Training and Certification

Rubel Khan's Blog

Archive for July, 2009

Count your peers: Microsoft Certified Professionals around the world

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 31, 2009

The Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCP) program was established in 1992. To date, more than 2 million people have achieved Microsoft Certification. Join this vast network, and enjoy the benefits of connecting, collaborating, and sharing resources with other highly skilled individuals.


Credential Certification MCPs worldwide
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) BizTalk Server 2006: Custom Applications

Business Desktop Deployment

Connected Home Integrator

Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007

Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack: Configuration

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007: Configuration

Microsoft Forefront Client and Server: Configuration

Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006: Configuration

Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007: Configuration

Microsoft Office Groove 2007: Configuration

Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005

Microsoft Office Project Server 2007: Configuration

Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007: Applications

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007: Application Development

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007: Configuration

Microsoft Office Visio 2007: Application Development

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007: Configuration

Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007: Configuration

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Configuration

Microsoft Team Foundation Server: Configuration and Development

Microsoft Virtual Earth 6.0: Developing Applications

.NET Framework 2.0: Distributed Applications

.NET Framework 2.0: Web Applications

.NET Framework 2.0: Windows Applications

.NET Framework 3.5, ADO.NET Applications

.NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Applications

.NET Framework 3.5, Windows Communication Foundation Applications

.NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Applications

.NET Framework 3.5, Windows Presentation Foundation Applications

.NET Framework 3.5, Windows Workflow Foundation Applications

SQL Server 2005: Business Intelligence Development

SQL Server 2005

SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

SQL Server 2008, Database Development

SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance

Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office

Windows Embedded CE 6.0: Application Development

Windows Mobile 5.0: Application Development

Windows Mobile 5.0: Configuration

Windows Server 2008 Active Directory: Configuration

Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure: Configuration

Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure: Configuration

Windows Server Virtualization, Configuration

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0: Application Development

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0: Configuration

Windows Essential Business Server 2008, Configuration

Windows Small Business Server 2008, Configuration

Windows Server 2003 Hosted Environments: Configuration and Management

Windows Vista: Configuration



















































Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) Database








Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Windows Server 2008 Directory








Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD)   89,198
Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) Microsoft .NET

Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0



Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) Enterprise Application Developer

Web Developer

Windows Developer




Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) Microsoft SQL Server 2000 153,228
Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) Windows XP 56,454
Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) Business Intelligence Developer

Business Intelligence Developer 2008

Consumer Support Technician

Database Administrator

Database Administrator 2008

Database Developer

Database Developer 2008

Enterprise Administrator

Enterprise Messaging Administrator

Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007

Enterprise Support Technician

Server Administrator













Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server

Microsoft Windows NT 4.0




Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE): Messaging Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server



Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE): Security Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server



Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server



Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA): Messaging Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server



Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA): Security Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server



Microsoft Certified Learning Consultant (MCLC)   59
Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT)   15,250
Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)   2,412,679

Posted in Certifications, Microsoft | 2 Comments »

IT Certification News » Blog Archive » Preparing For Your Windows Server Certification Test

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 31, 2009

IT Certification News » Blog Archive » Preparing For Your Windows Server Certification Test.

Posted in Certifications | Leave a Comment »

Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 31, 2009

Ok, admit it.  How many of you would much rather hit ALT+ [some key] vs. taking the mouse, clicking File, then some other menu item and maybe a sub-menu item to get your work done?  C’mon, you know you do.  All of us have our favorite keyboard shortcuts we use, whether it is CTRL+C for copy or CTRL+V for paste or Windows+Tab for the cool preview sort or anything else.  The question is, are you utilizing all of the keyboard shortcuts you can or should be using?  What if there are others that you are not aware of and using today?  Or, dare I say it, you could create your own to open programs you use often?

