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Archive for November, 2009

Windows 7 Product Guide (Free Download)

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 30, 2009

Take a look at this free download: The Windows 7 Product Guide provides a detailed look at the many new and improved features in Windows 7. The guide is designed as an accurate source of information that can help you to understand how Windows 7 Simplifies Everyday Tasks, Works the Way You Want, and Makes New Things Possible. The guide is also designed to provide IT Professionals with information about how to Make People Productive Anywhere, Manage Risk Through Enhanced Security and Control, and Reduce Costs by Streamlining PC Management. This is not a help and how to guide. Rather, it provides an overview of the many exciting features in Windows 7 and pointers to more information. The Windows 7 Product Guide is available in both XPS and PDF formats.

 

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Microsoft’s Hyper-V R2 vs. VMware’s vSphere: A feature comparison

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 30, 2009

VMware and Microsoft are ramping up their virtualization games with relatively new releases. Scott Lowe compares and contrasts some of the major features in vSphere and Hyper-V R2.

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Microsoft was late to the virtualization game, but the company has made gains against its primary competitor in the virtualization marketplace, VMware. In recent months, both companies released major updates to their respective hypervisors: Microsoft’s Hyper-V R2 and VMware’s vSphere. In this look at the hypervisor products from both companies, I’ll compare and contrast some of the products’ more common features and capabilities. I do not, however, make recommendations about which product might be right for your organization.

This table compares items in four editions of vSphere and three available editions of Hyper-V R2. Below the table, I explain each of the comparison items. (Product note: With the release of vSphere, VMware has released an Enterprise Plus edition of its hypervisor product. Enterprise Plus provides an expanded set of capabilities that were not present in older product versions. Customers have to upgrade from Enterprise to Enterprise Plus in order to obtain these capabilities.)

Click the image to enlarge.

Max host processors. Indicates the number of physical host processors that can be recognized by the system. Bear in mind that the Windows columns are Windows limits and not necessarily Hyper-V limits.

Max cores/processor. How many processor cores per physical processor are recognized?

Max virtual SMP. In an individual virtual machine, this indicates the maximum number of supported virtual processors. Note: This is a maximum value; not every guest operating system can support the maximum number of virtual processors.

Max host RAM (GB). The maximum amount of RAM recognized by the hypervisor.

Max RAM/vm. The maximum amount of RAM that can be allocated to an individual virtual machine.

Failover nodes. The maximum number of physical hosts that can be clustered together. N/A indicates that failover clustering is not supported for that particular hypervisor edition.

Memory overcommit. Does the hypervisor support memory overcommit? Memory overcommitment is a technique available in vSphere that allows administrators to allocate more RAM to virtual machines than is physically available in the host. There are numerous pro and con articles about this topic, but it’s clear that having the ability to allocate more resources than are physically available increases overall virtual machine density. The decision to use memory overcommit in a production environment is up to each organization. That said, in my opinion, when used in the right circumstances, I can see great benefit in this feature.

Transparent page sharing. Transparent page sharing is one method by which memory overcommitment is achieved. With this technique, common code shared between virtual machines is, itself, virtualized. Let’s say that you have 100 virtual machines running Windows XP for VDI. Using transparent page sharing, RAM isn’t necessarily a major limiting factor when it comes to desktop density on the server. VMware has an excellent example of this technique in action.

Live Migration/VMotion. The ability for the hypervisor to migrate virtual machines between host servers without significant downtime. This is considered one of the most significant availability benefits provided by virtualization solutions.

Simultaneous Live Migration. Can the product utilize its Live Migration capabilities to move multiple virtual machines simultaneously between nodes?

Live guests per host. The number of virtual machines that can be powered on for a maxed-out host. In the real world, I’d be extraordinarily surprised to see anyone getting close to these limits. Virtualization is a great way to lower costs, but there are limits.

Live guests/HA cluster node. If you’re running your hypervisor in a cluster, this is the maximum number of virtual machines that can be active on any single host in the cluster. For vSphere with update 1, if you have eight or fewer cluster hosts, you can run up to 160 VMs per host. With nine or more cluster hosts, that number drops to 40.

Distributed Resource Scheduler. DRS is a technology that enables the migration of virtual machines between hosts based on business rules. This can be a boon for organizations with strict SLAs.

Snapshots per VM. The maximum number of snapshots that can be taken of an individual virtual machine. A snapshot is a point-in-time image of a virtual machine that can be used as part of a backup and recovery mechanism. I find snapshots incredibly useful, particularly on the workstation side of the equation, where a lot of “playing” takes place.

Thin Provisioning. One decision that has to be made early on in the life of any server (virtual or physical) is how much storage to allocate to the system. Too much storage and you waste valuable disk space — too little storage and services crash. In order to maintain reliable services, most IT shops overprovision storage to make sure that it doesn’t run out; but that conservatism adds up over time. Imagine if you have 100 VMs all with 4 or 5 GB of “wiggle room” going unused. With thin provisioning, you can have the best of both worlds. You can provision enough disk space to meet your comfort level, but under the hood, the hypervisor won’t allocate it all. As space begins to run low, the hypervisor will make more space available up to the maximum volume size. Although thin provisioning shouldn’t be used for massive workloads, it can be a huge boon to organizations that want conservatism without breaking the bank.

Storage Live Migration. This feature enables the live migration of a virtual machine’s disk files between storage arrays and adds an additional level of availability potential to a virtual environment.

