Tom’s IT Pro Contest Offers A Shot at Free WinServ08 and Cloud Essentials Courses Plus Wi-Fi Tablets
Once a week, I post to a blog for Tom’s IT Pro that’s sometimes called “Making It in IT.” That means I also get the word from Tom’s on all of their contests and promotions. Lately, they informed me about a contest they’re running in partnership with online IT e-tailer CDW through October 31, 2012. There are two grand prizes on offer, both Microsoft certification training packages plus Google Nexus 7 Wi-Fi tablets, and four additional of the same tablets as secondary prizes.
The two training packages that represent grand prizes are as follows:
- ExamForce Windows Server 2008 training package for MCITP on Windows Server 2008.
- TrainSignal CompTIA Cloud Essentials training package (video-based course covers the CLO-001 exam).
Each grand prize winner will also receive a Google Nexus 7 Tablet as well as the aforementioned training. Four additional runners-up will also win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet as well. To sign up for the exam — entries are limited to one per person, please — please visit the sign-up page, and fill out the entry form there. Do it soon: the contest ends on Halloween (10/31/2012)!
If you’ve been following this blog, or reading any of my “cert advice” work for any length of time, you already know that I recommend that cert candidates should club together to form their own study groups for specific credentials, or join existing such groups as and when they can find them. That’s because a group of like-minded folks will collectively be able to solve more problems, cover more resources, and develop good study habits and techniques together than they could ever develop alone. This also explains why many cert programs likewise advocate study groups as well, and sometimes even support them. But nobody does that better right now than Cisco, as the following table will illustrate. It is taken from the Certification Study Groups page on the Cisco Learning site, where each hyperlinked cell leads to the home page for the study group for some Cisco certification (CCENT, CCDA, CCNA, …).
Cisco Certification Study Groups Matrix
|Design||CCENT Group||CCDA Group||CCDP Group||CCDE Group
|Routing & Switching||CCENT Group||CCNA Group
||CCNP Group||CCIE Group|
|CCNA Security Group||CCNP Security Group(formerly CCSP)||CCIE Security Group|
||CCIE SAN Group
||CCIP Group||CCIE SP Group|
|Voice||CCENT Group||CCNA Voice Group
||CCNP Voice Group(formerly CCVP)
||CCIE Voice Group|
|Wireless||CCENT Group||CCNA Wireless Group||CCNP Wireless Group||CCIE Wireless|
|Service Provider Operations||CCENT Group||CCNA SP Operations Group||CCNP SP Ops Group Coming Soon||CCIE SP Operations Group|
What you’ll find for each study group is best illustrated by depicting the banner for one of them — I choose the biggest one (CCENT) as my example — where you find tabs for member questions and answers, information about group members, links to ongoing discussions, and links to helpful documents for study and exam preparation.
These illustrations may not directly help those who are not seeking Cisco certification at the moment, but it does illustrate what’s possible in this realm, and what at least one cert sponsor is doing to support its community of certification candidates. If your sponsor doesn’t already do something like this, perhaps they should, and now you can point them to this outstanding illustration of what sponsor effort and Web pages can deliver to their candidate community!
In visiting the Born to Learn blog this morning, Krista Wall’s October 11 post “Upcoming Exam Retirements” reminded me that as new versions of software enter the stage — along with certifications to support them — older versions of that same software (and their attendant certs) invariably also fall by the wayside. In looking at the full list of exams Microsoft has now scheduled for retirement, I’m struck by how clean their broom is sweeping the decks in the next 9 months or so. Let me explain, by providing some illustrations:
- Windows Server: on July 31, 2013, most of the Windows Server 2003 exams will shuffle off the stage (70-291, 70-293, 70-294, 70-297, 70-298, 70-299, and 70-699) along with a surprising number of Windows Server 2008 exams (70-643, 70-647, 70-648, 70-649, 70-679, 70-690, and 70-691).
- SQL Server: Likewise on 7/31/2013, look for these SQL Server 2008 exams to go bye-bye (70-433, 70-450, 70-451, 70-452).
- Virtualization: Same date (7/31/2013), the previous Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V related exams go up in smoke (70-659, 70-669, 70-693).
- XP: the old 70-270 exam will also finally begone on July 31, 2013 as well.
- Older (2007) Lync Server, Office Communications Server, Project Server, and SharePoint Server based exams are most retiring on January 31, 2013 (if they haven’t been retired already; see the retirement list for details).
