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September, 2012

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  • Skills Development Roadmap - Choose your path to success

    Whether you’re an experienced IT professional or new to the field, we have
    the training and certification path that will help lead you to success. Our classes
    are taught by Microsoft Certified Trainers, so you can be confident that the
    lesson material is accurate, complete, and up to date. Great training leads to
    Microsoft Certification—the premier credential of IT professionals worldwide.
    Certification is available for a diverse spectrum of job roles and responsibilities,
    and validates your ability to get the job done right.

    Click on the image to view a larger version of it.


    Or download the PDF of this here.

  • Interview with Paul Sanders - the UK’s very first Private Cloud MCSE

    imagePaul Sanders was the very first person in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region to pass his Private Cloud MCSE and we thought it would be good to track him down and find out a bit about how he prepared for the exams and the work environment that supported him in his learning and certification.  Feel Free to follow Paul on Twitter or follow his blog.

    What’s your name and where do you come from?

    Hi, I’m Paul Sanders and I’m a Technical Consultant for ANS Group, a leading technology solutions, managed services and cloud provider based in Manchester UK.

    Congratulations on becoming the very first Private Cloud MCSE in the EMEA region including the UK!!!

    Thank you, I’m incredibly pleased and proud to be the first in the UK and that all my hard work paid off.

    Who do you work for and what do they do?


    I work for the award-winning cloud expert ANS Group in their Manchester head office. Since joining the company they have given me a platform and great level of support to build my skills. It’s an exciting and fast paced environment and ANS Group has experienced 80% year-on-year growth since 2009, currently turning over £45m we are on course for continued growth.  We specialise in providing managed compute, storage and network infrastructures that can either be built on-premise or as a cloud-based solution.

    With over 16 years’ experience in building, installing and managing complex technologies, ANS Group are considered as experts in the data centre and the provision of managed services.  Our fully managed services are in addition to our substantial enhanced services and mean that we control and manage our client’s infrastructure, providing enterprise class SLAs ensuring our client’s infrastructure is safe and secure.  By selecting ANS Group our customers are accessing our wealth of experience, freeing them from the hassle of having to maintain and update their infrastructures, giving them time to focus on and grow their businesses.

    As part of our significant planned growth we are building and investing massively in Microsoft as part of our cloud and we have an amazing team of consultants that work with all the leading edge technology.  I’d urge any strong Microsoft guys looking to work with the best, to come and apply for a job at ANS it’s always exciting and they let talent flourish. 

    Ps. You can follow ANS Group on Twitter and Facebook.

    How did ANS Group support you in getting your certification?

    ANS Group deals with all the Bleeding edge technology and I have been given the ability to work with all the newest Microsoft products in conjunction with ANS Group’s i3.0 (FlexPod) infrastructure.  Not many people get this level of exposure and support, and working in the team that I do means failure is not an option!

    How does your certification benefit ANS Group as a whole and more specifically help you with your day to day work?

    ANS Group is at the absolute forefront of Private and Public cloud, so being the first MCSE in Private Cloud means we continue to have the edge on design and delivery of our cloud solutions.

    What does your certification mean to you?

    With the IT landscape constantly changing, together with the significant growth and awareness around the ‘Cloud’ buzz, it’s vital to adapt my skillset both on a personal level and as an ANS employee, in order to meet the current and future needs of business’s IT systems.  I have found the new MCSE path offers a greater outlook on hybrid systems that other certifications do not offer.

    Both certifications and hands on experience go hand in hand in today’s industry. The MCSE certification guarantees both employers and customers that I am an expert in my field, with an extensive background for the key technologies required to successfully deploy and consult on the cloud.

    The big question really is how did you do it?  Let’s break that down into some bite sized chunks…

    Where did you go to find the key information for learning the right things for the exams?