Distributed Switch. VMware and Microsoft have virtual switches in their products, but only VMware has taken it one step further with the introduction of vSphere Enterprise Plus’ Distributed Switch. According to VMware, “Distributed Switch maintains network runtime state for VMs as they move across multiple hosts, enabling inline monitoring and centralized firewall services. It provides a framework for monitoring and maintaining the security of virtual machines as they move from physical server to physical server and enables the use of third party virtual switches such as the Cisco Nexus 1000V to extend familiar physical network features and controls to virtual networks.” In short, this new capability increases VMware’s availability and security capabilities.

Direct I/O. The ability for a virtual machine to bypass the hypervisor layer and directly access a physical I/O hardware device. There is limited support for this capability in vSphere; the product supports direct I/O operations to a few storage and networking controllers. Called VMDirectPath I/O, this feature can improve overall performance since it eliminates the “virtualization penalty” that can take place when hardware access is run through the hypervisor. There are some major disadvantages to VMDirectPath; for example, VMotion can’t work anymore because of the hardware need. (Note: This feature is different than direct access to disks, which Hyper-V does support.)

Max. partition size (TB). What is the largest partition supported by the hypervisor? Although VHD-based volumes, such as those used by Hyper-V R2, can be up to 2 TB in size, read this blog by Brian Henderson for insight into maximum Windows partition sizes, particularly if you bypass the VHD option altogether and use disks directly.

Application firewall (vShield). According to VMware “VMware vShield Zones enables you to monitor, log and block inter-VM traffic within an ESX host or between hosts in a cluster, without having to divert traffic externally through static physical chokepoints. You can bridge, firewall, or isolate virtual machine between multiple zones defined by your logical organizational and trust boundaries. Both allowed and blocked activities are logged and can be graphed or analyzed to a fine-grained level.” In other words, you don’t need to run traffic through external switches and routers to protect applications from one another.

Virtual instance rights. This is a Microsoft-only right that can seriously lower the overall cost of running Hyper-V R2 in a Windows-only environment. If you use the Data Center edition of Windows, you can run as many Windows Server-based virtual machines as you like without incurring additional sever licensing costs.

Hypervisor licensing. The method by which the product is licensed. Either per host or per processor.

Scott Lowe has spent 15 years in the IT world and is currently the Chief Information Officer for Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He is also a regular contributor to TechRepublic and has authored one book, Home Networking: The Missing Manual (O’Reilly), and coauthored the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Administrator’s Companion (MS Press). Read his full bio and profile.

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Cisco Introduces New Telepresence Certs for 2010 By Daniel Margolis

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 30, 2009

In a global business climate populated by organizations under pressure to keep costs low, telepresence is emerging as an increasingly significant chunk of communications in general. The telepresence market may reach $4.7 billion in revenue worldwide by 2014, predicts business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

As such, IT professionals are scrambling to develop the skill sets necessary to work with technologies that bring people in remote locations together through video and audio feed.
Last week, Cisco announced an extension of its certification program designed in response to increasing market demand for telepresence and collaboration solutions. Cisco is releasing two specialist certifications: the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist and the Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist. The courses and exams are scheduled to go live by January 2010.

The Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist certification focuses on the job performance needs of a midcareer voice specialist or networking engineer who seeks to specialize in the planning, design, implementation and maintenance of Cisco TelePresence deployments. Tasks include assessing network paths for rich media, evaluating call-control design options and configuring interoperability functions. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is a prerequisite.

The Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist certification focuses on the job performance needs of an installation technician seeking to master the physical deployment and construction of single-screen Cisco TelePresence Systems. Tasks include assessing room readiness, tuning cameras and microphones and installing high-definition screens. While there is no prerequisite certification, a working understanding of basic Internet-based device connections is highly recommended.

Christine Yoshida, senior manager of learning and development at Cisco Systems, commented on who these certifications are geared toward. “The Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist is designed for network engineers who need to add that telepresence-specific skill set,” Yoshida said. “They’re going to need to know how to plan, design and implement the solutions, and they’re going to need some troubleshooting skills. So we’ve built that certification on top of the CCNA certification.”

The Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist cert, meanwhile, is for “people who actually go in and construct the telepresence room,” Yoshida said. “So we teach them how to set up the room and the environment and how to evaluate the room; how to set up the lighting, sound, furniture and the conference table; and how to tune the whole system so that it’s operating correctly.”

According to Yoshida, essential telepresence skills vary by job role. “For the network engineer, they’re going to need to plan according to the customer’s needs what type of telepresence solution and installation should be implemented, and they’re going to have to plan the logistics of setting it up,” Yoshida said. “They’ll need to be concerned with call control, the architecture and the networks that support telepresence.”

Cisco’s introduction of these certifications to some extent signals maturation in the telepresence space. “When we first came out with our telepresence solution a few years ago, we were new to the market and Cisco was pretty much doing all of its own design planning and installing for customers,” Yoshida said. “Now the market adoption is such that we need to enable our channel partners with these skills, and even some of our biggest customers may want to have these skills in-house. It’s to the point where we feel there is enough critical mass to warrant this certification. It’s great because it allows the employers to know that their employees who deal with telepresence have what they need to be successful, and the individuals know that by participating in the program, getting their certifications, the skills they’re proving they have are relevant to the market demand today.”

