Ch-ch-ch-changes: Turn and face the change (to Windows Server 2012 R2 exams)

March 12, 2014 at 9:03 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints, Vendor news | 6 Comments
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The first song I ever heard by David Bowie was “Rebel, Rebel” and in the video, he had scarlet red hair, an eyepatch, and some stylin’ 70s pantaloons.  If you have followed the (not parallel, but similarly meteoric) careers of Windows Server and British rock star David Bowie, you will see one common thread. Can you guess what it is?


Mr. Bowie, like Windows Server, has gone through several significant changes of appearance since those early days. The first version of Window Server I ever used was Windows NT 3.1. Despite undergoing several version updates since then, some core functionalities have stayed the same.

WinServerVersions Now there is a new version on the market, Windows Server 2012 R2. Late last year Microsoft announced that they would modify the existing Window Server 2012 certification exams to cover  R2 (70-41070-411, and 70-412). The Windows Server 2012 R2 exam changes officially took effect in January 2014, although we saw staggered rollout in the field. So if you spent good money taking a Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) course on Server 2012, only to find yourself under pressure taking an exam that tested concepts from Server 2012 R2, you may be asking why Microsoft felt the need to update the exam content so soon. I have met several people at Microsoft. They are not mean people who pull the wings off of butterflies; they are actually really, really nice folk.  It’s simply that the exams needed to reflect the new features of Windows Server 2012 R2. David Bowie is not content to just live off his old tunes; he put out his 24th album in 2013.  In similar fashion, Microsoft is not content for certification candidates to know what might soon be a legacy operating systems. They want to ensure that candidates for their flagship MCSA and MCSE certifications are tested on the newest features deployed to the field.

Without further ado, here are the additions to the official exam objectives list for the  70-410, 70-411, and 70-412 exams. 70-410certChanges 70-411certChanges 70-412certChanges While you can purchase the latest album from David Bowie  and listen to it, you may not yet be able to find much training on the new R2 features.  The best way to prepare for this exam is to set up a couple of servers and work through each of the tasks listed in the exam objectives. You can get a free evaluation copy of Windows Server 2012 R2. There aren’t a lot of books on Windows Server 2012 R2 yet. I would use TechNet and other online resources to study the information on each sub-objective. I find that Microsoft generally pulls test questions from the examples in TechNet. I would ensure that I was 100% confident with each sub-objective listed on the prep guide before attempting the live exam. Reviewing information on a particular sub-objective will ensure that you will not see anything that you are not familiar with on the exam.

If you need extra hands-on experience but do not want to spend hours configuring a server, try using the FREE virtual labs at the following link: These labs allow you to have 90 minutes of practice lab time on a Windows Server for FREE.

We will be cranking out the Windows  Server 2012 R2 updates for the 70-412 Transcender practice exam in the next few weeks. (Drop a comment here to be added to our notification list.) And you better believe I’ll be listening to a little David Bowie while we do it.

You can check out the already updated R2 Transcender practice tests here:

  • 70-410, Installing and Configuring R2
  • 70-411, Administering R2
Until next time,
George Monsalvatge

Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?

September 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Study hints | 40 Comments
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Editor’s note: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date.

In response to a recent post, blog reader Zappy asked,

I am new to Windows Server certifications and I currently hold none. I am thinking of getting certified but I am not sure if I should begin with Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012. I have a fair amount of experience in 2008. What would you suggest?

The knee-jerk response is “Forget 2008; study for the cert that will have the longest shelf life.” However, there are a few factors to consider before writing off a 2008 certification entirely. Those factors are:

  • the number of exams required to earn a certification
  • the desired time frame for earning a certification
  • the user’s level of experience with 2008 versus 2012
  • how soon the user can expect 2012 to be the standard in his or her particular industry

For the sake of demonstration, I’m going to look only at Windows Server certifications, and not specialties such as Lync, .NET, SharePoint, or Exchange. (You can find more information on those certification paths here.) I’m also going to stick with entry-level and mid-level certs, since you’d be earning those anyway as you blaze towards the MCSE or MCM.

(Remember: These recommendations are for someone who, as of late 2012, has not yet taken any Microsoft exam and needs to factor exam retirement dates into a certification strategy.)

Do it now: Be off like a shot

No matter which path you decide to pursue, do it now. The perfect time to buy your first Microsoft exam voucher is during the Second Shot promotion. That means that if you take an exam between now and May 30, 2013 and fail it, you can sit for a free retake. You can buy Second Shot assurance for a single exam or for a multi-exam voucher pack (which typically earns you a bulk discount on exam fees as well).

It only takes one

Remember that passing one certification exam, even if it’s part of a multi-exam certification track, earns you the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential. As a member of the Microsoft Certification Program, you have access to MCP Flash emails from Microsoft, and you can share your transcript with others to show your progress towards a specific certification.

Single-exam certs: testing the Microsoft waters

In the “need a cert now” category, you can obtain a Microsoft certification with just one test — and it will count toward a higher-level certification, should you choose to pursue one. However, one-test certs are only offered for Windows Server 2008. The three server specializations are:

Remember that these exams include Windows Server 2008 R2 material, so you absolutely must be familiar with R2 before sitting an exam.

Our recommendation: if you’ve never sat for any Microsoft test and don’t know what to expect, combining Second Shot with a one-test cert might be the perfect low-stress entrance strategy, even if it “only” earns you an MCTS Server 2008 credential. If you go this route, choose either the 70-640 or the 70-642, since these also count toward the newly fledged MCSA in Server 2008 (more on that in the next section).