    There is a considerable amount of information out there on the internet to help understand the subject and prepare for the exams. The first port of call will always be the Microsoft Learning & Certification pages. I spent a lot of time reviewing the ‘Skills Measured’ for the individual exams, focusing my efforts on the sections I hadn’t had the greatest exposure too. This made life considerably easier when writing my training plan as I knew exactly what to focus on and for how long.

    I also found an online challenge called 60days2mcse which was a valuable resource. It has been set up by a number of Microsoft enthusiasts called ‘The Krewe’ who set a 60 day challenge to pass all 5 exams. The community started blogging about their experiences, giving each other a helping hand and pointing people to useful blogs and material. It’s a really great community and definitely worth joining in :)

    Did you get any specific training? If so from where?

    With the certification being so new, there weren’t many official courses. However, I did manage to get useful workshops from our ANS Group Microsoft Partner manager that went into great depth of System Centre and related technologies, which was a real help.

    What books helped you out?

    As the exam was new, training books were hard to come by. As most of the theory behind the products remain the same, I used the previous version material (SCOM 2007 R2 for example).

    Did you use forums, Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites such as Quora?  If yes how did you use them?

    I’m amazed how people used to pass exams before the world of social media! It is all about setting up the searching for the right #tags. My twitter client is currently setup to search for #sysctr, #60Days2MCSE, #opsmgr, #scom, #sccm etc. These give you quick access to the latest information as soon as it is released. You find key members of the community will blog about the latest technology the moment it happens.

    During my preparation, I also spent a lot of time on both System Center Central and the Microsoft Community Forums. Any issues or questions I had were answered quickly.

    What key tips do you have for someone studying for their Private Cloud MCSE at the moment? (no giving out exam questions :P )

    Hands on experience is key! There is only so much you can learn from a book. I would recommend setting yourself a mock business scenario (bring on ;) ) and go through the building motions for building a full private cloud. As the certification requires 5 exams (3 of which revolve around core technologies) building from scratch will give you the exposure.  My home lab is pretty complex, with 2 AD forests, a hyper-v and VMware clusters with System Centre on top.

    What three hashtags would you use to describe yourself?




    Anything else you’d like to say?

    The Microsoft certification landscape is changing dramatically. The exams are becoming more relevant with an emphasis on key skills. I now hope to pass my MCSE Server Infrastructure and get myself onto one of the new Microsoft Certified Solution Master rotations when they become available.

      I realise this is shameless promotion… but check out the new ANS Group website  You’ll see we’re a rapidly growing company and an amazing place to work, and we’re always looking for and passionate, energetic, self-motivated and driven people to join our team.

      We also asked Paul’s boss about the experience and here’s what he had to say!

      “Quote from Paul’s boss” – Paul Shannon – Head of Technical Services

      Having the best quality consultants in the Managed Services team is absolutely essential for ANS.  Running entire customer infrastructures within an ANS platform means that it has to be extremely robust, scalable and resilient. It’s only possible to ensure this if the best people are designing and implementing the foundations.  Paul is an invaluable asset along with his colleagues in the Managed Services design team at ANS.  Paul’s dedication is what ensured he was the first in EMEA to achieve the MCSE Private Cloud and ensures that ANS continues to be at the forefront of Managed Services solutions.

      If you would like to know more about Certification and Training make sure you are subscribed to the TechNet Newsletter as the end of September edition is all about this subject!

      In the meantime why not pop over to our learning pages to find out more.

    • Guest Post: SharePoint Training – the Whys and Wheres!


      MVP LogoGeoff Evelyn is a SharePoint MVP, and likes to be known as a “Hands on” Technical Evangelist and works as a SharePoint Solutions Architect. He has published many articles, guides and books about SharePoint. With over 25 years of experience in information systems, he is a Fellow of the Institute of the Analysts and Programmers, a Fellow of the Institute of Computer Technology, a Member of the Institute of Management Information Systems, a Prince 2 Practitioner, with MCDST, MCSD, MCTS, MCITP Microsoft certifications and is M.O.S (Microsoft Office Specialist) Certified.

