Windows Server 2008 certifications: Are they worth it?

* Server 2003 still the norm, but don’t ignore 2008

Microsoft is pushing a new set of certifications for Windows Server 2008, a new software package that will become increasingly common in enterprises over the next year or so. Are they worth getting?

Microsoft is pushing a new set of certifications for Windows Server 2008, a new software package that will become increasingly common in enterprises over the next year or so.

Are the certifications worth getting? To find out, I spoke with expert Patrick Regan, author of numerous textbooks and certification exam study guides.

At least for now, the Windows Server 2008 certifications are not as important as those for Windows Server 2003, simply because the 2008 software hasn’t penetrated enterprises to nearly the same extent as its predecessor, Regan says.

“If you go look for a job now, most people are going to look for the MCSE [Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer for Windows Server 2003],” he says. “The 2008 track just isn’t as popular or commonly known.”

Don’t ignore 2008, though. Windows Server 2008 has only been shipping for a couple of months. Within a year, Regan expects the new software to become more prevalent and those certifications will take on greater importance for IT professionals.

Some employers may already be looking for workers certified on 2008, Microsoft says.

“If you have a Windows Server 2008 certification on your resume, you have an excellent opportunity to catch the eye of early adopter organizations,” Microsoft says on its certification Web site.

For Windows Server 2008, Microsoft is offering three MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) certifications to demonstrate expertise with Active Directory, network infrastructure, and applications infrastructure. These certifications also serve as building blocks for two advanced credentials: the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certifications for server administrators and enterprises administrators.

Microsoft is offering an expedited certification path to those of you who are already certified on Windows Server 2003.

“Your path consists of one exam, which allows you to earn multiple MCTS certifications on Windows Server 2008,” Microsoft states. “From there, you can complete the remaining requirements for one or both of the MCITP certifications for Windows Server 2008.”

IT pros should consider the new tests if they already work with Windows Server 2008 or anticipate deploying the technology within the next year, Microsoft says.

Here are a few details on Microsoft’s new certifications:

* MCTS for Active Directory Configuration: This exam tests knowledge of Active Directory and Directory services, Active Directory server notes, certificate management, and group policy.

* MCTS for Network Infrastructure Configuration: Tests knowledge of IP addressing and services, names resolution, file and print services, network access and remote access, and monitoring network services.

* MCTS for Applications Infrastructure Configuration: Tests knowledge of Windows deployment services, terminal services, Web services and media services.

* MCITP Server Administrator: This certification focuses on day-to-day operations and management, and can help you gain roles such as Windows Server administrator, server systems administrator, monitoring operator, and network administrator.

* MCITP Enterprise Administrator: This certification “validates your skills focused on Windows infrastructure design,” and prepares you for job roles such as enterprise systems administrator, IT systems manager, enterprise security administrator, systems architect and network administrator, according to Microsoft.

Regan has some advice for IT pros looking to get certified on Windows Server 2008. Exams test real-world skills, so one of the best ways to prepare is to “play with [the software], and learn it inside and out.”

“The thing with Microsoft, it is sometimes difficult to gather all the information in one place to prepare for an exam,” he says. “You can go get a binder from Microsoft, yet when you take the exam there’s stuff on there you’ve never seen before.”

If you haven’t used the 2008 software yet, you should at least have a lot of experience with Windows Server 2003 before taking the new exams, Regan says. Some of the basics, like file sharing and printer sharing, are the same as in 2003, he notes.

Microsoft’s TechNet site is a good source of information about technology like Windows Server 2008, he adds.

What do you think? Are you going to get certified on Windows Server 2008? Do you have any concerns about Microsoft’s certification program? Send me an e-mail or feel free to post a comment below.

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