70-643 alone is not relevant to the MCSA 2008, so look at the exam’s objectives, and only choose it if you need this certification in your current job (and your boss is paying).

Three to five exams: not all middle-tier certs are created equal

Things get a bit murky as you move up the Server 2008 certification ladder. Having divided Generation 2008 certifications into five MCTS (entry level) and three MCITP (mid level) exam tracks, all covering different job roles and skills, Microsoft recently collapsed the varied tracks back into a revised MCSA, and added the upper-tier MCSE options. However, the MCITP tracks are still active. Depending on the track, each MCITP will either be phased out in July 2013 or rolled into the new generation of certifications.

You can obtain an MCITP in a Windows client or in Server 2008 R2 by taking three to five exams. The three server paths are Enterprise, Server Admin, and Virtualization Admin.

Earning the MCITP: Server OR the MCITP: Enterprise automatically snags you an equivalent MCSA: Windows Server 2008. However, Server can be earned in only three exams, while Enterprise takes five. A MCSA: Server 2008 plus the 70-417 upgrade exam can then earn you the MCSA: Server 2012.

The MCITP: Virtualization also allows you to upgrade to MCSA: Server 2012 — but, confusingly, you can’t upgrade it to an MCSA: Server 2008. Microsoft has dropped it from this list of current MCITP tracks; also see this blog post.

Our recommendation: Continue Reading Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?…

Better than a blockbuster movie: Free Windows Server 2012 videos

July 16, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints | 1 Comment
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What is truly free in this world? Well, there’s the air we breathe, but not the water we  drink (it costs $1 in the vending machine), or a summer blockbuster (it costs $12, and they do not take free passes).

The sad truth is that most things in this world are not free. However, you can get actual free training on Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

Last month, Microsoft delivered a FREE Windows Server 2012 Jump Start virtual class that was presented by Microsoft Evangelist Rick Claus and President & Lead Architect for holSystems, Cory Hynes. The class covered an array of topics, and Rick and Cory did a great job of explaining each of them. If you missed this class, you can still watch the HD-quality video recordings on  TechNet (links below).

If you do not have several straight hours to devote to watching these videos, don’t worry about it. Each module is broken down by topic and lasts for about an hour per module:

• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (01): Core Hyper-V
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02a): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02b): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03a): Storage Architecture, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03b): Storage Architecture, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (04): Continuous Availability
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05a): Multi-Server Management, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05b): Multi-Server Management, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06a): Security and Access, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06b): Security and Access, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (07): Remote Connectivity and Networking
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (08): IIS, DHCP and IPAM

Each module is informative and does contain demonstrations of the topics. Most importantly, each module is engaging and not at all boring. Rick and Cory relate these topics to the real world environment. They also made a few jokes along the way which I very much appreciated. While Rick and Cory probably will not get their own special on Comedy Central, they did help make the time pass quickly.

If you’re curious about Windows Server 2012, if you plan to get certified in Windows Server 2012, or if you foresee having to install Windows Server 2012 at your office in the near future, I recommend that you check out these videos.  I had the opportunity to take the 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 beta exam in early June, and I sincerely wish that I had watched these videos before attempting the exam.

Along with the 70-410 exam, Microsoft plans to release the 70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 exam and the 70-412 Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services exams in the Fall. Before attempting any of these exams, I strongly recommend you take a few hours to check out the modules from this class. I’ll say it again: It’s FREE.

What’s better than free training? Okay, you could be watching  “Live and Let Die” for the 25th time on the James Bond marathon. But you know how this one ends, James Bond gets the girl and defeats the bad guy. You can’t say you know how each of the Windows Server 2012 modules will end, so why not enjoy a marathon of Microsoft Jump Start virtual videos instead? 

Until next time,

George Monsalvatge

HOL – Where the Magic is @ MSTechEd

June 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Posted in Microsoft | Leave a comment
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Hands On Lab Screenshot

That’s right. Despite being held in Orlando just steps away from the magical world of Disney, the real magic of Microsoft TechEd 2012 was actually found in the hands-on-lab, or HOL for the uninitiated. No, it’s not because I was there helping a lost traveler or two through Microsoft land. It’s because that is where attendees could play with the latest and greatest technologies, whether it involves OLAP cubes, unit testing or GPO policies.  Technologies featured at this year’s lab included Visual Studio 2012, SQL Server 2012, System Center 2012, Windows Server 2012 (including Hyper V), Office 365, Windows 8 and of course, Windows Azure.  You could follow the tasks in the labs or use the virtual environment as a sandbox for your own experimentation.

There were more than 150 different labs, but here are a few titles to tickle your techno-fancy:

  • Deploying Windows 7 to Bare Metal Systems with Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager
  • Building the Right Software: Generating Storyboards and Collecting Stakeholder Feedback with Visual Studio 2012
  • Developing a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Tabular BI Semantic Model using SQL Server Data Tools
  • Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) with Microsoft Office 365
  • Developing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 User Interface with Silverlight in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
  • Configuring Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Replica
  • Sideloading Metro Style Applications in Windows 8
  • What’s New in Windows PowerShell 3.0

The labs were open longer than most sessions (7am – 7pm most days).

Unless you are soon to be enjoying TechEd Europe in Amsterdam, you may be regretting all of those wild parties and crowded sessions that kept you out of the labs. No worries. These labs will be up for public consumption within the week and available for at least 2 months!

UPDATE: The HOL are up now for public consumption. Go to you myTechEd Web site and get to playing!

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