Saturday, 10 June 2017

Attend the next UK Cisco TechHuddle: “Where Application Meets Infrastructure”

Discover what happens when cloud applications meet infrastructure at Cisco’s next TechHuddle. TechHuddle returns in July 2017 with “Where Application Meets Infrastructure” - this is your chance to get face-to-face with Cisco experts.

During the TechHuddle, Cisco experts will guide you through the key elements involved in building and implementing cloud in your business. With Cisco, you’ll also discuss industry shifts and cloud economics.

You’ll get first-hand demonstrations of Cisco technologies as you learn how to:

  • Deliver a multi-cloud plan
  • Get started with a Container Service
  • Provide infrastructure as code despite having more CLI than API
  • Make open source work off the shelf

During July, you’ll get the opportunity to learn directly from Cisco experts at three TechHuddles. The upcoming UK Cisco Tech Huddles are:

  • London: 11th July 2017 (9:00am – 2:00pm)
  • Manchester: 12th July 2017 (9:00am – 2:00pm)
  • Glasgow: 27th July 2017 (9:00am – 2:00pm)

Register now to attend one of three events Cisco TechHuddle events in July.

Remind me, what is the Cisco TechHuddle?

TechHuddle is Cisco’s quarterly technical update which includes live events and webinars from across the UK and Ireland.

These events are built for technologists and are focused on discussion, learning and interaction with Cisco’s experts. At a TechHuddle, you’ll share your own experiences and challenges with like-minded professionals and Cisco evangelists.

Previous TechHuddles have seen Cisco team-up with Meraki to shine a light on the world of cloud networking or combine forces with Fast IT to transform IT infrastructure.

Each quarter TechHuddles take on a different focus. For a closer look at the topics and issues tackled at recent events, take a look at the TechHuddle blog and YouTube Channel.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Latest EC-Council Disaster Recovery Professional (EDRP) v3 certification launched


EC-Council today announced the launch of the latest version of the EC-Council Disaster Recovery Professional (EDRP) certification, designed to build the critical skills your organisation needs to continue running following a disaster.


Earlier today, EC-Council COO, Sean Lim, announced the launch of the EDRP v3 certification. During a live presentation, Sean outlined exciting updates to the EDRP which resulted in a complete overhaul of the credential, bringing it right up to date.


Why you need disaster recovery skills


The need for disaster recovery skills within your organisation is critical to the continued functioning of your business following a disaster. Organisations lacking a disaster recovery and business continuity plan risk significant financial losses, reputational damage and complete business failure in severe circumstances.

The threat is very real. Statistics from FEMA - a US Department of Defence organisation - report almost 75% of organisations without a business continuity plan fail within 3 years of a disaster. Of these businesses, between 40-60% never reopened their doors immediately following the disaster.


Disaster recovery is a growing industry


Unfortunately for you, disaster events are on the rise. In fact, the disaster recover industry is expected to grow to almost seven times its current size - from $1.6 billion in 2016 to $11.1 billion by 2021. This come as no surprise considering that more than half of companies (54%) have reported a downtime event that lasted more than 8 hours in the past five years (State of Disaster Recovery 2016 – Zetta).


State of Disaster Recovery 2016 Infographic - Zetta


Two thirds of these organisations went on to report that they would lose upwards of $20,000/day for every day of downtime. Consider the revenue your business generates per day and imagine how losing your website and phone systems could impact that. This is an increasingly likely scenario - 34% of organisations reported downtime caused by a malware attack. 

Despite these shocking statistics, 2 in 5 companies still do not have a documented disaster recovery plan, and only 40% of these organisations test them once a year.

Can your business afford not to be prepared?


How the EDRP certification protects you


The EDRP course focuses on developing the skills you need to prevent - and recover from - disasters affecting an enterprise scale organisation. These skills could mean the difference between business recovery and business ruin.

This purpose-built course will teach you to identify vulnerabilities and construct the countermeasures required to prevent and mitigate failure risks within your organisation. 

You’ll develop a foundation in core disaster recovery principles, including preparation of a disaster recovery (DR) plan, risk assessment, policy and procedures development and implementation of the DR plan to recover from disaster – should the worst happen.