This represents a pretty thorough cleaning out of older certifications, and tells me that MS is very serious about moving its customer base up to the latest Windows Server iteration, along with the major platforms — SQL Server, Lync Server, SharePoint, and so forth. Given the normally slow adoption of new server versions this strikes me as a fairly aggressive policy, but is perhaps Microsoft’s best bet for moving customers along in the next two to three years. We’ll see if this works, at any rate!
Working with Infographic clearinghouse Visual.ly, Cisco has recently produced a fascinating infographic entitled “Demand for IT Networking Professionals in USA” (click the link to see the whole thing; I’ll be including bits and pieces of this work throughout my blog post here). Overall, it’s a colorful, intelligently-populated, and artfully produced collection of information bound to be of great information to this blog’s readership.
The rest of the piece is broken into various sub-panels that address the following topics and information:
- Compound annual growth rate for network traffic by class of device, including PCs (26%), TVs (77%), Mobile-2-Mobile (86%), Smartphones (119%), and Tablets (129%).
- Top Technical Skills in demand from the “what CIOs want” perspective and in terms of the fastest growing IT jobs, where network and computer systems administrators, information security analysts, Web developers, and computer network architects, along with computer systems analysts, all lead the pack with annual growth rates of over 20 percent.
- There’s also an interesting chart of 2012 Salary by job function that shows a surprising number of job titles with top ends above $100,000 per year, including titles related to the job roles mentioned in the previous bullet item.
- The graphic concludes with 2012 top Cisco Certifications by Salary, which I’ll reproduce for your perusal here:
Even so, the pay levels shown for these junior credentials aren’t at all bad, and argue forcefully that those who earn more advanced Cisco certs must surely be making more still!
On September 28, I posted a blog entitled “A Tale of Two Entry-Level, Vendor-Neutral Storage Certs” which compares and contrasts CompTIA’s Storage + (Powered by SNIA) credential against Hitachi’s Storage Technology exam (HH0-050) and credential. In that blog I mused on possible reasons why Hitachi — a member of both SNIA and CompTIA — might find it necessary to launch its own, lower-cost entry-level storage certification. This morning, I came across more evidence of Hitachi’s seriousness in making this credential accessible to any and all interested parties at a very affordable cost, as shown in this Amazon Listing for the company’s Storage Concepts: Storing and Managing Digital Data (Vol 1) trade paperback book (Amazon link).
The book costs $55 at Amazon, which is a little on the high side for exam study guides including usual discounts, but not unreasonably expensive. The publisher is listed as “HDS Academy, Hitachi Data Systems” where the HDS Academy is Hitachi’s training and certification arm. Hitachi also positions the book as a general entry-level reference to storage, as well as a preparation guide for its HH0-050 certification exam. The book is also available online at Amazon’s CreateSpace.com subsidiary (but I can’t find a link to it there, though it’s no problem at the parent Amazon.com site), and at the Hitachi website www.storageconcepts.net, and prices are the same everywhere. A Kindle version is also planned as well.
I very much like it when I see a cert program sponsor step up behind their credentials to make them affordable and accessible. I’d love to know more about why Hitachi decided to do this, but it’s clear that they’re taking their credential to the global market and are pushing to get more IT professionals up to speed on storage technology. This only affirms my earlier suspicion that they’re seeking to make this kind of information more accessible to the Third World, by lowering the cost of entry (and certification) in this fast-growing IT niche.
One of the great things about having a blog of one’s own is that one can occasionally depart from the usual topics to reflect on the trials of daily life, or to vent one’s spleen about various and sundry aggravations. Today, I will do a little of both and explain why I love Caller ID, and how it’s changed my telephonic behavior forever and very much for the better.
If you don’t identify yourself, I probably don’t want to talk to you, either.
I work at home, and everything I do is on a deadline. When an incoming call gets to ringing, I no longer pick up the phone and do my own call screening by trial and error. Instead, I look at the caller ID, and use what I do — or don’t — see there to decide whether or not to pick up. And even when I do pick up, that information often guides my subsequent and immediate behavior. I can sum this up in two simple rules:
Rule 1: If I don’t know you, or you won’t tell me who you are, I probably won’t pick up
I get countless calls labeled as “anonymous,” “unknown caller,” or any of a wide variety of toll-free numbers (from the 800, 888, and other 8** exchanges). Other calls are simply identified by location: I just found “Santa Monica, CA,” “Plano, TX,” and “Gilroy, CA” in my 100-number caller ID log. 9 times out of 10 I don’t pick any of these calls up, knowing that I don’t want to hear what they want to tell me anyway.