      Welcome to an article which goes into the land of SharePoint Training; attempts to examine various levels of training and how they can and are being mapped to SharePoint information workers.

      Please note, that whilst I go into some detail on training delivery that I am not a SharePoint Trainer. I think though I've had enough experience through the implementation of SharePoint Training strategies for many organizations (and myself) , so I suppose I've got some points that may be useful either to you as a trainer, or SharePoint user, or even a programme manager seeking to identify the key areas of SharePoint training delivery.

      Also, please note that there is a section on implementing SharePoint training in an organisation in my book 'Managing and Implementing SharePoint 2010 Projects'. This section is gives a high level description on some of the processes that can be adopted allowing you to define a 'SharePoint Training Strategy' for your organisation.

      Let’s begin with an example from a SharePoint support perspective featuring the SharePoint Administrator:

      You’re a SharePoint Administrator who is troubleshooting a SharePoint environment and faces a whole bunch of reds (Errors) in the Application Event log. After trawling through SharePoint logs, Web.Configs and IIS logs on the screen for several hours, trying this and that, crashing out on numerous occasions; you've may have just about had enough. Your pride may already hurting from the fact that the SharePoint reference manuals are piled high all over the desk, and still the flashes of understanding and inspiration simply won't come...

      Crossing over to the Information Worker; another scenario.

      You have joined an organization who has adopted SharePoint. You have been told to use a SharePoint site so you can store your work content in. After accessing your site for the first time you are daunted by the options there. Site Actions? What's that? What's the Breadcrumb Trail? Someone said to get to the 'Projects Document Library' by looking in the Quick Launch Bar - What's that and where is that? In fact, what's a Document Library? Faced with these bewildering features and options, and faced with having to just read a book to try to understand what they all mean, you decide to use e-mail.

      Cross again to the 'experienced' SharePoint worker.

      You are comfortable with SharePoint because it does what you currently want it to do. You are aware of the relevant functions in SharePoint that makes you productive, but want to learn more.

      And again to a SharePoint Developer…

      You are a SharePoint developer tasked with customizing SharePoint. You need to write a mail enabled app for SharePoint 2015 but don’t know where to start. You start digging into forumns, followed by blogs, followed by user groups, digging in e-Books and getting bewildered with the options available. You need to get a definitive answer, and getting that worried feeling that you need to understand SharePoint development more.

      I could carry on with say SharePoint administrator backend scenarios, Solution Architect security scenarios ad-infinitum concerning training material and knowledge building they will face in the march to understand how to do things in SharePoint – what is needed is to understand what kinds of training materials there are and where are some good places to start getting them from, and why you would go there in the first place!


      So where do you go to get the answers you need?

      We are already in the world where we have our 'intelligent agents' (known to previous tech generations as a genie or guardian angel) can be summoned using good ole' Google Bing, to hunt down that famous and grail-like Blog, TechNet article- ad-infinitum'. However, as we all know life as a SharePoint Admin, Developer or Architect doesn't necessarily mean you find the information you want first time! Sometime, hunting down the right answer is like looking for a needle in a stack of needles!

      In truth, there is not yet that silver bullet in training where, at a click of a button, or using some kind of 'Star Trek like' speaking into your computer response to answer your SharePoint queries. The 'Hey; computer - tell me how to setup Kerberos on SharePoint', or 'show me what the version history is on my documents'' is just not there - yet!

      So, perhaps some good old fashioned training is better than nothing. To a lot of people, especially developers in SharePoint I've seen, training is 'the T word', and almost an admission of defeat.

      However, as I'll describe in this article, there are many ways SharePoint training can be delivered - through the written and spoken word, on the desktop as well as the classroom.- most which are inexpensive and above all, interesting and fun.

      Also, lots of SharePoint tools are available that go some way towards realising the equivalent of the genie in the bottle :)


      A potted theory of learning

      Just in case you've never considered how or why you've ever learned anything - from being able to read this article to driving a car, time to go back to basics.

