Friday, 31 July 2015

Firebrand embraces Microsoft’s cloud first ethos


Speaking from a meeting room that previously held Firebrand’s sever rack, we caught up with Bevan Miller, our Head of IT, to discuss Firebrand’s recent migration to Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Firebrand now in the cloud

Over the past year, Firebrand’s forward-thinking IT team have been migrating business critical systems to Microsoft’s public cloud platform – Azure.

A modern business requires countless services and software to run, and Firebrand has been working hard at getting them into the cloud. Our recent Office 365 migration means that users can now login to the Firebrand business applications and authenticate through Azure and Federation Services.

Firebrand employees can access their critical apps across public networks – BYOD and working from home has never been simpler.

But that’s not all – OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online, SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business, File Services, legacy CRM, database services, finance systems, RemoteApp, Directory Services and Windows Deployment Services are now all running in Azure.



Cloud migration – not just a buzzword

Full cloud migration can be a daunting task but the benefits are massive. Firebrand staff now experience full BYOD and working from home flexibility – when they connect to the corporate network, regardless of their connection, they’ll find their apps are already installed alongside their personal settings.

The IT team have also cut their operational time by enabling the cloud to manage their server load. Real time scaling support that efficiently adapts to business demands is now maintained by Dot Net Solutions, a managed services and solutions partner.



Dot Net Solutions manages all of Firebrand’s third line support – using System Centre Operations Manager for security and update patches, monitor, maintain and triage system issues before they impact business applications.

The result: Bevan and his team get more time to focus on business solutions and streamlining technologies.

With our server stack sitting securely in the cloud, little to no operational time is being dedicated to regular hardware maintenance tasks. There’s now no need to add to the server stack when the company expands, Azure flexibly responds to any increase or decrease in our business demands.

Firebrand can now easily deploy additional security features through Azure’s Multi Factor Authentication giving us real time security monitoring and enabling fast action on alerts.

Risk to critical files is minimised too - if our server room experiences any disasters, our critical servers and data will be spared as they are now backed-up multiple times across Azure's geo-redundant virtual machines.

We now also use Microsoft Data Protection manager in conjunction with Azure Data Backup Vaults as well as a full Virtual Machine through the Azure Backup Service.

Those training with us will also get to see Azure in action - Firebrand’s cloud courses are now powered by Azure. Plus, Bevan’s team can now utilise Azure to set up Firebrand’s classrooms, cutting 6-7 days of setup time to a mere ten minutes


How we converted our server rack space into a meeting room

Cloud migration means saying ‘Goodbye’ to the majority of your server racks and when we said our farewells, we suddenly came into possession of a whole new workspace.

Previously stuffed with whirring servers and their backups, we quickly made use of the space by converting it into a new meeting room.

Our absence of physical servers and specialised AC means that the Firebrand London office has more than halved power consumption, server estate footprint and redundant power requirement – cutting electricity bills and contributing to Firebrand's green commitment.


Why Firebrand migrated with Azure

As Microsoft are also the Operating System vendor, they are able to closely integrate the hosting platform with the desktop. For example, Operating System stack integrated to back-end infrastructure makes it easy for personal devices to securely and quickly access corporate resources through Azure Rights Management Service.



And despite launching later than other cloud services, Azure has learnt from its competitors – taking advantage of their successes and avoiding their failures.

Azure isn’t the only public cloud service available, but with over $15billion invested into Azure – it’s clear that Microsoft is committed to their advancing cloud service.


Putting themselves out of a job?

As more and more of Firebrand’s IT services become automated and self-sufficient – Bevan’s team is leaving behind the traditional IT support role.

It may sound like Firebrand’s IT team are putting themselves out of a job, but the fact is, when conventional support becomes automated, IT departments are able to apply their skills to business enhancing projects - like making Firebrand's business files more accessible by migrating them to Microsoft OneDrive.

Bevan and his staff now have more time to ensure Firebrand continues to be a cutting edge business with the best tools available.


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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, 30 July 2015

How the launch of Windows 10 affects your business


Microsoft’s highly anticipated Windows 10 was released yesterday. The new multi-platform operating system is intended to bridge the gap between Microsoft devices and merges the eccentric Windows 8, with more traditional components of Windows that users are familiar with.

Whilst achieving these things, the intention is to advance Microsoft’s operating system, giving businesses a platform for the long-term future of computing.

Also, for the first year, it is free to anyone with Windows 7 or 8 currently installed. Find out how to upgrade here.

How the new features can help your business

Being multi-platform, Windows 10 will increase interactivity across the workplace and when working from home. Transitioning between a PC and tablet has never been easier. The majority of Microsoft Office programs are now Universal apps, which means they are available across all Windows 10 platforms.