To bolster this point, Yoshida cited findings of the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2008-2013, which states that Internet video is now approximately one-third of all consumer Internet traffic, and by 2013 the sum of all forms of video will account for more than 91 percent of global consumer traffic.

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Certification Magazine’s 2009 Salary Survey By Certification Magazine Editorial Staff — December 2009

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 30, 2009

Fifteen months ago, the world watched in horror as stock markets plummeted, debt skyrocketed, banks collapsed and the credit industry imploded, plunging the global economy into the worst recession since the Great Depression. No one knew what the next day, week or month — let alone year — had in store.

Suffice it to say, not much has changed. Though economists have pointed to early signs of recovery, we’re all still waiting with bated breath for some kind of certainty to emerge. This year’s CertMag Salary Survey received more than 40,000 responses from IT professionals in over 150 countries around the world — from Pakistan to the Philippines, from Bulgaria to Bangladesh. The good news is, despite the continued economic ambiguity, the results of our survey pointed to a few stable trends within the IT industry that could provide professionals with some direction for the coming year.

First, IT has been widely recognized as a growth industry — even in this climate — and our numbers reflected that. In 2009, the average U.S. total salary, including benefits and incentives, was a generous $96,677. That is a 9 percent gain over last year’s average of $88,640. However, this growth represents a slowdown from that of the previous year, when average total salaries jumped a dramatic 15 percent.

Also reflective of the times was the number of IT professionals who are experiencing pay cuts. About a quarter of you said you’ve either had your pay cut in the last year or expect to have your pay cut in the coming year. Fewer people reported getting incentives or bonuses this year, too — dropping from 41 percent of respondents in 2008 to 34 percent in 2009.

However, again proving the value of certification, many respondents reported receiving a raise after earning their most recent certification, with 30 percent of you saying that raise was between 10 and 20 percent. Then again, most of you (52 percent) said that raise was 5 percent or less, whereas last year the most common raise amount was 5 to 10 percent.

Also indicating the power of certification was the number of respondents who added more than two certifications to their portfolios this year. This figure jumped from 11.4 percent of respondents in 2008 to more than 30 percent in 2009, while the total number of people who earned at least one cert this year was more than 67 percent. Tellingly, a full 96 percent of respondents from the top five countries with the highest salaries said they were certified.

In the U.S., the top five highest-paying certs varied a bit this year from last year, although the general content areas stayed pretty much the same. The cert that commanded the highest salary this year was the Brocade Certified Network Engineer (BCNE, formerly FNCNE) with a whopping average total salary of $146,250. This bumped last year’s top cert, the Brocade Certified Fabric Designer (BCFD or BCSD), which had an average salary of $120,770 last year, to No. 4 this year.

Rounding out the top five highest-paying certs in 2009 were: (ISC)2 Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP-ISSAP) with $136,060; Brocade Certified SAN Manager (BCSM) with $136,020; Brocade Certified Fabric Designer (BCFD or BCSD) with $135,600; and the (ISC)2 Information Systems Security Management Professional (CISSP-ISSMP) with $134,100.

As evidenced by these results, a general focus on network and security issues continues to be a growing trend — and lucrative career choice — within the IT industry.

The cert that connoted the lowest salary was the CIW – Certified Internet Web Professional, with an average salary of $59,290. This was followed by the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) with $62,030; the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) with $63,420; the HP: Accredited Platform Specialist (APS) with $64,180; and Dell certification with $67,190.

This is not too surprising given that many of these certs correspond with entry-level jobs or jobs that are not particularly “hot” right now.
No doubt about it: The past year has had its ups and downs. But as the results of the 2009 CertMag Salary Survey show, there are rays of light to be seen in the IT field. And while a certain level of uncertainty remains, IT professionals can use it as an opportunity to explore the new specializations or career paths that continue to emerge as the industry develops.

– Agatha Gilmore

Identifying Today’s IT Professional: Who Are You?

Before delving into an analysis of the survey data, we first must understand who was answering the questions. Here’s a rundown.

According to survey responses, dudes continue to dominate the industry, with 90 percent of you being men. And it’s still a young person’s industry. The largest number of responses (27 percent) came from the 25 to 29 age group, followed by the 30 to 34 demographic (roughly 21 percent). The under-25 group stayed consistent with prior surveys, containing less than 12 percent of the respondents. There was a slight downturn in the older groups this year, with less than 16 percent in the 35 to 39 age range; less than 10 percent from 40 to 44 years old; 7 percent from ages 45 to 49; and just 5 percent from the 50 to 54 age group.

More than half of you have received higher education of some sort. Approximately 42 percent of you have a bachelor’s degree, and 22 percent have a master’s degree. Nearly 12 percent of you have received technical training but no degree, and nearly 10 percent have just a high school diploma.
Survey respondents are also overwhelmingly global. Respondents logged on to fill out the survey from 167 countries spanning the globe. We even had one respondent from North Korea.

Following previous Salary Survey trends, the majority of respondents live outside the United States, but the largest single group within the survey remained the U.S., with 7,130 respondents out of the 26,075 who told us where they live. That 27 percent total represents a significant drop from last year, however, when it was nearly 40 percent. The Indian contingent grew again this year, with 16.7 percent of responses — up from 14.6 percent in 2008. China was the biggest area of growth, though, with 4.2 percent of the total responses. It bumped the United Kingdom — which had 4 percent — from the third spot. Canada held steady with 4 percent, the same as last year.