      The Competency Ladder.

      If you view learning primarily as a 'damage limitation' process whilst trying to acquire competency in SharePoint, the following series of stages can be applied to most situations:

      Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence - Making large amounts of mistakes.

      Stage 2: Conscious incompetence - I see and admit to myself and others I'm making mistakes.

      Stage 3: Conscious competence - I am learning new concepts and skills, my error rate is decreasing (normally in a non-linear fashion :)).

      Stage 4: Unconscious competence - or 'what was all the fuss about?'

      Now, this four stage cycle is sometimes referred to as the Competency Model for (hopefully) obvious reasons. Where do you think you are on this model? If you are implementing SharePoint, where do you think those about to use SharePoint would be?

      Additionally, the competency model really does come into its own when considering your role in SharePoint. Taking the SharePoint Administrator situation described earlier; if the SharePoint Administrator is at Stage 1, then making 'mission critical' mistakes could result in damage to the relevant SharePoint environment. For SharePoint Information workers, making many mistakes could result in a loss of productivity and confidence in using SharePoint. Both of course could also result in the company loosing money.

      In order to move up the competency ladder, we tend to accept that Stages 1 and 2 shouldn't last for too long at all, and that Stage 3 is worth investing time and money in training. However, learning is never a Stage 1 to 4 kind of deal. Its a loop as we consider new areas of SharePoint to learn; and; we ensure there are tools available to mitigate Stage 1 and 2 (for example, getting a SharePoint test site to play in).

      Training = competency = Training.

      So, it is very important to consider that training surrounds the level of competency one has relevant to the tasks they have to perform. Consider the common activity of learning to drive a car. Think of all the would-be Michael Schumachers in cars displaying 'L' plates, their terrified parents, and the huge number of driving schools that make a multi-billion pound business from the accepted norm of the need for formal training.

      The other accepted of 'mission critical' competency is that we need to prove Stage 4 has been reached (hence the driving test) and achieve recognition and certification (the driving license). This certification then allows us to perform various other job roles and for some people it acts as a pre-requisite qualification to apply for a further specialist training, such as the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) License.

      The final point to note is the model of cyclical, that is, the tendency is for skills needing to be renewed or modified over time. This is not just because 'familiarity breeds contempt', but for the environment in which the original skill set was valid has probably changed. Consider the continued debates about including motorway driving as part of the standard test?

      The amount of training you think you need is based on the amount of knowledge to cover your 'mission critical' needs. What I mean by 'mission critical' needs are the basic skills needed to ensure that what you do is carried out to the satisfaction of 'your peers, makes you productive and meets / enhances the profile of yourself and the organisation you work for.

      So, do you identify your 'mission critical'? training needs? If you don't, consider that if crashing your car is obviously a bad thing, then as a SharePoint Administrator isn't regularly crashing your SharePoint environment equally unacceptable?

      If the answer is 'yes' then doesn't that mean from the outset, without admitting defeat, that some investment in training is justified?

      Even if you answer 'no', implying your using SharePoint as a hobby, not as a means to make a living, would not investing in training help you achieve more satisfaction and avoid some sleepless nights in the process?

      People take it as faith that when somebody goes for SharePoint training, they will return wiser and better for the experience. In most cases, they may see a gain in productivity, but whether they failed to learn to their full potential because the course was too easy or too advanced is normally impossible to judge unless some kind of pre-requisite test is available.


      Specialist Learning and Exams.

      There are some specialist areas of SharePoint where training is very important. SharePoint web development, Administration or Architecture involves diverse skill sets and key underpinning knowledge of SharePoint. To ensure competency for those roles can be measured there are recognised Microsoft Certification exams:

      1. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certification (MCTS); covers developer and administrators in SharePoint 2010 and 2007; basically the technical driving test of SharePoint Server.