EDRP v3 has been completely redesigned to align to the latest job task analysis and market research with key additions including:

  • New curriculum focused on business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Meeting regulatory compliance for standards including ISO 31000, ISO 22301, ISO 22313, NFPA 1600 and many more along the NICE Framework
  • Cloud-based virtual labs to simulate business continuity / disaster recover techniques in real time
  • Bridging the gap between business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Updated exams to validate both knowledge and practical skills across business continuity and disaster recovery

The course syllabus covers:

  1. An introduction to Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
  2. Business Continuity Management
  3. Risk Assessment
  4. Business Impact Analysis
  5. Business Continuity Plan
Developing the skills to:


  • Design a business continuity management framework
  • Create a risk assessment report
  • Create a business impact analysis report
  • Create a business continuity strategy

Want a detailed look at the new curriculum? Take a look at this page for more in-depth knowledge of the EDRP certification.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Firebrand Launch the Azure Academy

We’re living in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. According to Forbes, the cloud computing market is set to reach 127.5 billion by 2018 and 42% of UK and US companies are actively looking to hire professionals with cloud computing skills.

Microsoft’s public cloud offering Azure is leading the way with 120,000 new customer subscriptions per month. Demonstrating the strength of Azure, 90% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using the platform.

For those unfamiliar with Azure, it’s “a growing collection of integrated cloud services – analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage and web – for moving faster, achieving more and saving money”.

In this post we’ll take a look at Azure’s growth and how rapidly expanding demand for Azure cloud professionals is creating a skills gap. 

The growth of Microsoft Azure



In July, Microsoft announced that Azure revenue and usage again grew by more than 100% in the past quarter. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella attributed the growth to a mixture of high demand for cloud platforms combined with Azure’s ability to offer solutions that reflect the realities of today’s world. 

Testimony to this high demand and growth, is Microsoft’s recent announcement of the first complete cloud offering delivered from a global provider within the UK. These datacentres, which adhere to Microsoft’s stringent Trusted Cloud principles, means Azure can now offer customers 28 regions – with six more coming soon. More than any other major cloud provider.  

As mass adoption continues to accelerate, so too does the demand for cloud professionals with well-developed skills in Azure solutions. In a recent study by the managed cloud provider Rackspace, jobs specifying Microsoft Azure experience increased demand in the UK by 75%.

Lagging significantly behind this demand however, is the number of qualified individuals capable of supporting a business’s Azure needs. Rightscale found that the number one challenge for companies looking to bolster their cloud capabilities is the shortage of appropriate skilled job candidates.

Furthermore, while Microsoft’s Azure certifications provide excellent insight into the cloud platform, professionals and businesses alike are increasingly looking to further their Azure knowledge and subsequent application.

Microsoft offer a series of highly-demanded Specialist Azure certifications; Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions and the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect – aimed at demonstrating how to competently implement and administer Azure in a business environment. However, the demand for more in-depth, technical know-how surrounding Azure has seen Firebrand training in partnership with Microsoft develop the Azure Academy.

The birth of Firebrand’s Azure Academy 


Azure Academy is a new, accelerated product created by Firebrand Training in partnership with Microsoft and partners. The Azure Academy introduces the cloud platform in a greater and never-before seen depth.



The accelerated nature of Firebrand Training means each deep dive is just 4 days. Moreover, the content provided includes more than 80% in-depth technical content not found in the Microsoft Official Curriculum.  

Our UK Commercial Manager, James Lapwood said: "We’ve worked with Microsoft and partners in creating the accelerated Azure Academy. The content of the programmes - from Apprenticeships through to expert-level Deep Dives - has been developed based on what the market has asked us for. All delivered at twice the speed of traditional training".  

This Academy, which should be seen as an extension of the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect, is made up of three deep-dive programmes:
  • Infrastructure and Networking
  • Data Platform
  • Application Development

Let’s take a look at them in a little more depth:


The first of the three brand-new Microsoft programmes is Infrastructure and Networking. The course will focus on topics such as:
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Azure storage, backup and recovery
  • Automation, PowerShell and the Azure CLI
  • Microsoft Cloud Estate

You can see the full curriculum here.

The second deep-dive program is Data Platform. This programme will develop understanding of Azure data services, analytics and IoT – plus a detailed look at security. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Implementing Azure SQL Database
  • Azure Redis Cache
  • Azure HDInsight
  • Azure BizTalk Service

Check out the full curriculum.