To help you out on your quest to simplify your life, I thought I would share with you a collection of keyboard shortcuts that you can start using with Windows 7 today:

Will any of these shortcuts work with some prior versions of Windows?  Sure.  Which ones, well, I’ll let you try out the ones you like and find out.  🙂

For our Windows Development Team, here are two requests for shortcuts that I am sure many out there would like:

Need to create this shortcut key:  image
Need to find a way to get people to not default to this key: image


Posted in Microsoft Learning | Leave a Comment »

Top 8 Tips for Successful Technology Planning

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 29, 2009

Before you launched your business, you came up with a business plan. When you started promoting your products or services, you likely created a marketing plan. But what about a technology plan?

Technology drives the success of nearly every business, but many companies—especially smaller ones—don’t take the time to draw up a sound IT strategy.

A plan for your company’s technology infrastructure is, arguably, one of the most important things you can do as a business owner for two key reasons:

  • It forces you to think strategically about how to best use and manage IT to improve your services and reach your business goals.
  • It acts as a guide to your purchase and upgrade decisions, ensuring you maximize your investments.


Top Technology Planning Tips

  1. Get in the right mindset. Your technology purchases are investments for your company’s stability and future growth, not expenses. In fact, a good technology plan can help you reduce costs over time.
  2. Know what technology you have in place now. Unless you are planning a complete overhaul, any new purchase must mesh with your existing infrastructure. Consider your need for upgrades and any potential compatibility issues.
  3. Know what your company is doing right (and wrong) now. Map out current internal objectives and business processes. What’s working? What’s not?
  4. Be clear on both your immediate needs and overall objectives. How will technology improve existing conditions and help you achieve long-term goals?
  5. Think in terms of tasks when purchasing technology. Break your work into tasks and processes to make better choices about the software you select. Use the software you choose to guide the hardware—or equipment—you purchase.
  6. Get an outside opinion. A skilled IT consultant can spot issues, and even savings or shortcuts you may have missed. They can also help you quickly address more complex issues and plan for things like disaster response. Search Pinpoint to find the expert help you need.
  7. Find a reliable IT maintenance contractor. It can be more cost-effective to contract IT support and maintenance than to have these experts on staff. Use Pinpoint to find ongoing IT support in your area.
  8. Ensure your employees are properly trained. Many problems people have with their computers can be avoided with simple training. Invest in training for new software and equipment and consider periodic trainings to get the most out of your investment.


Creating a master plan for technology is as essential to the success of your business as developing a business plan. In fact the two are entwined.

With proper technology planning you can minimize the potential for crises, help your employees work more efficiently, and ensure you get the most out of the technology you purchase, saving you money over time.

Posted in Microsoft | Leave a Comment »

HP Helps Develop Real Skills for a Virtualized Infrastructure

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 29, 2009

HP Helps Develop Real Skills for a Virtualized Infrastructure.

Posted in HP Learning | Leave a Comment »

Ten Things Microsoft Learning Can’t Tell You (with Q&A)!

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 29, 2009

Source (Born to Learn):

I first posted a few weeks ago to solicit questions about certification exam development. At the time I neglected to introduce myself. I’m Krista Wall, one of seven Content Development Managers (CDMs) on the certification development team. The CDM role is responsible for managing the design and development of Microsoft Certification exams. We facilitate the OD sessions that Shon Hong was talking about in his post earlier today, as well as item writing and technical review (alpha) sessions. We review items to ensure that they meet content specifications, assemble the forms for the exams, and hand them off for publishing. Along with a lot of other assorted duties, which you’ll hear about from other team members in later posts.

In that first post, I mentioned the fact that some things are just plain secret. So here’s the part where we tell you what we can’t tell you. Please note that this is not necessarily an exhaustive list of everything we can’t tell you—I’m leaving it open for a “Some more things we can’t tell you” post at some later date. But I’d like to get these out in the open earlier rather than later. Drum roll, please….

In no particular order, we can’t tell you:

1. Which items you got right.

2. Which items you got wrong.

3. Which answer is correct.

4. Which answers are incorrect.

5. How many items you need to answer correctly to pass the exam.

6. What percentage of people have passed a particular exam.

7. The text of an item. (And yes, I have had requests from candidates to “just send me a copy of the items I got wrong so I can study.”)