      2. The Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD); these build on the MCTS certification and relates specifically to SharePoint 2010.

      There is a vast number of training providers for the above certifications; listed on the Microsoft Learning site. Using the class locator is a good way to locate classes, training providers in your area. I tried one for classes in SharePoint in the UK and got this:

      Beyond the MCITP and MCTS certifications are the dizzying heights of MCM and MCA.

      · Microsoft Certified Master program (MCM); this is an instructor lead offering provided by Microsoft SharePoint experts and requires all of the exams passed relevant to MCITP and MCPD.

      · Microsoft Certified Architect certification (MCA); this is the highest level of certification and requires submission of work history, a project case study, presentation, including exam. Only those who have completed the MCM can do the MCA.

      More information concerning these technical certifications, the prerequisites, exams, is located at:

      Information workers also have certification tracks available to measure their SharePoint competency. Starting with Office 2010 and its tight integration with SharePoint 2010 came MOS. MOS stands for Microsoft Office Specialist. Because SharePoint is part of Microsoft Office the reach of this certification extends to the user of Office and Office365. Microsoft certification exams are now also aimed at those using SharePoint from an end-users perspective. After earning an MOS certification, you receive access to a member Web site where you can print transcripts to demonstrate proof of certification and receive a certificate that verifies your successful completion of the exam. Additionally, professionals who earn this certification gain access to a certification logo that they can display on their resumes and other business materials. A huge amount of information Microsoft Office Specialist is available on the Certiport (

      More information concerning the SharePoint 2010 certification for Information workers is located here:

      On that page there is a link which allows you to schedule the exam through a Certiport exam provider. Also, you can find out more about the Microsoft Office Specialist courses (which includes Office365) by visiting the Certiport site here:


      Self Paced Training

      Given the intangible nature of traditional training benefits, there is a natural appeal to invest in tangible training products, as well as the additional benefits that self-paced training brings - savings in travel and accommodation costs, consistency of delivery, reusability and so on.

      Generally, self-paced training always begins with the humble book, yes, in the beginning was the word. The book is the original self-paced training package, and still provides the low-cost learning option, and may be sufficient if your learning requirements are modest or you have no time pressures.

      Dividing this into three camps, end user, administration and development, development is more a practical skill. In this respect, books that include the opportunity for hands-on are a more useful choice. In the early days, this included the good ole 'CDrom' at the back of the book, and snippets of information that could be entered. Whilst this also occurs for SharePoint Administrators, the format is different.

      For instance, programming related books would contain many worked through examples of code ready used. Administrators books would include scripts and maybe code blocks to apply to SharePoint site collections and servers. End user books would include practice files to apply as you followed guides in the book.

      Nowadays though, virtually all SharePoint books now come as e-Books making that kind of information easier to get to. So has the e-Book fully replaced the book? An interesting argument ensues. In chatting to a SharePoint Architect the other day, they indicated that having an e-book cluttered the desktop, as opposed to having the book opened so they could work through a problem and fully understand how to do something without having to swop between screens. In other cases, people have found the e-Book easier because of its portability, and additionally because it’s easier to copy a script from an e-Book than having to re-key all of it or having to access a CDrom to get to the information.

      The key here though is to understand that self-paced training is based on the resources that you use. e-Books and Books are not the only resources available. There are online resources as well from sites providing blocks of information related to a particular aspect of SharePoint, to those other which cover entire courses and include 'check' exams at the end.

      As you can imagine there are a vast number of e-book providers, and I am not going to list each one! They all have advantages and disadvantages; am therefore going to list the Microsoft Learning repository for e-Books located here and managed by Microsoft Press and SharePoint books from o’Reilly can be found here.


      Computer Based Training

      CBT (Computer Based Training) is one of those touchstones (like AI) that promises much but often disappoints - corporates in millions invest in CBT projects - unfortunately, this often results in delivering too little, too late.