Among North American respondents, the highest percentage are in California (8.5 percent), followed by Texas (7.2 percent). The number of respondents from Virginia held steady this year, with nearly 6 percent. Ontario, Canada, had 5.2 percent of responses, followed by Illinois with 4.1 percent and Florida with 4 percent.

More of you are working less regularly. About 89 percent of respondents are currently working full time, compared with 94 percent in 2008. Only 3 percent work part time, and 4 percent are unemployed, compared with 2 percent in 2008. About 4 percent are students. The majority of you — 60 percent — work an average of 40 to 50 hours per week.

Nearly 68 percent of respondents have been with their current employer for less than four years; 14.2 percent have been with that employer for less than a year, 12.1 percent for one year, 19.9 percent for two years and 14 percent for three years. Just over 10 percent have been with their current employer for more than 10 years. According to the survey, 43 percent expect to change jobs in the coming year, while 57 plan to stay put.

The size of the companies that respondents work for is all over the board, with the majority (64 percent) working for companies with fewer than 5,000 employees, but 26 percent working for companies with between 5,000 and 100,000 employees. Further, nearly 17 percent of respondents work for companies with fewer than 50 employees, while 10 percent work for companies with more than 100,000 employees.

The majority of respondents have been in the IT industry for less than 10 years — nearly 36 percent had less than five years’ experience and 28 percent had five to 10 years’ experience. Nearly 11 percent have been in IT for more than 20 years.

According to the survey, almost 93 percent of you are certified in a technical field, with many of you receiving your first certification within the last three years. Almost 20 percent of you received your first cert in 2009, 17 percent in 2008 and 12 percent in 2007.

The percentage of respondents holding three or more certs was up significantly this year to 52.1 percent, compared with 35.5 percent last year. About a quarter of you hold one certification, and 21 percent hold two.

The number of respondents who added one new certification in the past year ticked slightly downward, however, from 38 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2009. There was a corresponding drop in the number of respondents who did not add a cert to their portfolio this year, from 34 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2009. There was also a significant rise in the number of people who added more than two certifications, from 11.4 percent last year to 30.2 percent this year.

– Mike Prokopeak

Cash Is the Culprit
It’s been a rough couple years for IT professionals. While their primary concerns from 2008 haven’t changed much, they have been reordered.

This year’s Salary Survey respondents reported their top three extreme concerns are the job market, job security, and compensation and benefits. Other areas of concern include recertification or maintaining skills and employer support for certification — which, rather tellingly, both have monetary components.
Pay cuts were more popular than anyone would’ve liked in 2009, with some 14 percent of survey respondents reporting their pay had been cut in the past year, while about 12 percent expect to have their pay cut in the coming year. Ouch.

Not surprisingly, the economy also did a number on job perks. Some 41 percent of respondents got incentive compensation or a bonus in 2008, but only 34 percent of respondents indicated they received incentive compensation or a bonus in 2009, while 65 percent said they did not.

Though base salaries jumped a bit in 2009, more than 42 percent of respondents intend to change jobs in the coming year. There could be many reasons for this, from employees anticipating company downsizing to employees experiencing things on the job that would prompt them to explore other opportunities when available or when the economy rebounds.

Overwork might be another reason IT pros are eyeing the door. Despite many reduced or stagnant salaries, 59 percent of respondents work more than 40 hours per week, and more than 15 percent work in excess of 50 hours per week.

The Salary Survey did reveal some good money news, however. After receiving their most recent certification, about 36 percent of respondents received a raise, though about half reported that raise was 5 percent or less. About 15 percent said the raise was at least 10 percent; roughly the same number said it was between 15 and 20 percent; and 5 percent of respondents said they received a raise of more than 50 percent.

Judging by the survey results, it also appears that boosting one’s cache of skills via certification is a smart move no matter the market conditions, as certifications were credited with helping respondents get those pay increases. Around 47 percent said they think their most recently earned certification played a role in them getting a raise. Furthering their certification portfolios also contributed to respondents’ career progression. Roughly 1 in 5 respondents received a promotion in the first year after receiving their most recent certification.

Certifications also are credited with helping IT professionals get along better in this volatile market. More than 85 percent of respondents agree that since they’ve become certified, there is a greater demand for their skills. More than 86 percent said becoming certified has improved their problem-solving skills, and roughly the same number report that achieving certification has increased their productivity on the job. There’s nothing like a little focused study to take one’s mind off money problems and rapidly emptying cubicles.

Despite the benefits of certification, the Salary Survey results showed a lack of certification support from employers. Here again, it’s likely money is the culprit. Some 11 percent of respondents report their employers were not at all supportive of their efforts to certify or recertify their skills. Then again, about 77 percent said their employers gave them at least some support.

Outsourcing, once a huge IT career headache, continues to lose teeth year-over-year. It did not affect 63 percent of this year’s survey respondents, which represented a drop of 1 percentage point from last year. In fact, 31 percent of this year’s respondents reported they benefited from outsourcing — up 6 percentage points from last year. These perhaps unlikely beneficiaries were either retrained or repositioned within their companies.

Reskilling seems to be a popular way to combat the recession, as 37 percent of respondents have added at least one new certification in the past year, and 18 percent have added two. Further, 84 percent plan to pursue additional certifications within the next 12 months. So either there’s relief on the horizon, or IT professionals are gearing up to deal with the next wave of madness.