8. Whether or not a particular item was scored or unscored.

9. Which testing technologies are going to be on the exam you’ll be taking.

10. When we’re going to add new items to the exam.

We can’t tell you any of these things, not even if you’ve already passed the exam. The primary reason for these “we-can’t-tell-you’s” is that we have to protect the integrity of the exam content. In some cases, the “we-can’t-tell-you” could jeopardize the integrity of the exam by messing up the statistics that we use to judge the validity of each item. In other cases, it would provide an unfair advantage to you or someone else taking the exam.

One other thing I can’t tell you is when the Windows 7 exams will be released. That’s because we don’t know for sure yet. I can tell you, however, that we are working on them right now. More on Windows 7 exams in a later post. Until then, keep the great questions coming!

Posted by Krista


Friday, March 06, 2009 4:07 PM by becn

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

Interesting list. Most make sense – but I don’t see the need, or sense, in items 5,6, and 9.

What’s wrong with publishing the success rates? In fact, what’s wrong with publishing the success rates per region/nation?

Why keep secret the pass/fail mark?

I’m sure you USED to publicize whether something was adaptive or not (I might be confusing with novell), but it seems a little nasty to surprise test-takers with different technology. What’s the harm/risk in being up-front about that? Word gets out anyway, and I don’t believe that it’s breaking nda to mention the technologies involved.

The “protect the validity” argument really doesn’t hold for those items. And there’s no “unfair advantage” if information is public.

I suspect the real reason for those secrets is that there really isn’t a great deal of consistency in things like pass-rate between exams such as XP-Pro vs Vista.

Saturday, March 07, 2009 7:01 PM by Peter Read

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

I’d say 9’s actually valid to withhold (who cares the format, you know the technology right? ) – it’s 6 that strikes me as odd.  Either a flat “taken x times in all, passed y times” or even something more interesting like a histogram of %age of tests taken vs score (omitting pass mark or whatever).  I think it’d be interesting as an MCP and exam taker myself, but even more interesting as a hiring manager/interviewer to know that this person with an obscure cert must be great as only 3 people passed it out of 300 takers.  if only 3 people passed but only 3 people bothered to take it that’s perhaps less impressive (although statistically dodgy at that sample level I’ll admit)

Sunday, March 08, 2009 10:35 AM by Cathy P.

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

Instead of giving me this bullsh*t, why don’t you do something about the BRAINDUMPS that anyone can buy or download for free on eMule?

Howcome TestKing ( is kept on-line all these years???

Why don’t you do something about it, in order to REALLY protect the exam integrity?

Sunday, March 08, 2009 7:59 PM by Claudia Woods

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

Hi Krista,

Thanks for the list.  Is it possible to become a volunteer member of the exam writing team?  If so, please advise how to apply for such membership.

Monday, March 09, 2009 10:28 AM by Kevin

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

Well, #5 makes perfect sense to me, because there’s probably no hard number for how many items you need to get correct to pass.  Think about it for a minute.  If you have a 43 question exam and need 700/1000 to pass, does that mean that you need to get 70% of the questions correct (31, rounded up to the nearest whole number)?  If it did then you should be able to do that math on your own.

On the other hand, if different types of questions are worth more or fewer points based on their complexity, or their difficulty (as demonstrated by the percentage of people who got it correct in beta or in subsequent tests), then you can’t really give a hard number of “you must get X number correct”.  Also, if you throw into the mix the possibility that there are non-scored questions then that also affects the count.

Number 6 is a fairly useless stat (for us who aren’t creating the exams, anyway).  You could say that 95% of the people who attempt an exam pass…eventually.  Of course if it takes 3 tries per person to pass, you might have a 33% pass rate.  One stat makes the exam look easy, the other makes it look much harder.  But I think that the “difficulty” of the tests should all be roughly equal for someone who meets the recommended experience level with the subject matter.  But since the exams (at least as I understand it) are not identical for every tester, it’s hard to get particularly useful numbers without knowing exactly the makeup of the exam taken.

