The old saw tells us that the best things in life are free. By that metric, IT certification is generally excluded from consideration, as the vast majority of such credentials require spending money on a certification exam of some kind, as well as study materials. In some cases, certification sponsors even require candidates to pony up for mandatory classroom training just to qualify to take some certification exam or another. While it is very much the exception and not at all the rule, there are some free certifications available. In a recent article for his excellent Website ITCertificationMaster.com, Miroslaw Burnejko hits pay dirt with a story entitled “3 The Best FREE Online Courses with Certificates.” In this story, he points to the following three certifications as not just free but worth pursuing anyway (and don’t forget that your time and effort are worth something, even if you don’t have to expend any hard, cold cash):
1. Hurricane Electric’s IPv6 Certification Program:
HE is a leading North American (and Global) ISP, and one of a handful that offers companies a variety of technologies (including a very nice IPv6 Tunnel Broker, that lets you manage a native IPv6 connection to HE through another ISP, even if they themselves support only IPv4) to permit them to establish a native IPv6 presence on the Internet. Though Burnejko points specifically to the pinnacle cert in the HE program — the IPv6 Sage — their offerings come in six levels, where earning each one requires reading and experimentation, and then passing an increasingly complex and challenging series of labs exams to climb to the next rung on their certification ladder. Everyone starts out as a Newbie, then individuals climb to Explorer, Enthusiast, Administrator, Professional, and Guru, before ascending to the Sage level). I blogged about this program back in 2011 (“Hurricane Electric Free IPv6 Certification“) as I was researching the next edition of our college textbook Guide to TCP/IP (4th edition).
2. Backup Academy‘s Free Online Cert (Sponsor: Veeam)
Backup Academy offers a collection of 16 videos on a broad range of topics, all centered around the general subject of backing up virtual machines, and protecting the data and capabilities of virtualized environments and infrastructures. These efforts include some pretty big names in the field, such as Greg Shields, Brien Posey, Rick Vanover, Eric Siebert, Elias Khasner, and Andrea Mauro, among others. Veeam also offers a helpful glossary of technical terms, plus copies of the slide decks used to create the videos (with podcast versions also available for auditioning on mobile devices). When they’re ready candidates can take a certification exam, and those who score 75% or higher will earn a “Virtual Backup Expert” certificate. Good stuff!
3. CloudU: Free Cloud Computing Coverage from Rackspace
Back in 2012, RackSpace recruited cloud computing legend Ben Kepes to assemble a free training program to teach interested IT professionals about cloud computing. The 10 video lessons he assembled cover everything from the basics of cloud computing, to their economics, how the cloud computing stack is assembled using the standard building blocks of software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service, IaaS), and more. He also covers topics related to the migration of data centers into the cloud, cloud security, planning a move to the cloud, running a business in the cloud, and various ways to approach cloud delivery mechanisms, open versus closed clouds, and how to decide which applications (and data) to keep in house and which to migrate into the cloud. After viewing each lesson, candidates must take a quiz on what they’ve seen and heard in the video and on the related whitepaper for the current topic; after completing all 10 lessons and quizzes, candidate must then earn a minimum score of 80% on a 50-question exam drawn from the end-of-lesson quizzes. The final exam may be taken repeatedly to earn a passing score, after which candidates earn a CloudU Certificate.
I’ve got to hand it to Burnejko for pulling such a nice slate of freebies together. I certainly can’t think of any better free IT cert offerings available right now, and I’ve been racking my brains to come up with others. The only possible competition comes when established cert sponsors — such as Microsoft or Cisco — invite those who register with them as subject matter experts to take free beta exams. Those who pass them will get a leg up on related certifications, but it’s kind of an exclusive club, and is certainly not available to the general public. The items covered here, however, are free to one and all, and worth pursuing for those with professional interests in the various topics and technologies they touch.