Operating features like the new start menu, Action center and Quick Access area will increase productivity, making day-to-day usage quicker and easier. Also, Microsoft’s new, faster browser Microsoft Edge, allows you to annotate, save and share web pages easily between colleagues.

Your business’s data will be more protected with the new Windows Passport. This removes the need to use passwords, which can be hacked, instead using fingerprint readers and eventually face and iris readers to gain access to data. This is vital for protecting sensitive data.



The range of platforms on which Windows 10 can operate



What else is new?

  • Security enhancements, including Windows Passport
  • Device Guard - ensures a device only runs apps authorised by your business
  • Device management features – allows you to lock down a device to for a function, for example a portable device for drivers to check their route, to manage multiple users who have Azure AD accounts and to manage VPN configuration
  • Enterprise Data Protection - preventing accidental data disclosure through apps and services outside of your control like e-mail, social media and the cloud
  • Provisioning packages – come with simple instructions so it is quick and easy to configure multiple devices in your business and without mobile device management infrastructure
  • Task view - makes switching between apps and windows easier giving you multiple desktops, allowing you to separate different areas of your work


How you can master Windows 10 first

Because Windows 10 is such a large scale release, expect it to affect many certifications. As referred to in our previous blog post, at WPC 2015, Microsoft unveiled six new MOCs relevant to Windows 10. As well as these, we expect Microsoft to announce a new curriculum for Microsoft MCSA: Windows 10 towards the end of 2015.


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. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Microsoft plans more exam retirements in 2015 and 2016


By Tobin Chapman


In late 2014, Microsoft announced plans to retire 31 exams over the following 6-12 months.  With the last of those exams now set to retire in the next two weeks, details have emerged of a further 28 exams facing retirement.

Why are these Microsoft exams scheduled to be withdrawn?


A large driving force behind the planned exam retirements will be the wave of next generation enterprise technologies set for launch. The next 3 months will see new versions of all major Microsoft platforms - SQL Server, Windows Server, Windows Desktop, SharePoint and Exchange Server.

Enterprises will migrate to the latest technology with demand for MOCs transitioning also. To find the exams scheduled for withdrawal in the next 12 months, listed by technology, see below:

(nb. The information that follows is subject to change.)


Microsoft Dynamics


Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 and NAV 2015 were launched early in Q1, with new courses hitting the market in March. Whilst the following exams have been retired, there are currently no plans to create exams aligned to Dynamics 2015 products.

Despite this fact, demand  for the skills to manage the range of Dynamics CRM and NAV platforms is high.

Microsoft Dynamics exams retiring on July 31, 2015:

  • MB3-700: Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 Installation & Configuration
  • MB3-701: Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 Financials
  • MB5-700: Microsoft Dynamics C5 2012 Application Consultant
  •  MB6-869: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Development Introduction
  • MB6-870: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Trade and Logistics
  • MB6-871: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Financials
  • MB7-700: Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 Installation & Configuration
  • MB7-701: Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 Core Setup and Finance
  • MB7-702: Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 C/Side Development



Exchange and Exchange Server


With Exchange Server 2013 having been out for a couple of years the majority of users have migrated away from the legacy 2010 version. This migration will continue with Exchange Server 206 expected in the next few months.

As demand for the exams declines retirement is planned for early 2016, possibly coinciding with the release of new MOCs aligned to Exchange Server 2016.  

Exams retiring on January 31, 2016


  • 70-662: TS: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Configuring
  • 70-663: PRO: Designing and Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange


Lync and Lync Server


The retiring of Lync Server related exams is a similar story. Lync Server 2010 is now 5 years old and with the re-branded Skype for Business Server out now, the retirement of Lync Server 2013 focussed exams is unsuprising . 

Exams retiring on July 31, 2015


  • 74-322: Microsoft Lync Server 2010—Advanced Design and Deployment
Retiring on November 30, 2015


  • 70-336: Core Solutions of Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  •  70-337: Enterprise Voice Online Services with Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • 74-335: Lync Network Readiness Assessment
  • 74-338: Lync 2013 Depth Support Engineer

SharePoint


The last of the MCTS and MCITP exams are now retiring. Following the re-invention of the MCSA and MCSE certifications in 2012, it was only a matter of time before the old acronyms removed from circulation. 

Plus, SharePoint Server 2016 is now mere weeks away meaning SharePoint Server 2010 will now be two versions out of date.

Exams retiring on January 31, 2016


  • 70-667: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
  • 70-668: PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Administrator


SQL Server


Originally planned for retirement on December 31, 2014, the following exams have avoided retirement on three separate occasions. It is clear demand continues amongst SQL Server professionals to transition MCITP certifications to the modern MCSE equivalent.

Time will tell if this deadline gets extended yet again.