Monday, March 09, 2009 1:30 PM by libertymunson

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

Great comments (and of course, great resource for ideas for future blogs)! Let’s see if I can shed some light on the whys and why nots to the bullets that seem to be of most concern so far.

•Q: Why don’t we tell you how many items you need to answer correctly to pass an exam?

A: Because the number of items that you need to answer correctly to pass a particular exam is based on two key pieces of information: 1) the level of competency that SMEs tell us candidates must have to be considered minimally qualified in that content area and 2) the difficulty of the items on the exam. Both of these vary from exam to exam and can vary from one version to another for the same exam. As a result, this number will be different from exam to exam and possibly version to version within the same exam.  Providing this information will lead to more questions than it answers. Additionally, from a business perspective, we consider this bit of information to be proprietary; this is less important to me from a psychometric perspective but understandable why our business partners take this position. By the way, scoring, including the misperception that 700=70%, is clearly a complicated issue that will be discussed in more detail in a future blog.

•Q: Why don’t we tell you the passing rates for exams?

A: I think the comments that have been posted on this issue shed some light on the answer that question. Passing rate is a very poor indicator of the quality of the exam and is very easily misinterpreted. For example, a high passing rate could mean that nearly everyone who takes the exam is at least minimally qualified (which is good), the cut score is too low (which is usually more bad than good but it depends on factors that aren’t immediately obvious), or that exam content is too easy, meaning that unqualified candidates are passing (which is bad); a low passing rate could mean that those taking the exam are not minimally qualified, the cut score is too high, or that the exam content is too difficult. The passing rate in and of itself is more of a source of disinformation than it is of actual information. People draw the wrong conclusions from passing rates, and we don’t want to perpetuate that problem.

•Q: Why don’t we tell you testing technologies that will appear on an exam?

A: As Peter pointed out, if you’re at least minimally qualified, you should be able to pass the exam regardless of the testing technology is used. More practically, we don’t publish this information because the technologies used can and do change at any time.

•Regarding exam piracy, we have someone in our organization that works on this full time. She’s a bit shy, but I promise we will have a future blog on this topic.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:25 PM by Michael Dragone

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

I have a question that you might not be able to answer.

Is Service Pack content introduced into exams if the SP changes the product’s functionality? Example: Exchange 2007 came out, exams and TKs were published. SP1 is released and adds/changes functionality (take the additional of Public Folder management to the GUI). The TK doesn’t get republished. Do “SP1 questions” get added to the exam? What about exam questions/answers that would change based on the application of a Service Pack?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 5:28 PM by Krista

# re: Ten Things We Can’t Tell You

Hi Michael,

When a product update is released that changes functionality, we review the changes against the items in the pool, and determine if any items become technically inaccurate because of the changes. If items become technically inaccurate, we’ll remove them. If the change adds functionality that maps to an existing objective, then that functionality would be fair game for any new items written for that exam. Service packs rarely, if ever, have changes significant enough to require even the most minor of changes to the exam’s preparation guide. However, if/when service packs do require major changes to the content area, we create a new exam/certification rather than incorporating those changes into the current version of the exam. This ensures that people who hold the credential have demonstrated competency in the same content area.

The training kit may or may not get revised, depending on the scope of changes. I’m not an expert on how those decisions get made, but I will pass on your question to someone else who is.

For items where the answer would be different depending on the service pack, we would specify the service pack in the stem of the item.