      Part of the problem was the need for high cost specialist software and/or lack of mainstream, high level authoring tools and the special skills required to create the relevant packages.

      Whilst this section really addresses CBT that is available for information workers, lets do a quick review on CBT for technical workers. On the SharePoint 2010 development track, there is a training course called the SharePoint 2010 Developer Training Course, which provides the download of the course so that it can be completed offline.

      For SharePoint IT Professionals, there is video related training material, again, this page provides downloadable material and is split into modules

      Another problem is the amount of overhead administration given that the CBT would most likely record results of the 'student' and these would need to be audited and managed to gauge user productivity and usability of the product. Am sure this will come with SharePoint 2015 because of the featureset concerning Education Services and Quizzes integration features.

      However, the sign of a good quality CBT is the inclusion of challenge testing so that students can quickly 'opt out' of a section of check understanding plus animated expert solutions and demonstrations to help in those difficult moments. If the product behaves like a linear book with nothing more than electronic page turning, what value does it add over a paper based book? Even with the a mass of computer based training for SharePoint (i.e. downloadable material from a huge number of providers); what needs is to define the scope of training that needs to be provided at either end user, developer, administrator and tailor that against the organization. After all, there is little point in providing several types of learning kits for different types of Microsoft products, or indeed other technology available to the organization (i.e. mobiles, laptops, phones, third party software guides etc.)

      So this means some kind of learning kit which not only provides the material but tracks your progress through it. There was one for SharePoint 2007, a Virtual Learning Environment which one could download, configure as a separated site collection. That took a lot of work to update and maintain. There were others provided on Codeplex. The SharePoint 2010 Productivity hub provided the ability to structure content and included the ability to include rich media like Flash hypermedia, videos – including webcasts etc., so hours of audio-visual tuition could be created by information workers as well (using a simple web cam and some video editing software).

      For those who enjoy a bit of history, for SharePoint 2007, there was a Learning package available for SharePoint which will enable users to actively learn how to use SharePoint and their learning is tracked; it’s on this link.

      There is also SLK located on codeplex which appears to be SharePoint 2007, however, could not identify if it was compliant with SharePoint 2010.

      As mentioned above, for SharePoint 2010, the Productivity 2010 Hub is targeted at those who need to quickly setup a central location for a knowledge base on SharePoint, Word, Lync and more. Like SharePoint 2007 hub, the 2010 Hub is a SharePoint Server site collection that serves as a learning community and is fully customisable. It provides a central place for your training efforts, and includes training content from Microsoft’s core products. Microsoft also provides ongoing and updated content packs. Overview and download is available here.

      I’ve noticed an change in the delivery of training material to bring the look and feel into focus with the format of latest Microsoft products using the ‘Windows 8’ interface; again the provision of video materials is clear here for IT Professionals and here for Developers.


      Support Resources

      Strictly speaking, Support Resources are not training tools, but are part of the renewal process once Stage 4 (unconscious competence) has been reached, providing 'on the job' information at your fingertips. The most basic form is the electronic manual with a search and retrieval engine, with linked hypertext, a memory of topics visited, suggested related topics and the ability to copy and paste code and scripts for SharePoint.

      There are so many places to get SharePoint information one could get overwhelmed with the best places to go; you may have your favorites, however, this article looks only at Microsoft ‘managed’ providers; Microsoft Press and O’Reilly.

      Additionally, there are a vast list of forum based online resources, like TechNet, MSDN (mentioned in this article) and many others. Again, with all of this information available the issue is the same as having someone ask for a SharePoint site but doesn't know what to put in it - meaning, what do I need, where do I need it, how will I record it, how will I retrieve it. Increasingly, there are a number of online providers now pushing Knowledge Bases on SharePoint. Slowly, these are becoming more structured and standardised into their own lands of expertise.