– Kellye Whitney

The Demographics Effect
Demographic factors such as gender, age and level of education have traditionally played a role in shaping the salary earnings of IT professionals. Sure enough, this year’s findings didn’t stray from these fundamental expectations.

Judging by the survey results, women continue to comprise a relatively small segment of the IT industry, accounting for 14.1 percent of this year’s respondents. This number represents an increase of a few percentage points from previous years, although it should be noted that this year we are only factoring in responses from our U.S.-based respondents.

Interestingly, the most prominent salary bracket for both genders — again, we’re looking at U.S. data only — was the $100,000 to $109,999 range, with 10.5 percent of males and 8.4 percent of females reporting said earnings. The $110,000 to $119,000 salary range proved to be the second most popular among respondents, with 6.4 percent of males and 6.9 percent of females figuring into this category.

Another trend that’s in keeping with previous years is the salary earnings gap that arises as a result of age. As might be expected due to lack of experience and credentials, more than half of individuals who are 18 years of age and under, as well as those between the ages of 19 and 24 (16.4 percent), fell into our lowest annual salary bracket, earning less than $20,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the majority — 11.4 percent — of those between the ages of 25 and 29 reported an annual income of $60,000 to $64,999, while the majority of individuals between the ages of 30 and 34 reported an average salary of $70,000 to $74,999. Not surprisingly, most of the individuals in several consecutive age groups — ages 35 to 64, collectively — reported earning an annual salary of between $100,000 and $109,999 this year.

Like last year, there appears to be a drop-off in salary earnings among our eldest respondents — those who are 65 years and older. While the majority (8.8 percent) of respondents in this age group reported earnings of $90,000 to $99,999, the same number of individuals also reported earning less than $20,000 this year. As suggested in the past, this finding isn’t an anomaly and could be attributed to the fact that some of these individuals may have chosen to be employed only part time, thereby resulting in the significantly lower annual income.

Further, we continue to see that education level also is a factor in determining annual salary. In findings that appear to deviate slightly from last year’s research, the majority of U.S. respondents who are currently in school (9.3 percent) reported earning less than $20,000 this year — compared to an average annual salary of $46,490 last year. Considering last year’s responses factored in global survey takers, this discrepancy is all the more significant, and one might wonder if the recession played a role.

Then again, the majority of individuals with a professional degree seemed to fare better, reporting earnings of between $55,000 and $74,999. These are significantly higher than last year’s average annual salary of $28,790.

Another finding is that the majority of individuals in each of the other groups — including those with a high school diploma, a two-year associate’s degree, technical training, bachelor’s degree and master’s degree — reported annual earnings between $100,000 and $109,999 this year. These results are somewhat surprising given the vast difference in qualifications and skill sets that exists among these groups.

What has remained constant, however, is the fact that the majority of those who possess a doctorate command the highest annual salary among all groups — 11 percent of those with a doctorate reported earning between $110,000 and $119,999 this year.

Finally, associations can also be drawn between annual salary and the number of years IT professionals are affiliated with a particular organization. Unlike last year, when the majority of employees who had been with their companies for less than a year reported one of the lowest average annual salaries, this year that group, as well as the majority of those who have been with their employer for four years, reported the highest earnings of all the groups: between $110,000 and $119,999.

We should note, however, that discrepancies such as this could have resulted from the fact that this year we’re taking into account the most frequently occurring salary range instead of the average annual salary.

– Deanna Hartley

Certification: A Cost-Effective Pursuit?
Achieving certification, especially in the current economy, may be easier when you don’t have to worry about the cost. Fortunately for the majority of you, your employer took that burden off your mind. According to the 2009 Salary Survey, 51.7 percent of you had your most recent certification paid for by your employer.

However, about 28.8 percent of you were stuck paying your own way. The remainder had their certifications funded by a variety of different sources: reimbursement by their employer (8.7 percent); splitting the cost with their employer (6.8 percent); vendor/voucher (5.7 percent); government/GI Bill (1.4 percent); grant (0.7 percent); scholarship (0.5 percent); and having a friend or relative pay (0.3 percent). A small number of respondents, 2.7 percent, had their certifications paid for by other sources.

Interestingly, compared with 2008, the percentage of employers footing the bill has increased, while the percentage of respondents paying for themselves has decreased.

While preparing for certification, 19.8 percent of respondents spent between $100 and $199 on materials. However, 18.2 percent of respondents managed to get by using free — or no — resources, as they did not spend any money on materials. The next most common amounts spent were $50 to $99 (12.9 percent), $200 to $299 (11.5 percent) and $500 to $999 (8.8 percent).

Overall, about 69 percent of respondents spent less than $300, 79 percent spent less than $500 and 88 percent spent less than $1,000 on materials. These figures are comparable to those seen in last year’s survey.

As far as training and seminars go, nearly half of all respondents bypassed these entirely (48.1 percent). Those who did engage in training and seminars mostly spent larger sums of money. The next highest percentage of respondents, 10.1 percent, spent $2,000 to $2,999. Meanwhile, 9.5 percent spent $1,000 to $1,999; 6.5 percent spent $3,000 to $3,999; and 5.1 percent spent $500 to $999.