Posted in Certifications, Microsoft | Leave a Comment »

Geek of all Trades Microsoft’s New Certifications: What They Are, Why They Matter by Greg Shields

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 29, 2009

You know this feeling. It’s the emotion you feel during what can be the longest wait in any IT professional’s career. Specifically, when you’re taking that certification exam, it’s the five-second eternity between clicking Finish and fi nding out your score. In those seconds, memories of weeks ormonths of late nights, studying, and hard work will probably flash through your mind as the Prometric servers calculate your test results—and your career’s future.
Many questions flow through IT professionals’ minds when they’re taking certification exams: Do I really know the subject? Have I studied enough? Will I pass or fail? But these questions only relate to the exam at hand. Others will likely run through your mind as you go through the entire process: Will all this extra work benefit my career? Will I get a pay raise, a promotion, or a new job as my reward?
No one can definitively answer these questions. However, Microsoft’s own certification program has been around for a long time, starting with its earliest exams on Windows, with literally millions of IT professionals certified in the following years. By passing Microsoft’s series of exams, you prove to yourself, your employer and your peers that you deeply understand the underlying technology in your Windows environment. You also prove that you understand the job role that’s been assigned to you as an IT professional.


New Paths for Certification
One important step on the path from zero to certification hero is understanding all the the steps required to meet your goals. This understanding is critical because of the sheer volume of exams available in Microsoft’s testing portfolio. Taking the wrong exam wastes time and effort. Thus, your first challenge is mapping out the certification path that makes the most sense for your job role.
First, a little history: Microsoft’s certification program has grown and expanded dramatically in the years since the first Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams were offered. Tests are regularly released and later retired as the technologies involved come and go.
Even entire certifications have seen their lifecycle fully realized. Most notably, the venerable Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) credential is gone for all iterations but Windows Server 2003. Why eliminate the MCSE, long the goal of virtually every Microsoft cert-seeker? In many ways, the premiere certification met its end because of its name. The term “engineer” is a protected word in many states and countries, holding a specific meaning that wasn’t part of Microsoft’s testing goals. Its use caused a legal exposure for Microsoft and its testing program.
But the name wasn’t the MCSE’s only problem. The original MCSE was a first step in providing a premiere certification that demonstrated to employers what you knew. What it didn’t do well was focus on specifics. Once you obtained the MCSE, that credential was bestowed regardless of which path you used to get there. Netting that MCSE required taking a series of specified exams along with an additional set of electives. Nowhere in your MCSE credential was it easy to see that, for instance, your experience focused more on Exchange than on clustering or on SQL than on IIS.
Replacing this monolithic MCSE is a new certification program that’s designed to better identify where your skills lie. The new program also includes additional tiers designed to validate your maturity and experience with Microsoft’s technology.
Microsoft’s new certification path starts with the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification, which is bestowed upon individuals who take one or more exams focusing on a specific Microsoft technology. These exams might relate to a particular product and version, such as Exchange Server 2007 or SQL Server 2008.
In most cases, taking an MCTS exam in one product/version combo nets you its MCTS certification. For example, if you pass the exam 70-642, “MCTS: Windows Server 2008, Networking Infrastructure, Configuring,” the actual certification bestowed will be the MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration. As you can see, with each MCTS exam you take, you also increase the number of MCTS certifications that you’ve achieved.
While industry newcomers might spend all their time accomplishing specific stated tasks directed by someone else, senior professionals find themselves moving toward the larger needs of solving business problems.
The Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification is designed for just those individuals. The MCITP consolidates a series of task-focused MCTS exams beneath a single job-role-focused MCITP exam. While not necessarily a capstone, this job-role exam tests whether an IT professional can analyze business requirements with an eye toward building an architecture that fulfills their needs. Passing the MCITP’s job-role examination requires the knowledge and experience gained through a higher-level engineering of IT systems.
For Windows Server 2008, two MCITP credentials are currently available, with others still in progress. The MCITP: Server Administrator requires two MCTS exams and a single job-role exam (see Figure 1). It’s designed as the core credential for senior professionals who primarily work with servers. Those who work in larger, more complex environments can further validate their knowledge and experience by obtaining the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator credential. This credential requires four MCTS exams as well as its own separate job-role exam (see Figure 2).