The third and final Azure Academy programme is Application Development. Aimed at developing your knowledge of designing cloud application in Azure, some of the topics you’ll focus on include:

  • Availability
  • Data-management
  • Messaging
  • Resiliency

Integrated into each deep dive program is a focus on Azure security. With security in the Cloud seen as the second largest cloud challenge to businesses, the need for a holistic understanding of security is imperative.

Check out the full curriculum


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Discover 7 new Microsoft MCSA and MCSE certifications

Microsoft have announced the launch of 6 new MCSA certifications and 1 new MCSE certification. This demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to a growing Azure, Big Data, Business Intelligence (BI) and Dynamics community.

These new certifications and courses will support Microsoft partners looking to upskill and validate knowledge in these technologies.  

Following the huge changes announced in September, these new launches will simplify your path to certification. They'll minimise the number of steps required to earn a certification, while allowing you to align your skills to industry-recognised areas of competence.

This blog will outline the new certifications Microsoft have announced, focusing on the technologies, skills and job roles they align to. 

So what's new?


MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365

This MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 certification is one of three Dynamics 365 certifications launched. It demonstrates your expertise in upgrading, configuring and customising the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform.

There are currently no MOCs aligned to this certification. We have developed our own Firebrand material that will prepare you for the following two exams needed to achieve this certification:
  • MB2-715: Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement Online Deployment
  • MB2-716: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customization and Configuration 
This certification will validate you have the skills for a position as a Dynamics 365 developer, implementation consultant, technical support engineer or system administrator.

This certification is a prerequisite for the MCSE: Business Applications. 

MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations

The second of these three Dynamics 365 certs is the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. Here, you’ll get the skills to manage a Microsoft SQL Server database and customise Microsoft Dynamics 365.

On this course, you’ll cover the following MOC:
  • 20764: Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure 
The second part of this course, of which there is currently no MOC, will cover Firebrand's own material. 

To achieve this certification you’ll need to pass the following exams:
  • 70-764: Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure
  • MB6-890: Microsoft Development AX Development Introduction 
Earning this cert proves you have the technical competence for positions such as Dynamics 365 developer, solutions architect or implementer.  

Just like the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365, this certification is also a prerequisite to the new MCSE: Business Applications certification. 

MCSE: Business Applications

Earning an MCSE certification validates a more advanced level of knowledge. The MCSE: Business Applications certification proves an expert-level competence in installing, operating and managing Microsoft Dynamics 365 technologies in an enterprise environment.

In order to achieve this certification you’ll be required to pass either the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 or the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. You’ll also be required to choose one of the following electives to demonstrate expertise on a business-specific area:
  • MB2-717: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales
  • MB2-718: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
  • MB6-892: Microsoft Dynamics AX - Distribution and Trade
  • MB6-893: Microsoft Dynamics AX - Financials  
Earning your MCSE: Business Applications certification will qualify you for the roles such as Dynamics 365 developer, implementation consultant, technical support engineer, or system administrator.

MCSA: Big Data Engineering

This MCSA: Big Data Engineering certification demonstrates you have the skills to design and implement big data engineering workflows with the Microsoft cloud ecosystem and Microsoft HD Insight to extract strategic value from your data.

On this course you’ll cover the following MOCs:
  • 20775A: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HDInsight – expected 28/6/2017
  • 20776A: Engineering Data with Microsoft Cloud Services – expected 08/2017
And take the following exams:
  • 70-775: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HD Insight – available now in beta
  • 70-776: Engineering Data with Microsoft Cloud Services – expected Q1 2018
This course is aimed at data engineers, data architects, data scientists and data developers.

Earning this MCSA acts as a prerequisite, and your first step, to achieving the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential.

MCSA: BI Reporting

This MCSA: BI Reporting certification proves your understanding of data analysis using Power BI. You’ll learn the skills to create and manage enterprise business intelligence solutions.

The MOCs you’ll cover on this course include:
  • 20778A: Analyzing Data with Power BI
  • 20768B: Developing SQL Data Models 
In order to achieve the certification, you’ll take the following exams:
  • 70-778: Analyzing Data with Power BI - expected Q1 2018
  • 70-768: Developing SQL Data Models 
This certification is aimed at database professionals needing to create enterprise BI solutions and present data using alternative methods.

This certification is a prerequisite for the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential. 