Rule 2: If I do pick up on a no-name caller, there better be a live person on the other end of the line
The one time out of 10 when I do pick up a suspect number, I’ll listen for a human presence when I pick up the phone. If there’s any delay at all — while the auto-dialer detects “Hey, we’ve got a live one!” and switches me over to an available call-center employee — I’m already hanging up the phone. I usually wait until the switchover occurs and I hear the line go over from a dead state to a live one (background noise kicks in), and that’s when I hang up before the call center employee has a chance to launch into his or her script.
Why do I do this? I’m sorry if this seems rude to those readers who may be interested in my blog but who also work in a call center, or know somebody who does, but my time is all I have to sell to make my living. I try to max out my charitable giving every year, and I’ve learned to ask those charity callers who get through my screen the first telling question in that game of chance “How much of your donations goes to the actual beneficiaries?” (I won’t give to any organization that gives less than 80-85% to the beneficiaries; recently I got a call from some “Kid’s wish” outfit that gives only 13 percent — yes, THIRTEEN % — to the kids). But I just don’t have time to spend on the phone listening to pitches I’m likely to decline anyway. So I try to steer around that stuff.
As for calls that come in after normal working hours, I won’t get near any numbers I don’t recognize. That goes double for incoming calls while we’re sitting at the table eating dinner. Take a lesson telemarketers: Caller ID is the consumer’s friend. Don’t expect us to give you our time any more, unless you treat us like normal, decent human beings. Tell us who you are, what you want, and let us bail if we don’t want to hear any more. It would also be very nice if the national do not call list really worked the way it’s supposed to, too!
After last month, many economists were expecting low job growth for September and possibly even a slight uptick in the overall unemployment number. Happily, new jobs created not only came in barely over the consensus forecast — 114,000 actual where most forecasts were at 110,000 — but also the overall unemployment number dipped from 8.1 to 7.8 percent, where the consensus forecast had been somewhere between “no change” and 8.3 percent.
But the number of “involuntary part-time workers” (those who would work full-time if they could, but who can only find part-time work) jumped up from 8 million in August to 8.6 million in September (a 7.5 percent increase). Also, the number of “persons marginally attached to the work force” (those who can’t find jobs, and haven’t had a job in 12 months or more) remains almost unchanged from its value one year ago at 2.5 million persons. That said, the number of “discouraged workers” (people currently not looking for work because they believe there are no jobs to be had) was at 802,000 for September, a decrease of 235,000 from the same month in 2011. The remaining 1.7 million persons in the marginally attached group did not search for work in September owing to family responsibilities, school, or other commitments.
Healthcare and transportation were the big gainers in September, with bumps of 44,000 and 17,000 respectively. Transportation is actually transportation and warehousing, where the 17,000 breaks into 9,000 for transit and ground passenger transport and 4,000 for warehousing and storage. Manufacturing dropped by a similar amount (-16,000) in September, with another -6,000 in computer and electronic products, and -3,000 more for printing and related activities. Overall, the home sector for this blog — the information, computing, and related services niches — continues flat with little change either up or down.
Looks like both presidential candidates will be able to mine these numbers to paint contrasting pictures of our current employment situation. Certainly, job growth is not robust enough for anybody to like it much, but a decrease in overall unemployment this close to the election can’t help but benefit the incumbent, while continued slow growth mode and lackluster performance in key economic driving sectors (such as manufacturing) will probably play in the challenger’s favor. Should be interesting to see how these numbers get spun, starting today. All in all though, it looks as if slow growth mode remains the order of the days, weeks, months — and possibly even, years — ahead!
Just yesterday, I contacted my new PR contact at Microsoft Learning, Megan Kahn, to ask about the MCSA: Windows 8 certification, and this morning I find the details posted on the MS Learning Website for this emerging certification. Here’s the banner graphic from its brand-new information page:
There’s also a single-exam upgrade path via 70-689 to this credential for individuals who hold any of the following certs:
- MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator
- MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician
- MCSA: Windows 7
What I want to know now is why MS doesn’t list the Windows 7 and Windows 8 MCSAs on the MCSA home page? Currently it shows only the MCSAs for Windows Server 2012 and 2008, and SQL Server 2012. Let’s hope they update this page soon!