Exams retiring on January 31, 2016
  • 70-459: Transition Your MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 or MCITP: Database Developer 2008 to MCSE: Data Platform
  • 70-460: Transition Your MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence

Windows


In mid-2012 Microsoft announced the latest Windows 8, which given it is now 5 years since its predecessor (Windows 7) was released, it’s little surprise that the exams are being retired.

We also witness the retirement of the first MTA entry level certifications. With the retirement of 90-349, we wave good bye to the MTA: Windows Operating System Fundamentals certification.


  • 70-681: Windows 7 and Office 2010, Deploying
  • 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals



Windows Server


A continued story of reduced demand for technologies. Windows Server 2016 is now only weeks away, pushing Windows Server 2008 two versions out of date. This retirement has been coming for a while as Microsoft announced retirement of several other Windows Server 2008 exams in their last batch.

This is also a continued example of the MCTS and MCITP  retirements.

Exams retiring on July 31, 2015


  • 70-643: TS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuring
  • 70-647: Pro: Windows Server 2008, Enterprise Administrator
  • 70-649: TS: Upgrading Your MCSE on Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008, Technology 
  • Specialist
  • 70-693: PRO: Windows Server 2008 R2, Virtualization Administrator
  • Exams retiring on January 31, 2016
  • 70-415: Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure
  • 70-416: Implementing Desktop Application Environments


Other technologies


Exams retiring on July 31, 2015


  • 74-674: TS: Delivering Value Planning Services

Monday, 27 July 2015

Top 5 reasons why you need your A+ certification

By Sarah Morgan

Knowing how to start your career in IT can be daunting. Certifications are a great way to boost your skills and CompTIA’s A+ certification is a fantastic place to begin.

During your preparation for the A+ certification you’ll learn maintenance and setup of PCs, laptops, printers, mobile devices and networks as well as the basics of operating systems, security and troubleshooting. Here are the top reasons why the A+ certification is a great way to kick start your career.


1. Widely supported in the IT industry

The A+ certification has been established for 20 years and a massive amount of revision resources are now available to help you learn the skills you need. This includes revision books like:




Online resources include CompTIA’s practice questions on their own website. TechExams has a CompTIA A+ forum where you can get useful posts from people who have already taken and passed the exam.

You can also find a full list of free revision resources on our previous blog post.





2. Access to advanced courses 

After passing your A+ certification, you can progress on to the Network+ and Security+, both well respected and desired certifications in their own right.

The Network+ will prove your knowledge of network architecture, operations and security as well as network theory and industry standards and practices.

Security+ covers in-depth network security, data and host security, access control and identity management and cryptography.

You can continue to develop your skills afterwards, on more advanced certifications. CCNA (Routing & Switching) will allow you to pursue networking and IP services and troubleshooting. The Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 cert will build upon security fundamentals in Microsoft based formats. Plus, after years of industry experience, you’ll be able to work towards certifications in advanced areas of security, like the Certified Ethical Hacker certification or the CISSP.


3. Universal and globally recognised

The skills you’ll learn on your A+ certification will be transferable across many types of hardware. This means it is applicable to many IT situations and tasks like security application and prevention, troubleshooting and configuring PC hardware. The A+ certification has a global reputation, meaning your skills will be valued by employers all over the world. Stats on the CompTIA website state that over 1,000,000 people have been A+ certified.


4. More opportunities to plan and diversify your career

The versatility of your newly gained skills, combined with lots of opportunities to specialise into new areas, gives you a fantastic chance to plan and change the direction of your career. It is also used as a reliable benchmark for hiring, promoting and career planning because it proves you have a strong foundation of working IT knowledge.

The A+ certification allows you access to a wide range of career opportunities. For example, security roles are specialised and require qualifications that are hard to achieve. According to itjobswatch.co.uk, 100% of Chief Information Security Officers, earning an average of £100,000 a year, have a CISSP. Establishing yourself with an A+ certification can set you on the path to diversify into an exciting role in a specialised field like vulnerability analyst or penetration tester.


5. You’ll have the potential to work in higher paid roles

According to itjobswatch.com, the average salary for someone who is A+ certified is £23,500. After you gain your cert, you will begin on the path to higher level certifications and higher level job roles. Jobs available to someone A+ certified include, Support Engineer, Analyst and IT Support.  It’s a fantastic way to invest in your future career opportunities.





How you can get your A+ certification fast.

If you’re looking to get trained quickly, Firebrand’s A+ course can get you certified in just four days. You can also combine your A+ certification with the Network+ course and achieve both in just seven days. The resources available to you and the boost the certification can give to your career mean there has never been a better time to get your 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. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

4 new Cyber Security certifications in 2015


By Tobin Chapman


It is more important than ever for you to protect your company against cyber-attacks. According to a recent government survey, cyber-crime costs UK businesses a reported £27 billion a year

Each individual breach can cost large businesses as much as £1.15 million on average. A huge stigma exists around cyber fraud due to the damage it can have to a company’s reputation. This has meant that as much as 85% of fraud and cyber-crime goes unreported.

