Are you CCNA bound? Here’s a chance to win some training!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a need to focus specifically on Cisco exams, but if you are seriously in the business of computer networking, you may be looking at Cisco certification in your future.  One of my connections “via the interwebs” (@flackboxtv) is running a contest to win access to some of his Cisco training materials.  I’m not always a big fan of boot camp style studying because nothing beats really understand how the big picture works to pass an exam, but if you need that bump in your studying to get you over that hump, or something to get you started in the New Year,  this could be just the thing.

This is what the winner gets:

  • Payment for your Cisco CCNA exam
  • Access to the CCNA course online
  • Weekly coaching calls
  • Full access to the AlphaPrep test engine CCNA exam bank
  • 400 pages of configuration lab exercises with setup instructions to run on your laptop for free
  • An additional 150 pages of bonus troubleshooting labs
  • Private Facebook study group

If this is something that interests you, the chance to enter ends on 1/13/18 –



Certification and Cloud: Consider These!

The changes to technology around cloud infrastructure seem to be changing and moving as quickly as the clouds in the sky.  Software companies are announcing changes and updates at an ever increasing pace.  I know I feel like I can blink and miss something important.  So how do go about proving you are still an expert in your field?

There is still a place for industry certifications.  While they will never be the end-all goal for determining skills, they still provide proof of a baseline level of knowledge and can show employers that a certificate holder has made efforts to focus on a specific topic.

The Cloud Architect role is the upcoming position in demand and a natural progression for systems administrators to move to as they can leverage their knowledge of on-prem infrastructure to design hybrid and cloud-only infrastructures. Would you make a good Architect?

Here are several certifications you might want to look at:

I’ve always been a big fan of certification exams, even just for personal benchmarking. Are any of these exams in your future?

Notable Notes: Certification, Azure VMs and Linux!

It’s February, so if you are looking for a way to continue some momentum you might have started with the new year, consider the Know It, Prove It challenge.  Follow the steps, commit an hour a day and by the end of the month you’ll have a new tech “super power”.

When it comes to certification, don’t get stuck thinking Azure is all about Windows.  Over 25% of workloads in Azure are Linux, so if that’s your passion you can become Microsoft certified as well.  Check out the new MSCA: Linux on Azure.

Also, if you’ve got 7 minutes, check out this episode of Tuesdays with Corey – Troubleshooting and Diagnostics for VMs in Azure.

Windows 10 MCSA Available Today!

Check this out certification junkies… The new Windows 10 MCSA certification is available! I admit, I am a certification junkie and I didn’t bother getting certified for Windows 8. But with this update for Windows 10, it’s probably time for me to consider getting with the program.

The core of this certification is the Exam 697: Configuring Windows Devices, which alone gets you a Microsoft Specialist certification. Together with the existing 687 and 688 exams, it makes up the Windows 10 MCSA.

If you happen to be already certified as a MCSA for Windows 8, fear not – that certification will be valid until July 31, 2016.  Even cooler, if you earned that Windows 8 MCSA between 2/15/2015 and 5/31/2015, you can upgrade for FREE!

For more details, check out the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate landing page.

Early Experts Exam Study Guide for 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

One of the greatest challenges with certification exams is finding study materials for new exams. To get you started, I’ve starting pulling together some resources I’ve collected based off the targets skills listed for 70-533.

Exam 70-533 is one of three exams that can be successfully passed to complete the Microsoft Specialist certification on Microsoft Azure.  The other exams in this series include:
70-532, Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions
70-534, Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions
This exam guide is not intended as a replacement for any formal training on Microsoft Azure or for this exam that might come available in the future, however we all have to start somewhere, right? You can find the PDF version of the exam guide here and it will be updated as I collect additional resources.
If you also plan to prepare for Exam 70-532, you can find some study resources at:
If you plan to prepare for Exam 70-534, check out these resources:
If you are looking for study resources for other Microsoft certifications and  you didn’t get here from there already, check out for other study guides and information.

Certification Update

With the new year, you might be taking a fresh look at some certifications to round out your resume or impress your boss.  Now is the time to tackle them, because the free “2nd Shot” is back!

Between January 5 and May 31, 2015, take any Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) or Microsoft Dynamics exam, and get a free Second Shot if you fail the first take.  Learn more! 

Speaking of certifications, the new Azure certifications are available.  Just one test and you can be Microsoft Specialist in Developing or Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions or Implementing Azure Infrastructure.

Oh, Pearson Vue, How I Missed You… Sort Of.

If you are a Microsoft MCP, MCSA, MCITP, MCSE or have historically taken Microsoft exams for a few years now, you’ll likely already been through the switch from Pearson Vue to Prometric and now here it is, coming full circle again, back to Pearson Vue.

Years ago, I LOVED my local Pearson Vue test center. It was in building on the same block as my place of employment and I had taken so many exams around that time that they greeted me by name when I walked into the office.  When things switched to Prometric, well, it was like I lost a friend.  But there was a local Prometric test center not far from work as well and my testing life went on.