Excuse the alt-cap/lower-case orthography on “Register Now!” in this post’s title. It’s intended to draw attention to an upcoming online training event from Microsoft that’s sure to fill up today. Also, there’s a new protocol for signing up for such events where you set up a Jump Start account to register for training, and which enables immediate importation of registered activities into Outlook.
I’ve signed up for this course, and you may want to do likewise. Here’s an overview of the overall schedule, pulled straight from my Calendar in Outlook:
Module 1: Windows Tips Tricks for IT Pros
Touch and mouse/keyboard shortcuts
Sharing, searching, and other contacts
Task Manager, Windows Explorer, and File History
Internet Explorer 10 app
Module 2: Windows 8 Deployment
Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012
System Center 2012 Configuration Manager
Internet Explorer Assessment Kit
Module 3: Windows 8 and Windows Store Apps
Sideloading (signature, Group Policy)
Step-by-step sideloading an app scenario
Step-by-step sideloading an app by useing MDT 2012
Self-service portal for Metro Apps (System Center)
Management with Windows Intune
Module 4: Enabling Flexible Workstyles with Windows 8
Overview of SkyDrive Pro
Deploying UE V and generating custom templates
Windows to Go
Encrypting a Workspace by using BitLocker Drive Encryption
Enabling office domain join on a workspace
Module 5: Recovery & Security
Resetting and refreshing the PC
Creating a custom refresh image
Creating a DaRT recovery image
Deploying the DaRT recovery image by using Windows DS
Installing the DaRT recovery image locally
BitLocker and MBAM
Secure Boot, Measured Boot
Module 6: Windows 8 Virtualization
Pooled virtual machines
Cut the Rope, HD video, 3D, and webcam over session and over pooled VM
User Experience Virtualization
Some of the topics are pretty tame (Module 1, example) but it looks like there’s a lot of good stuff on deployment, sideloading, recovery and security, and virtualization. That’s why I signed up for the course myself, and plan to jump in and out during October 18 as my interest waxes and wanes. The instructors have a pretty good rep, though — Stephen Rose is a Senior PM and Community Manager for Windows 8, and Joey Snow is a Senior Technical Evangelist (and a regular speaker on TechNet Edge) — so the material should be sharp, fast-paced, and full of useful info for IT pros. If you’re interested, sign up soon (like TODAY). Seats are bound to evaporate quickly.
I was flipping through Anne Martinez’ latest Certification Watch newsletter (Volume 15 #8) earlier this week, and read with some interest that Hitachi Data Systems — a well-known vendor of storage systems, software, and services — has launched a new certification program in the area of storage. What I found interesting was that this new credential, based on the Hitachi Data systems Storage Technology Exam (HH0-050) is explicitly positioned as vendor neutral, with an emphasis on “storage technology and concepts,” in the opening words of its blurb.
“Hmmm!” I though to myself, “Isn’t this the rightful niche for the CompTIA Storage+ (Powered by SNIA) exam?” And indeed, SNIA (the Storage Networking Industry Association) itself quit offering its own entry-level storage exam known as SNIA Foundations when it got in bed with CompTIA to launch the Storage+ exam on January 18, 2012. Even more interesting, HDS is listed as one of 17 large-scale voting members of SNIA, right on the front page of its Member Directory.
So I did what any curious certification geek would do: I compared the various basic statistics and published characteristics for these two exams:
|Storage+ vs. HDS HH0-050|
|Duration||90 min||60/90 min+|
|* Discounts for CompTIA member companies do apply|
|+ Non-native English speakers get 30 extra minutes for the test|
I have to speculate that Hitachi may not have been entirely happy with the uptake and popularity of the Storage+ exam, especially outside CompTIA’s core markets in North America and Europe. By reducing the number of questions from 100 to 50, cutting the price almost in half from $246 to 125 (candidates who work for CompTIA member companies do get about a 10% discount, however), and increasing the time from 60 to 90 minutes for those candidates who speak English as a second language, I see Hitachi making direct moves to appeal to a broader, less well-heeled audience outside the first world.
Even in the first world, many candidates interested in storage might find the HH0-050 exam appealing because of its lower cost and shorter duration. From what I can see from its objectives and coverage, the Hitachi exam compares favorably with Storage+ in topics, scope, and content. It might make an even better first step for IT professionals interested in learning more about storage, but anyone who takes either exam should remain aware that both are entry level credentials unlikely to lead directly to a new job or a promotion in and of themselves. By design, both of these exams are stepping stones into more advanced and platform-focused credentials from major storage vendors, or more advanced elements in SNIA’s ongoing vendor-neutral certification track.