Demand for cyber security skills is going up as businesses are increasingly recognising the need to protect their assets. To meet this demand, we’ve seen a series of new cyber security courses launched in 2015. 

There have been new courses from established security vendors as well as existing vendors entering the market for the first time.

Earning a high level Cyber security certification can net you a career earning as much as £82,500, according to ITJobsWatch. The release of these new certifications will help you develop the skills you need to protect your business from a cyber-attack.


AXELOS RESILIA™


RESILIA CertificationRESILIA™ is a methodology for cyber resilience. It employs best practice techniques and standards that you or your business can apply. In short it helps you be ‘resilient’ against attacks through being able to detect, respond to and recover from cyber-attacks. 

AXELOS has developed a course aligned to RESILIA allowing you develop the skills required to implement the methodology. Completing the course and achieving the qualification allows you to make he most of RESILIA whilst demonstrating you have the skills to do so. RESILIA is AXELOS’ first cyber security certification.  

Employing certified people that can react and act on cyber-attacks is critical for maintaining the integrity of your business. RESILIA ensures this by keeping your reputation intact, customers loyal and operations up and running.  

With Firebrand's 5 day accelerated RESILIA course, you can certify in just 5 days.


(ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional


CCSP Logo Stacked
Cloud is currently one of the fastest growing technologies, with 4 in 5 UK businesses using cloud services. When discussing cloud, security continues to be a primary concern for businesses. Without having access to the physical servers that your data is stored on it is important to do everything possible to protect it. 

CCSP certification recognises this, developed by (ISC)2 and Cloud Security Alliance, the course gives professionals a deep-seated knowledge and competency through hands on experience.

By attending the course, you'll learn:


  • Architectural concepts and design requirements
  • Cloud data security
  • Cloud platform & infrastructure security
  • Cloud application security
  • Compliance


Cisco Cybersecurity Specialist



Cisco’s first cybersecurity certification is designed for professional security analysts. Thecybersecurity specialist certification covers important areas of competency, including event monitoring, security event, alarm and traffic monitoring and incident response. 

With no prerequisites is it a course available to anyone who needs to be able to mitigate and avoid cyber-attacks in their day to day job, or anyone who wishes to move into a profession involving cyber security. 


ISACA Cybersecurity Nexus



ISACA’s Cybersecurity Nexus program is designed to be the most comprehensive and desirable certification on the market. The course does not rely solely on knowledge, but tests in a virtual ‘cyber lab’ environment in order to prove actual technical skill, ability and performance. 

It is available at three levels; Practitioner, Specialist and Expert: 

CSX Practitioner – made up of three courses and gives a foundation of knowledge in ISACA’s five areas of cyber security; Identify, Detect, Protect, Respond and Recover. Firebrand offers an accelerated 9 day course which combines all 3 courses - 40% faster than traditional training. 

CSX Specialist – This gives you the option to specialise in any of the five areas, with a course available for each. (coming soon)

CSX Expert – This is the highest level available and shows you are a master-level security professional capable of identifying, analysing, responding to and mitigating the most complex cyber security incidents. (coming soon)



Some businesses may find certain qualifications more useful than others. If you’d like to find out more about which certification is right for you, you can read more on Firebrand's dedicated security section, or give us a call on 080 80 800 888.



Tuesday, 21 July 2015

See Windows Server 2016 first with Microsoft and Firebrand



Be the first to see Windows Server 2016 up close at a free central London event, delivered in partnership with Microsoft.

You’ll get the UK’s first look at Windows Server 2016 - including three hours of technical content, demos and Q&As presented by Microsoft Technical Evangelist, Ed Baker.

Get your headstart in Windows Server 2016

At this official Microsoft event you’ll be introduced to key new Windows Server 2016 features – including Nano Server demos, a remotely managed installation optimised for cloud and DevOps workflows. You’ll also get introduced to new features across PowerShell, Azure stack, security and storage.

Don’t miss this chance to learn Windows Server 2016 before anyone else; ask your own questions and network with likeminded professionals.

Be amongst the first to see Windows Server 2016 in action

There are only 100 tickets to this free Technical Preview, running in the morning of Thursday 13th August - sign up before Friday 24th July to secure your seat. Refreshments will be provided.

Register below to get your first look at Windows Server 2016. Or visit our Eventbrite page for more information.


Location:
Microsoft
80-100 Victoria Street
London, SW1E 5JL
GB

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.