In studying for their certification exams, respondents got the most use out of practice exams, on-the-job training and self-study books. These were the top three resources in both the 2007 and 2008 Salary Survey, as well. This year, roughly 70 percent of respondents rated practice exams as extremely or very valuable, while nearly the identical number rated on-the-job training the same way and about 66 percent felt similarly about self-study books. The fourth, fifth and sixth most valuable study materials were instructor-led training at a training center (41.4 percent); product documentation (38.8 percent); and computer-based training and simulations (38.5 percent).

The survey found significant levels of nonuse for the remainder of the rated study materials. In fact, all of these resources showed higher levels of nonuse than they did in last year’s survey. Community and technical college courses had the highest level of nonuse at 71.3 percent, followed by vendor-authorized boot camps at 62.3 percent, brain dumps from Web sites at 59.2 percent, Internet mailing lists and newsgroups at 57.5 percent, and online universities and e-learning at 56.5 percent.

Compared with 2008, there was a slight decrease in the quality of resources. Slightly more than 64 percent of respondents said that the quality of learning materials was excellent or very good, while 59.5 percent felt similarly about the quality of the test or exam they took. Nearly 59 percent thought the overall quality of their educational experience was very good or excellent, while 50.8 percent felt the same about the comprehensiveness of training programs and 42.2 percent said the same about the quality of instructors. These were all decreases from last year’s survey.

So how did respondents feel overall about the value of their most recent certification for the price they paid?

Nearly 48 percent felt the value for the price paid was excellent or very good, while almost 24 percent thought it was good. However, 10.7 percent said it was fair and 4.2 percent said it was poor. These figures are comparable to last year’s data, so opinions on the benefits of certification for the cost have not changed much since 2008.

– Erin Green

How Specialization Factors In
Specialization: The word itself should conjure up positive images. After all, “special” means unique, it means one stands out — in this economic climate, does it mean recession-proof?

Not necessarily. Trends such as “hybrid jobs,” which are positions that blend IT with expertise in another industry — health care, for example — require much more than simply an IT specialization. Often, they entail obtaining another degree in a different subject. And similar trends such as “doing more with less” and budget cuts continue to steal more of the thunder that normally comes with a specialization.

As you might expect, then, this year’s Salary Survey results paralleled the finicky nature of job marketability. While some normally top-performing specializations remained strong in salary numbers, others continued their downward slides. Some stayed in line with last year’s reports.

On the high end, security garnered the greatest number of respondents who make more than $200,000 (2 percent). Security is one area that has bounced back and forth between first place and lower down the top five in recent years, placing fourth last year in terms of average salary by specialization.

The majority of respondents in a wide range of specializations reported an average salary range of $100,000 to $109,999, including application development; database administration; IT instruction; security; software programmer; strategic systems design and implementation; storage design and implementation; network design and implementation; network management; IT project planning and implementation; and information assurance. Of those, storage design and implementation led the pack, with 17 percent of respondents reporting that particular salary range. This comes as no surprise, as this same specialization took second place in last year’s Salary Survey.
This year, in addition to having the most respondents making $100,000 to $109,999, strategic systems design and implementation also had about 9 percent of its respondents making $110,000 to $119,999; 7 percent with $120,000 to $129,999; 5.5 percent with $130,000 to $139,999; and a little over 3 percent with $150,000 to $159,999. This specialization was in first place last year in terms of salary by specialization.

In third place last year was information assurance — a specialization only introduced into the Salary Survey two years ago. The field remained strong in this year’s results, with 11.1 percent of its respondents reporting an annual salary between $120,000 to $129,999; 5.8 percent reporting $130,000 to $139,999; and almost 5 percent making between $150,000 and $159,999. As noted last year, this area keeps its strength due to the increasing pressures toward privacy compliance, secure systems and risk management.

Last year, database design and implementation rounded out the top five salaries by specialization with an average salary of $91,030. This year, the numbers skewed quite a bit lower for that specialization, with the most common salary being between $75,000 and $75,999.

That said, IT instruction continued the impressive strides it made last year, as did network management. Cooling off a bit, perhaps, was network devices; last year it averaged a salary of about $68,500, while this year we found most pros making between $50,000 to $54,999. And, while last year saw a difficult showing for Java development, the field this year demonstrated a likely rebound, with its strong response in the $100,000 range. On a similar note, the software programmer specialization made an impressive 9.1 percent showing in the $100,000 to $109,999 range — last year, this area saw an average salary of about $68,000. Application development and database administration also enjoyed nice results, with the majority of its respondents’ salaries in the low $100,000s.

Feeling the pinch this year, telecommunications integration had a most commonly cited salary range of $55,000 to $59,999, compared with almost $76,000 last year.

Singing the same tune as last year is the IT generalist specializing in small to medium networks, which reported a salary in line with last year’s average of $62,500.

As for lower-salary-tier IT specializations on the slump, Web development seemed to continue its downward trend from last year, with about 17 percent of its respondents indicating that they earn less than $20,000. Help desk support this year found its most common response at $35,000 to $39,999 (12.4 percent), with similar percentages of respondents hanging out in the ranges of $30,000 to $34,999 (9.7 percent) and $40,000 to $44,999 (11.1 percent). The average salary for help desk support last year totaled about $46,500.

With such a tumultuous economic year behind us, who knows what the long-term effects will do to IT salaries in the coming year — or if an economic rebound might accelerate the highest and lowest money-makers alike. Only time will tell what the fiscal fiascos of 2009 have truly done to salaries by specialization.