Figure 1 The MCITP: Server Administrator Roadmap

Figure 2 The MCITP: Enterprise Administrator Roadmap
Other as-yet-unreleased credentials are the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator and MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician, both scheduled to become available later this year. These credentials offer a specific focus for individuals whose job focuses less on an environment’s server infrastructure and more on its desktops. Their required exams will validate an individual’s understanding in topics such as deployment and desktop management as well as the ability to successfully resolve desktop issues. Another planned release is the MCITP: Virtualization Administrator, although details about this Hyper-V-focused exam remain unclear.
In looking through these certifications and their requirements, you’ll notice that the new MCITP credentials specifically tailor your stated certification toward what you do in your daily job. As a result, the new certifications make it much easier for current and potential employers to understand exactly where your skills lie.
One critical—and, in some circles, controversial—new facet of Microsoft’s certification program is the introduction of exam expiration. As mentioned earlier, MCTS exams test not only a technology, but a version of that technology as well. For that reason, all MCTS exams will eventually expire as the technology they test against goes out of its lifecycle, typically 7 to 10 years after the product’s initial release. This means that the MCTS on Exchange Server 2007 that you take today will evaporate at some point in the product’s future, taking your MCTS certification with it. In some cases, this will also affect your MCITP. Microsoft will provide an upgrade path to maintain your certification status when that time comes.


The Value of Certification
Despite all this information about certifications and exams, nagging questions remain about the ultimate benefit of all that work. Studying and sitting for the five exams for the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator is only worth the effort if you stand to gain from the experience.
Some organizations, particularly those in larger enterprises, have direct benefit programs in place for individuals who successfully obtain certifications. But in today’s economic climate, these cash benefit programs are likely to keep shrinking. At the same time, however, a challenging economy provides the perfect opportunity to validate to your employer—or possible future employers—that you know the right stuff to do your job.
In December 2008, technology research giant IDC commissioned a study looking at the organizational performance of more than 2,000 teams of IT professionals. The study concluded, quite impressively, that: “Unequivocally, certification, as a measure of skill, showed a positive correlation to performance improvement.” Researchers also stated that 75 percent of IT managers studied believe that certification is important to team performance and 66 percent believe that certification improves the level of service and support offered to IT customers.
While these results don’t directly state that certification will help you get that promotion or pay raise, they do indicate that those who certify provide greater benefit to their businesses. In today’s economy, that can be a significant competitive advantage.
One statistic relating to the tangible benefits resulting from a completed certification path comes from the 2007 MCP Customer Satisfaction Survey. In that survey, 71 percent of respondents said they believe that Microsoft certification helped them receive promotions or raises from their current employers. In a 2006 Redmond magazine survey of 1,280 IT professionals, 43 percent of respondents reported salary increases associated with obtaining Microsoft certifications. Forty percent cited certification as a factor in improving their ability to find or keep jobs and obtain promotions.
In addition, I’ve personally experienced the power of certification as a career-enhancing activity. Having sat for more than 30 exams over my nearly 15-year career, half of which were a part of the Microsoft program, I’ve seen how certification has advanced my own career in many ways. Though the return isn’t always immediate, certification has provided a much-needed foot in the door in numerous situations. As a technical manager, I’ve also observed the higher level of professional maturity and skill brought to the table by certified individuals. In my opinion, certification works.


Extreme Certification
In creating a comprehensive certification program that shows exactly what you know, Microsoft has also created one with a measure of complexity. The MCTS and MCITP certifications discussed above are only a small fraction of those available today. MCITP credentials are also available with focuses on database administration, database development, business intelligence development, enterprise messaging and enterprise project management. Each is yet another manifestation of the technology-plus-job-role focus explained above for server and enterprise administrators. With all these options on the table, it’s especially important to clearly understand each certification’s requirements before you start.
For deeply experienced individuals in search of “extreme” levels of skills validation, Microsoft provides its Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program. The MCM is designed to reflect individuals with skills and experience at a sort of “super-MCTS” level. These extremely highly skilled individuals have experience in niche topics associated with the particular technology that relates to their MCM certification. According to Microsoft Senior Certification Manager Jim Clark, MCMs are “the top 1 percent of the consultants out there. Out of 6.2 million MCPs in the world, only 400 of them are MCMs.”
Like MCTS credentials, MCM certifications are both technology- and version-focused. Currently, only five MCM credentials are available: Exchange Server 2007, SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008: Directory, Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.
“Although we present our certifications as following each other, with the MCM, they don’t necessarily. You don’t exactly go from MCTS to MCITP to MCM,” Clark explains. “Without the context of having experience in extremely niche situations [such as enterprise deployments with complex infrastructures], candidates won’t do well in attempting the MCM.”
One reason for this disconnect between the MCITP and the MCM has do to with certification requirements. Obtaining the MCM requires a dramatically larger investment than either the MCTS or MCITP. To obtain the MCM, candidates must attend three weeks of required learning sessions and complete in-class written and lab exams along with qualification lab exams. The requirements are intensive, as is the workload required of candidates. As a result, however, successful MCMs can expect the highest levels of professional respect from their businesses, their peers and, in the case of consultants, their clients.