      This I think is a good thing. Someone once said to me 'I'm going to provide a central blog on the Internet that will provide information on everything to do with SharePoint'. I said 'Wow... That's going to either take a long time or you will need a hell of a lot of help' (thinking of it at the time I was being diplomatic - its impossible to provide let along support that resource unless you know everything there is to know about SharePoint and have a huge amount of time to gathering and maintaining that resource).

      Note that whilst I call these 'support resources' they are definitely not designed to simply be a replacement for your SharePoint company support resource. Information provides on these resources should be tested in your own test environments and validated before putting them into your production environment.

      I've listed some of these support resources at the end of this article.


      Learning Centres

      In SharePoint land, in fact, probably with any kind of development, workers find that the normal workplace is not suitable for self-paced learning. They are subject to many interruptions and cannot dedicate the time needed to learn or develop.

      Self-Paced products can form the core of a facilitated 'Learning Centre'.

      Lets’ take SharePoint's learning centre that can be installed as a separated site collection. That Learning Centre concept uses training technology to help people learn and become more effective. It does this by recording their activities; how long they are working through a topic and pointers as to where they may get further information concerning an aspect of SharePoint.

      Microsoft provides a Learning Centre which displays end user courses, and provides material that should be used when the user wishes to engage in Microsoft Certifications. There is also an IT Academy

      Certiport provides end user certification and has for the first time provided a MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) route for Microsoft Office and SharePoint users. The exam for end users on MOS is Exam 77-886. As I understand it, the next level of MOS certifications will not appear until late next year.

      There are others, carrying out a Google search for training providers on SharePoint will give you a mass of results. How valid they are depends on the strategy you adopt for yourself and others, especially if you are setting out a strategy for SharePoint training in the organisation.


      The Human Touch

      Whilst self-paced courses can provide the majority of training needed, do not forget the value human experience can bring. A hybrid approach is to attend scheduled events where an experienced trainer is available to provide assistance and advice as the student progresses through a self-paced programme. The student also gains from meeting other SharePoint developers, administrators, architects, program managers, exchanging ideas and attending optional break-out sessions on additional topics given by the class leader.

      Certain technologies may be best covered by traditional means involving lectures and presentations. Some of these may include:

      Microsoft Seminars and Conferences. These are very useful since they bring additional training sessions and normally rolled into the cost. Additionally good to meet with other SharePoint peeps, learn best practices and find out how others are using SharePoint. These are regional and there are many of these. A search on Google gave this:

      SharePoint Conferences

      SharePoint User Groups and Forums.

      There are so many benefits to belonging to a SharePoint user group. You can learn about SharePoint related events applicable to your user group when they become available. You can find out how your peers are solving problems and even sharpen your leadership and managerial skills by serving as a user group manager. The reason why user groups appear as a human touch is because social events usually evolve around them. User groups, whilst revolving around a bulletin board or forum, are regional / local so getting to see faces is definitely an option. This is very useful since it increases your social network and allows you to focus your training resources.

      Forums are great - SharePoint TechNet forum is the place to go to get answers from peers as they are populated by those who are extremely knowledgeable in the product, and for references they point to validated (by peers) articles that give answers. Note however that other great forums are there specific to differing areas of SharePoint, particularly for information workers, and those who are based within a geographical boundary (relates to user groups as indicated above).

      Externally Provided Training

      Going back to competency, if you want human touch training you had better make sure that you choose a relevant arena - in SharePoint, there are a number of these - I've listed the key ones and in no particular order:

      · Content Management

      · Find-ability

      · Social Computing

      · Business Productivity

      · Look and Feel

      · Deployment

      · Administration

      · Business Solutions

      Within these sections you will find training companies providing resources and instructors in one or more of those arenas. In my experience, make sure you define a strategy for training that connects SharePoint to the business in terms of what other tools SharePoint integrates with. Get a trainer who can instruct and provide resources on those additional levels.

      Finding a good training company can be a daunting task. Make sure you choose wisely and read-up on their credentials and customer reviews. A good source to get started on choosing a SharePoint training company is here:

      Are you a model student?