– Elizabeth Lisican

The Global Pro
If there’s one thing that the Certification Magazine Salary Survey always makes clear, it’s that our readership is an international bunch. The 2009 Salary Survey was no exception. We had responses from 167 countries around the globe.

As always, the majority of Salary Survey respondents were located outside the United States. While the U.S. made a strong showing, as it does each year, it dropped from having more than 39 percent of respondents last year to having about 27 percent of respondents this year. The drop speaks to the continual globalization of IT and may reflect the ongoing economic recession as well. Economic conditions have led many U.S. organizations to offshore their IT processes to focus on their core business.

Further reflecting this trend, the number of Salary Survey respondents located in India grew from 14.6 in 2008 to 16.7 in 2009 — the second highest showing in the survey. In another indicator that IT processes are shifting East, China pulled past the United Kingdom with the third most respondents this year — 4.2 percent. In the past decade, China has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s leading exporter of devices such as mobile phones, laptop computers and digital cameras, so it makes sense that IT pros are a growing group there. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, moved down to fourth — with 4 percent of respondents hailing from there, down 0.8 percent from 2008. Canada saw a similar slip into fifth place, with 3.2 percent of respondents this year compared with 4 percent last year.

This year’s Salary Survey saw a large increase in respondents in Brazil, up from 1.8 percent last year to 2.7 percent this year. This reflects how growing market maturity and political stability have allowed Brazil to become an attractive destination for IT outsourcing in recent years.

Another large shift was seen in respondents located in Pakistan, moving from 0.8 percent in 2008 to 1.8 percent this year. For years, Pakistan’s neighbor to the west, India, has been a dominant market for IT, consistently second to the U.S. in the number of IT pros based there, according to our survey. As the focus of U.S. military conflict has shifted to this region, many see IT as the best hope for the future of Pakistan as an emerging market, which could explain growth in this space.

Last year’s Salary Survey had Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Denmark, the U.S. and the U.K. as its top performers in terms of salary — in that order. This year sees those same six countries performing strongly. More than 12 percent of respondents in Norway are making $110,000 to $119,999, and another 11 percent are making between $100,000 and $109,999.

Switzerland, meanwhile, also performed well, with the majority of Swiss respondents (13.5 percent) making between $100,000 and $109,999. Just over 11 percent of Swiss respondents make between $110,000 and $119,999, and the same amount are making between $120,000 and $129,999.

The majority of respondents in Denmark (18.9 percent) are making between $100,000 and $109,999. The second largest group (11.8 percent) make between $95,000 and $99,999.

The U.S. is a bit down the scale this year. Just over 10 percent of U.S. respondents reported making between $100,000 and $109,999. Another 6.5 percent of U.S. respondents make between $110,000 and $119,999.

Nine percent of respondents from Australia reported salaries of $100,000 to $109,999. Just over 8 percent reported making between $80,000 and $84,999.
The U.K. usually has a strong showing, but this year, the majority of U.K. respondents (8.6 percent) reported making between $50,000 and $54,999. Another 6.7 percent make between $60,000 and $64,999. Only 4.4 percent make between $100,000 and $109,999.

Last year’s Salary Survey had Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Pakistan as its lowest performers in terms of salary — in that order. These countries had similarly low numbers this year, with 82.6 percent of respondents in the Philippines, 76 percent of respondents in Pakistan, 74.8 percent of respondents in India, 73.5 percent of respondents in Sri Lanka and 70.6 percent of respondents in Vietnam earning less than $20,000 a year. One thing to note here: India continues to be a lower-level performer in terms of salary, as does neighboring Pakistan, despite IT growth in both countries.

In recent years, Bangladesh had moved up a bit from the bottom in terms of salary, yet this year’s Salary Survey sees 80.4 percent of respondents there making less than $20,000 a year. Meanwhile, Bulgaria, Jordan and Thailand — the lowest ranked performers in past surveys — are performing a bit better. Nearly 56 percent of respondents in Bulgaria, 62.1 percent of respondents in Jordan and 66.7 percent of respondents in Thailand reported making less than $20,000 a year in 2009.

– Daniel Margolis

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3 CompTIA certifications approved for Directive 8570.1

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 25, 2009

The U.S. Department of Defense recognizes CompTIA certifications in its technical and management tracks for information assurance technicians and managers under DoD Directive 8570.1M.

CompTIA certifications are internationally recognized and vendor-neutral. CompTIA A+CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ are effective foundational-level certifications that pave the way to earning higher-level and vendor-specific certifications.

Technical 1 requirement:
met by CompTIA A+ or CompTIA Network+
Technical 2 requirement: met by CompTIA Security+
Management 1 requirement: met by CompTIA Security+

Support:

DANTES: Eligible Army Reserve, Army National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel can apply for reimbursement of CompTIA exam fees

Department of Defense Personnel Certification Support System

Navy COOL: online resource for Navy personnel who fall into either IAT or IAM categories under Directive 8570.1M

Air Force Communications Agency: Funds DoD D8570.1 certification exam vouchers for individuals filling a position requiring such certification. MAJCOM IAMs will validate positions to ensure requirements.
*Sites may require valid CAC access or on-site access

How to Study:

CompTIA accredits both training centers and training materials, including classes and courseware, to help you study for your certification exam. These materials and centers have been reviewed to ensure they accurately cover the information you need to know for CompTIA exams.