Aligning Technology with Business
While it would be inappropriate to call it the highest tier of Microsoft’s certification program, the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) could be called its final tier. The MCA program is designed as the process-oriented equivalent to the MCM’s technology focus. Microsoft’s MCA program is extremely exclusive, requiring the preparation of a competency document and a review board interview before a professional can even register for the program.
Unlike each of Microsoft’s other certifications, the MCA isn’t exam-centric. To obtain the credential, candidates undergo a three- to six-month process during which they prepare documentation that includes work history, an architectural solution case study, and information on instances where program competencies have been used in production. The MCA is a board-certified credential, with the “final exam” being a review-board interview. In those interviews, candidates are required to defend their documentation in much the same way board-certified physicians complete their training.
Functionally different in its goals than the MCM, the MCA is intended for those who focus on aligning technology with business processes. As Clark puts it: “MCAs talk about solving business goals at a very high level, without actually focusing on the technology itself. It’s the job of the MCTSs and MCITPs to actually solve the problem. If you consider the MCMs as the ‘super-MCTS,’ then you could consider the MCA as the ‘super-MCITP.'”


I Summon the Vast Power of Certification!
Most IT professionals will never elevate their knowledge and experience to the level of an MCA or even an MCM. But these highest-end credentials exist to provide a stepping stone for those who want to validate their experience at the highest levels. Most of us will fulfill our own career goals by maintaining our technology and job-role certifications at the levels that make sense for us.
In the end, that’s what is primarily important when it comes to choosing the certification path: ensuring that your level of certification keeps pace with your individual job responsibilities as well as your overall career. Maintaining the correct level of skills validation is the key to guaranteeing the best return on your certification investment.


Greg Shields, MVP, is a partner at Concentrated Technology. Find more of Greg’s tips and tricks at

Posted in Certifications | 1 Comment »

I’m Certified…Now What? Great Article

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 27, 2009

I’m Certified…Now What?.

Posted in Certifications | Leave a Comment »

Updated CompTIA A+ to launch in August

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 24, 2009

In August, CompTIA will launch the 2009 Edition of CompTIA A+. The 2009 edition will consist of two exams, CompTIA A+ Essentials (220-701) and CompTIA A+ Practical Application (220-702).

Posted in Certifications, CompTIA | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Windows 7 Feature Walkthroughs

Posted by Rubel Khan on July 23, 2009

Since yesterday, the buzz around Windows 7 RTMing and the availability for Partners and Customers has been seen everywhere and people have now been talking for months about many of the new features and enablers within Windows 7 that will be released to the market in the near future.  To help show some of these features to everyone, we have the Windows 7 Features Walkthrough videos posted online that you can view from the comfort of your desk/chair/couch/wherever.  Be sure to check them out:

  • What’s New in Windows 7 Release Candidate – This screencast and document covers the key new features and improvements in the Windows 7 Release Candidate. This includes areas like performance, networking, security, PC management as well as everyday tasks.
  • Windows 7 VHD Boot Demonstration – This command line demonstration explains how to build a bootable Windows 7 VHD image from a Windows 7 “install.wim” file using diskpart.exe and imagex.exe. The demonstration continues with an explanation of how to configure the boot entry using bcdedit.exe and explains the limitations of VHD Boot. See the Windows 7 VHD Overview page for more information about this technology.
  • Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 – Learn how to use the User State Migration Tool (USMT) to migrate user files and settings from Windows XP to Windows 7 using a default installation.
  • User State Migration Tool – The User State Migration Tool (USMT) for Windows 7 is now part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) and provides fast and flexible options to migrate user profiles and data from one operating system to another. Explore how the new Hard-Link Migration feature highlighted in his demonstration can dramatically reduce migration time for in-place operating system migration or computer refresh scenarios.
  • BranchCache – The introduction of BranchCache in Windows 7 is the next step to improving end user productivity in branch offices. BranchCache caches content from remote file and Web servers in the branch location so that users can more quickly access this information. The cache can be hosted centrally on a server in the branch location, or can be distributed across user PCs.
  • DirectAccess – DirectAccess enables remote users to access the corporate network anytime they have an Internet connection, without the extra step of initiating a virtual private networking (VPN) connection. Find out how to use DirectAccess to provide a more secure and flexible corporate network infrastructure in which computers on and off the network can remain healthy, managed, and updated.
  • User Account Control – User Account Control (UAC) was introduced in Windows Vista to help increase security and improve total cost of ownership by enabling the operating system to be deployed without administrative privileges. See how Windows 7 continues the investment in UAC with changes that enhance the user experience and put users in greater control of their prompting experience. For example, the number of operating system applications and tasks that require elevation is reduced, so standard users can do more than before and will see fewer elevation prompts.
  • Windows Troubleshooting Platform – The Windows Troubleshooting Platform can reduce calls to the help desk by diagnosing and resolving common issues, and by providing built-in troubleshooters for several different types of problems including audio, video, and networking. Learn how to develop custom Windows Troubleshooting Packs using Windows PowerShell to help resolve issues commonly encountered in your environment.
  • AppLocker – AppLocker is a flexible, easily administered mechanism that enables IT professionals to specify exactly what is allowed to run on user desktops. It provides the flexibility to allow users to run the applications, installation programs, and scripts they need to be productive. Learn how you can realize the security, operational, and compliance benefits of application standardization by using AppLocker.
  • Deployment Image Servicing and Management
    Explore Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM), a new command-line tool for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. DISM consolidates the core image management functions of multiple tools found in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) and enables IT professionals to view components of an applied or mounted operating system image and add or remove packages, software updates, and drivers.
  • Enterprise Application Compatibility – Microsoft is committed to maximizing compatibility for applications that work with Windows Vista running on Windows 7. Much of the work done to remediate applications in Windows Vista will carry over to Windows 7 due to the underlying similarity of the two operating systems. This demonstration shows how creating compatibility fixes for an incompatible application running in Windows Vista can be used on a Windows 7-based computer.
  • Problem Steps Recorder – The Problem Steps Recorder in the Windows 7 operating system is a feature that enables users to record their interactions with an application and provide a detailed screen-by-screen view with accompanying information. Learn how the recording can be used to quickly identify problems and help reduce time spent with the help desk.
  • BitLocker and BitLocker to Go – In Windows 7, core BitLocker Drive Encryption functionality is enhanced to deliver an improved experience for IT professionals and end users—from simple enhancements such as the ability to right-click on a drive to enable BitLocker protection to the automatic creation of the required hidden boot partition. Learn about these enhancements and the new BitLocker To Go, which gives system administrators control over how removable storage devices can be used and the strength of protection required.
  • Windows PowerShell 2.0 – Explore how Windows PowerShell 2.0 can help increase the productivity of IT professionals by providing a powerful, complete scripting language to automate repetitive tasks and conduct remote troubleshooting. It delivers a growing set of cmdlets that can be used to manage Windows–based PCs and servers, and it can be easily extended.

You can also subscribe to the Windows Client Videos for IT Pros RSS feed to be automatically updated as new walkthroughs are added.

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