MCSA: Cloud Database Development 

This MCSA: Cloud Database Development certification will prove you have the skills to build and implement NoSQL solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search for the Azure data platform

This certification covers the following MOCs:
  • 40441: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  • 20777: Implementing NoSQL Solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search – expected in August 2017 
In order to achieve the certification, you'll have to pass the following exams: 
  • 70-473: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  • 70-777: Implementing NoSQL Solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search – expected in Q1 2018
This course is aimed at specialist professionals looking to validate their skills and knowledge of developing NoSQL solutions for the Azure data platform. 

This certification is also a prerequisite certification to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential. 

MCSA: Data Science

This course will teach you the skills in operationalising Microsoft Azure machine learning and Big Data with R Server and SQL R Services. You'll learn to process and analyse large data sets using R and use Azure cloud services to build and deploy intelligent solutions.

This certification covers the following MOCs:
  • 20773A: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R – in development, expected May 2017
  • 20774A: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning – in development, expected June 2017
To achieve this certification you’ll be required to pass the following exams:
  • 70-773: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R – available now in beta
  • 70-774: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning – available now in beta 
This certification, which is your first step to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics cert is best suited to data science or data analyst job roles. 


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Free cyber security training for the NHS

Yesterday's ransomware attack that infected so many trusts within the NHS was avoidable. There are complexities within that environment relating to updating software which I understand. Having said that though users are the first line of defence, as well as better filtering of emails before they arrive at users devices. I'm confident the patient data in the back end systems is safe. More can and should be done to prevent future attacks. Firebrand of course wants to help, training people quickly is the only reason we get out of bed in the morning.

Firebrand's cyber security portfolio of courses spans protection and detection as well as end user training. We are also unique in offering accelerated cyber security apprenticeships. As you probably know public organisations including the NHS need to have 2.3% of their staff on apprenticeship programs by 2020. A great way to spend their Apprenticeship Levy.

Firebrand would of course relish the opportunity of talking to any NHS trusts about cyber security training and apprenticeships. I appreciate this might seem like we're trying to profit from this situation. However I'm extremely proud of what Firebrand does. We've trained 65,000 people over 16 years. We've given them skills that make them better at their jobs or further their careers. I know what we teach on our courses makes businesses or government departments more secure, better prepared.

So I'm not going to apologise for this offer! We will give up to 10 NHS trusts one free cyber security course each in exchange for a meeting with a senior member of staff to discuss training and apprenticeships. We can bring a security expert with us if needed and we can explain the range of courses we offer and help you plan where you need skills. During the meeting we will figure out which free course you'll benefit most from. No strings other than agreeing to the meeting.

If you work for an NHS trust feel free to contact me via LinkedIn. The first 10 NHS trusts to contact me get the courses.

For background here's the video of my interview with BBC London News yesterday talking about what has happened at the NHS.




Friday, 12 May 2017

5 things you need to do after the NHS hack

NHS hospitals across England have been hit by a large scale cyber attack. A pop-up message demanding ransom in exchange for access to the infected machines.

NHS Digital said: “A number of NHS organisations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack which is affecting a number of different organisations".



Whilst it’s too late to stop the current hack, this is a wake-up call for all. In this post, we will identify the steps needed to secure your own information now and in the future.

This is what you need to do
Be wary of emails from the NHS:
 Now is the perfect time for cyber criminals to strike through a phishing attack. Avoid downloading or clicking links in any emails coming from NHS. Almost all malware is installed unknowingly by the victims themselves.

Change your passwords and security questions: Even if you haven't been hacked, change your password and security questions immediately. This is especially important if your email is connected in any way to your bank or a PayPal account.

Additionally, you should look to change the passwords in any other account that uses the same or similar security information. This ensures hackers cannot access other accounts through NHS information. It is also sensible to check your password recovery settings and ensure they have not been changed to a third party.

Avoid contacting your GP practice: Avoid contacting your GP practice unless absolutely necessary, your local pharmacy can provide free and fast advice for non-urgent conditions.

Update your security settings and run a security scan: This the time to make sure your computer is secure. Make sure you run a virus scan and have the most recent security updates on your operating system. If you don't have an anti-virus application, invest in a high-quality one like McAfee or Norton Antivirus. This is something you should be doing as best practice regardless of the issue.


Report it to the police: If you believe you have been hacked and are now the victim of identity theft or fraud, file a report with Action Fraud.