 

Looking to start your IT career in 2015? Check out this list of the top entry level certifications to help secure your first job in the field of IT. Completing any one of these will prove you have the associated skill set necessary to perform in a range of entry level IT jobs.

Microsoft entry level certifications

MicrosoftIf you're considering a career in technology then it's almost a certainty you'll end up working with Microsoft technologies. The MTA certification (Microsoft Technology Associate) is Microsoft's introductory track addressing a wide spectrum of fundamental technical concepts.

The MTA is split into three tracks which you can follow depending on your interests and career goals:


  • MTA IT Infastructure track - if you want to build a career in desktop, server infrastructure or private cloud computing this is the track for you. Hone your skills around window desktop and server operating systems, networking and security.
  • MTA Database track - this track is for those chasing a career in business intelligence or data platform administration and covers database fundamentals.
  • MTA Developer track - for those looking to become a software developer, this track prepares you to get hands on with Microsoft tech. Choose from a range of training to develop fundamental skills in software development, gaming, HMTL5, .NET, software testing and web development. 
Passing just one exam will gain you an MTA certification and prepare you for the more advanced MCSA, MCSE and MCSD certification tracks. Though it's important to note the MTA is not required as a prerequisite certification to the more advanced tracks.

Cisco entry level certifications

Cisco
If you are interested in starting a career as a networking professional, attaining a Cisco certification is a huge step in making this a reality. As well as being a global technology leader specializing in networking and communications, Cisco has one of the most popular and widely recognised certification programs in the IT Industry.

The CCENT credential (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) will be your ideal starting point. Attaining the CCENT certification proves you have the ability to install, maintain, secure and troubleshoot small networks. 

This will qualify you to get a job as a network or help desk technician, whilst also acting as the prerequisite for Cisco's Associate level certifications like the CCNA and CCDA.


CompTIA entry level certifications

CompTIACompTIA are a non profit trade association providing a range of globally recognized, vendor neutral certifications. Their most popular certifications are the A+ and Network+ certifications:

  • A+ certification - achieving this credential shows you have a solid skills foundation in software and hardware. This course is designed to reflect the skills needed to excel as a computer support professional and has been adopted by HP and IBM as a requirement for all their technical staff. The A+ credentials is so popular it recently passed the 1 million mark for individuals attaining the certification.
  • Network+ certification - this is a fantastic alternative to Cisco certification for those considering a career in Networking. The Network+ credential proves you have the skills and knowledge to configure and operate a variety of networking products.
Take a combined A+ and Network+ course with Firebrand and attain both certifications in just 7 days.


So there you have it, the top certifications to kick start your IT career in 2015, what are you waiting for?


Author Profile

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.