You can download CompTIA exam objectives and take practice tests here.

How to Take the Test:

There are three providers for government employees to purchase CompTIA certification exam vouchers:

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Seven ways to defuse angry customers – By Jeff Wuorio

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 15, 2009

Flush with frustration over something gone wrong, the client or customer flies into an uncontrollable rage. Complaints crescendo into shouts, accusations fly and, sad to say, an occasional profanity slices what little silence remains.

Although every small-businessperson needs a bucket of water to douse these sorts of fires, it’s hard to know where to reach amid the flames. Here are seven at-the-ready responses that may help tame even the most unpleasant situation:

“Let’s go over what’s happened.”

This simple phrase covers several powerful areas. For one thing, by asking your client to recount the wrong, you’re forcing him to think, not just vent. That unto itself can smooth things considerably. On top of that, you’re letting the other person know that you’re genuinely interested in his or her version of what happened. Lastly, it deals you some time to listen and, hopefully, devise a solution to the problem at hand.

“Let’s get together to talk about this.”

If a client is screeching at you over the phone, suggest that you meet face to face to iron out what’s wrong. Again, that can inject some much-needed cooling down time into the situation. And, no matter if your customer is a quick-to-back-off bully or simply conscious of behaving more civilly face to face, chances are good that your conversation will be far more controlled and productive when you actually get together.

“Let’s have someone else hear what’s happened.”

Confrontations between customers and business owners are akin to two rams butting heads; not only is there little movement one way or the other, you can end up with a mountain-sized migraine for your trouble. Another way to defuse the situation and work toward a resolution is to call in a third party. This could be a partner or someone else with whom you work. Have them listen to the issue. Make sure this informal arbiter knows that he or she should approach the situation as objectively as possible; that may cue both you and your customer to do the same.

“Let’s see what we can do to resolve this.”

Having heard every possible side of the story, this reaffirms your intent to hammer out a solution that’s satisfactory to everyone involved. Not only that, but your commitment to a fair resolution also moves past the accusation and moves toward identifying what went wrong and taking reasonable steps to correct it.

“Let’s hear how you think we should solve this.”

Be selective in choosing this strategy. If you already understand what the client wants — and it’s unacceptable — then this is not the right line to use. But if a resolution isn’t obvious, you’re tossing the issue into your customer’s lap, which may help her appreciate your perspective and, in turn, suggest a reasonable conclusion. Conversely, the customer may suggest a resolution that costs you and your company big, so you need to step carefully here. Gauge where the other person is with this tack — the more steam he seems to have let off, the greater the chances for success.

“Let’s talk about ways this won’t happen again.”

This is the death knell for what once was a customer tirade. Once more, this demonstrates your interest in both your client’s ideas as well as your ongoing commitment to solid customer care. Not only have you worked carefully to craft a suitable conclusion to the issue at hand, you also want to make doubly sure that this particular snafu never resurfaces. And, should your client offer ideas that seem reasonable, implement them to make certain the dead stay six feet down.

“Let’s use ‘let’s’ as much as we can.”

Of course, you wouldn’t actually say this out loud, but note that the prior six ideas all begin with the first person plural. No matter how you approach the problem of a peeved customer, try to be as inclusive as possible in every solution you offer. For one thing, that immediately defuses the “us versus them” landmine. For another, you also let the person on the other side of the issue know that you consider a common understanding as an important outcome to the discussion.

Jeff Wuorio is a veteran freelance writer and author based in southern Maine. He writes about small-business management, marketing and technology issues, and can be reached at jwuorio@adelphia.net.

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(ISC)2 to Move Exams to VUE

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 15, 2009

Starting with its Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) designation sometime next year, the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2 will be switching from administering its own certification exams to making them available through the VUE testing network. The other (ISC)2 exams will follow over the following 3 years.

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Continued Education And IT Certifications – By Rodney Sellers

Posted by Rubel Khan on November 15, 2009

 have worked in the IT field for almost 10 years. One of the most controversial topics among most of the people I have worked with is whether or not certifications should expire. I have heard many arguments for and against this. Mostly, the argument of “We need our employees to keep up with new technology and not just rest on what they know.” As many of you know, those of us in the IT field have strong opinions and don’t change them easily.

 For a number of years, I worked at a very large company that required continuing education of their IT staff. This meant the entire IT team was required to get or renew at least one certification every 2 years, regardless if they needed to be or not. I was not in that part of the company so I was not required to do this. The upper management thought this was a great idea because it kept all the IT team up on current technology. To the IT team, it meant retaking the A+ certification. The reason why they kept taking the A+ certification is that it was the cheapest and easiest certification to retake, so that’s what they did. The ones that have Windows certifications didn’t renew them because they were too expensive and the company would not pay for them unless they where under a certain amount. Many of the IT team members believed staying up with technology was a good idea, but they did not believe forcing employees to retake certification tests over was the way to go about it. They tried to force employees to start taking only new certifications, but that didn’t last because they realized very quickly that the test starting to go up after the A+ and Networking + certifications.

In my opinion, there is no need for certifications to expire because you must keep up with technology. If you don’t, you will not be able to keep your job as an IT professional for very long. If you are afraid your employees are not keeping up with the changes in technology, then talk to them. You will see that they are probably way ahead of you. Any IT team will be looking into different/new ways of making their job easier.