So here we are again, switching back to Pearson Vue.  Check out the blog BornToLearn blog to find out more about some of the new features you can take advantage of, including being able to schedule exams directly from the Microsoft Learning portal using your Microsoft Account.  If you haven’t checked out the updated portal for tracking your certification and reviewing you transcript, you should.  It’s much easier to navigate than in the past.

Plus they are beta testing being able to take exams from home or at work!  Alas, there doesn’t seem to be any testing centers within walking distance of my office (or in my city at all) so I might consider trying that out.

You can schedule with Prometric OR Pearson Vue until the end of the year. Starting in 2015, Pearson Vue will be the sole testing provider for all your MCP needs.

Good luck on your next test!

Checking In… Happy Tuesday!

Ah… Life.  How it gets in the way of things sometimes.  I’m looking forward to some slowing down of things as we get into June and July, which gives me some time to concentrate on finishing up with updating my MCSE.

Microsoft has been busy updating certifications in the last year, so now you’ll find options for the MTA (Technology Associate), MCSA (Solutions Associate) and the MCSE (Solutions Expert).  I’m working toward the Server Infrastructure MCSE, so I still have exams 70-413 and 70-414 to go.

For preparation, I’ve got a copy of the 70-413 Exam Ref book, but I also like to mix up my studying materials with content from MVA (Microsoft Virtual Academy) and TechNet documentation to fill in areas where I might need some extra clarification.  What’s nice about the Virtual Academy is that you can add the courses to your profile and then work through them at your own pace. Finally, I look for sessions from TechEd and other conferences that I’m might have attended that line up with test concepts.

If there is good in-person training in my area, I look for that as well. If you are in the SF area (or can get there easily, don’t miss out on the chance to attend TechDays, organized by PacITPros.  This low-cost, two day event has a line up of great speakers and there is sure to be a topic for everyone. Register at

Today, I reviewed the booklet of sessions from TechEd for Monday (baby steps!) and here is what is on my short list to watch this week (Warning: these might completely unrelated to my exam studying):

  1. Windows PowerShell Unplugged with Jeffery Snover (DCIM-B318)
  2. Microsoft Azure Storage (DCIM-B384)
  3. Hybrid Identity: Extending Active Directory to the Cloud (PCIT-B313)
Also, if you are looking to learn more about Windows 8.1 in the Enterprise, register for an upcoming MVA JumpStart in mid-June! The instructors are Tommy Patterson and Simon May, so it’s sure to be an enjoyable and educational few days.

Date: June 17, 18, & 19, 2014

Registration page:

Windows 8.1 Update for Enterprise Jump Start

Are you tackling BYOD? Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows Phone can help! Find out how in this demo-filled, three-day Jump Start course with live Q&A. Plus, get the latest from the TechEd and Build conferences, and prepare for MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure and MCSA: Windows 8.1 certifications.
Seasoned experts share real-world experience as they explore the new feature set in Windows 8.1 Update. Dive deep into key enterprise scenarios around System Center Configuration Manager 2012 R2 and Windows Intune management and security, and explore virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), disk deduplication and tiering, and the Remote Desktop app.
Windows 8.1 Update can simplify the management of tomorrow’s IT environments, while tangibly improving today’s end-user experience. Sign up for this fast-paced Jump Start, and find out more.
Anyway, happy Tuesday folks!

Certification Notes: For the Summer, Consider 70-417

Looking for something else to read about? Need to add something else to your list of things to accomplish?

If you hold any of the current certifications list below and haven’t thought about taking an exam in a while, you might want to check your calendar and thing about upgrading your certifications this summer. Several of the exams required for these certifications will be retired on July 31, 2013 and the certification will then be considered “legacy” and no longer attainable once August roles around.

  • MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008
  • MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008

The 70-417 exam is the upgrade exam for to bring all these certifications up the new MCSA: Windows Server 2012. This exam also will also upgrade:

  • MSCA: Windows Server 2008
  • MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2
  • MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator 2010
  • MCITP: Lync Server Administrator 2010
  • MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010
  • MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7

While this might not affect your current certification status, it’s always a good thing to check in on retiring exams regularly and reassess your goals for staying current with technologies.

Surprise – You Might Have a New Certification!

Last week, Microsoft announced some new changes with the certification program, particularly bringing back the MCSE title for Cloud technologies. MCSE now stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert instead of the older Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.  And the related certification, the MSCA has also been updated.

With all these new changes the exams associated with the achievement of these new titles has been adjusted slightly, which may mean you might just be an new MSCA without even trying.

Yesterday, I got an email congratulating me on my recent certification, the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate for Windows Server 2008.  That was a fun surprise, so congrats to any other newly minted MSCAs out there!

To find out more about the new certification offerings go to