Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Don't be scared of virtualization

Occasionally I talk with an IT guy who is scared to death of virtualization. Why the fear? Well the typical answer I get is that "it's complicated" or "expensive" or "I have no experience with it; going forward with it would be risky." If you're a virtualization tech of any stripe you'll know these worries can be easily erased. My own work experience with Hyper-V is a great answer to these techs who are scared (no offense) of virtualization. Why do I say don't be scared? I say don't be scared of virtualization because 1) you have no reason to be and 2) virtualization is super helpful for the most ordinary of IT projects.

At work we needed to implement Server 2008 R2's RDWeb services to enable our work application to be available to users who are away from our main office and for users who needed to access the application when they're sick, on vacation, etc. When the concern was approached to me, I immediately thought of R2's RDWeb services and pitched the idea to a group of people who were not interested in buying a new server. They assumed to use the RDWeb service we would need to purchase new hardware and that just wasn't going to happen (I work for local government and money is tight!). I told them they didn't have to worry about purchasing new hardware because of Hyper-V! We were limited to the 2008 version of Hyper-V, so we aren't able to use features like dynamic memory and bandwidth management but the point I made to them and want to make here is that even 2008's Hyper-V can make the simplest of IT projects, e.g. rolling out RDWeb, even simpler and much, much cheaper than going with new hardware. The only purchase made was five Remote Desktop Services CALs! The rest of the project requirements were already owned by us which was awesome. If we didn't go the virtualization route we would have made a lot of purchases in hardware. So I added the Hyper-V role to an existing Windows Server 2008 machine, configured the RDWeb virtual machine, installed a copy of Windows Server 2008 R2 on the VM, installed and configured RDWeb on the virtual machine, made the necessary configurations in our Sonicwall TZ210 and then we were all set. Virtualization made that project so much easier than the alternative which is to buy new hardware, make room for that hardware, oh and convince the treasurer and company to make those purchases. For us, the project only cost us a couple of hundred dollars and RDWeb has helped us out a lot. Virtualizaton was the obvious route to take.

Don't be scared of virtualization! Implementing Hyper-V, Citrix, or VMWare doesn't mean you have to setup live migrations, virtual storage, virtual networks, VDI, or whatever else is intimidating to you; all it can mean is that you're going to use a virtual machine instead of a physical machine for your project. Try it out, even if it's in a lab at first. You can download trial copies of Server 2012 and Windows 8 to tinker around with virtualization if you haven't yet. Keith Mayer has awesome lab exercises for you to try and I know from personal experience that his lab exercises are awesome because I've used them multiple times! Again, don't be scared of virtualization because the benefits and range of uses are too great for you to not use because you're a little intimidated. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Just an Update

Hey all. This post isn't a troubleshooting, from-the-trenches post, it is just an update post due to the sad fact I haven't posted anything in more than a month. What am I doing? Well I'm still studying in my time from work for the MCSA: Server 2012 certification. I'm actually studying for all three exams before I take an exam; a studying tip from Ed Liberrman of Trainsignal. At first I wasn't sure about that method but now I completely understand his advocating that method. Studying for all three exams before taking the exams will give you a full understanding of Server 2012, which is what Ed suggested and I know this to be true now that I'm applying his method to my study time. Having studied Active Directory at the 70-411 and 70-412 levels has helped me to understand Active Directory better at level 70-410! It's just a great study method I think.

Study Tools
I'm using the Server 2012 certification book from Sybex that is authored by William Panek (an excellent tech writer) for all three exams. I have and am also using the Exam-ref book for 70-410 from Microsoft Press and the 70-410 Training Guide from Microsoft Press by Mitch Tulloch (another excellent tech writer). An additional and amazing study tool I'm using is TrainSignal. I can't recommend their videos and practice exams enough. Their practice exam for the 70-410 exam let me know quickly that I wasn't ready to take that exam. Ed Libberman is a great teacher too. His personality is engaging and you can just tell he knows what he is talking about. What about the books? The questions at the end of each chapter in the Sybex book are great questions in that they are scenario based and make you actually think instead of just matching the correct definition with the term. Also in each chapter are exercises which is always nice. The Exam-Ref book is a good book for giving you information for exactly what Microsoft requires you to know on the 70-410 exam. The author doesn't go any further than that and he doesn't exactly go in the deep end either so I can't say that book alone will prepare you for the 70-410 exam. There are practice exercises peppered throughout each chapter which, again, is nice. The 'Training Guide' form Tulloch is a very nice tool. He goes deeper on the exam objectives and his practice exercises are fun, challenging and helpful. This guide is a nice companion to the Exam-Ref book.

Is this study method and are these tools a great approach to earning the MCSA? Well I guess I'll see when I go in and take the 70-410 exam. I can't see how my current study method with all the tools I'm using is setting me up for failure. If I fail it will be because of me.

For work, I'm currently doing the day-in and day-out stuff. I'm not doing anything special but my current job is what it is: entry-level. Hopefully after earning the MCSA, along with my continued experience will land me an exciting System Administrator job elsewhere.

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