      In the land of SharePoint everyday I learn something new about the product. Whether it is a technical bit of knowledge or even business, governance, implementation - everyday is a voyage of discovery. I am I think, a student but far from being a model student. I reckon a model student is that who has all the resources at hand for the topic area they wish to cover.

      So after reading this article, ask yourself these questions.

      · What kind of training suits you the most? Book? e-Book? Online Training? CBT? A combination?

      · Where do you stand on the competency ladder?

      · Do you have access to the resources you need? How do you collate them? Can you quickly find the answers in the resources you have?

      · What area do you excel in? Do you have a blog and is this communicated to others?

      · How did you learn SharePoint? Reading? Diving into the Platform? Certification? A combination?

      Whatever happens, when tackling your SharePoint Training needs, try to get a vision of where would want to get to, whether you need training to prove to others you are competent, whether you want to solve a problem, or even whether you are attempting to build a strategy for others. Doing this will help you identify the planning that needs to be done, how long it will take and what is needed to succeed.


      I wrote this article in the hope that you will be able to identify what training there is available and how you can build a basic strategy that links training to you and meeting your organisations SharePoint training aspirations. To end, I thought it wise to give a short list of some training resources for SharePoint listed through Microsoft and in no particular order (explanations of these are on the page you visit when you click the link):



      Microsoft SharePoint Online Training

      Certiport - Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 MOS

      IT Pro and Developer Labs

    • Guest Post: Does online training for complex technologies work?


      Hugh Simpson-Wells is the CEO Oxford Computer Group.  Hugh has spent the last thirty years in the IT sector, in technical roles as well as serving at senior management and board levels within public and private companies. He originally started Oxford Computer Group (OCG) in 1983 and in 2002 restarted OCG with a specialization in the area of Identity and Access Management (IAM). Since that time Hugh has focussed on the development and presentation of IAM and related material, and in particular training for business and technical audiences worldwide.

      The advantages of online courses are obvious: money (and world resources) saved on travel, and flexibility to fit your timetable. Any kind of information that is needed “just in time” is perfect for this: how to create a table in Word, how create a chart in Excel, and so on. What has traditionally presented more of a challenge is information that needs a lot of interaction – perhaps because the concepts are technically difficult, or because it is hard to apply to your own specific (and complex) requirements.

      Server technologies throw up interesting examples. Our area of expertise is with identity and access technologies – and no two solutions involving Active Directory, Exchange, SQL Server, AD FS and FIM 2010 look the same. Does that mean that the implementer of such a solution simply has to get into a room and discuss it (with a consultant, or in a facilitated group)?

      General learning of the principles is still required of course, for example by practitioners who may not yet be involved with a specific case. Is the subject matter so technical that only a traditional classroom will do?

      At Oxford Computer Group, we now run our FIM 2010 and AD FS courses in both online/on demand format, and in traditional classroom format – and the demand for the former has overtaken the latter (and that is not to say that the classroom demand has dropped significantly – demand is growing but skewed towards online/on-demand). How does this work? And can you get the same experience?

      First you need a well –structured course which clearly identifies the important principles, which are applied to various scenarios, through lecture and through labs. This means that even though everyone has their own particular issues with their own particular environment, people can take the same journey and get 90% of the way to where they want to get to – the rest happens in other ways (traditionally through interaction with a teacher and other students).

      Once a course is proven in the classroom, we can put it online, but with some subtle differences that make it more suitable for the online/on-demand format. The lectures must be every bit as engaging and educational as the classroom – using demonstration, and bringing in information gleaned from consultant experience, but also from actual classroom discussions. Additional material is needed to fill the “space” that is normally filled by Q&A and anecdotes – for example quizzes (which are also a break from the more didactic sessions).

      A tutor must be available within a reasonable timeframe, to answer questions, enhance understanding and generally help – often this is an email exchange, but tools like Skype are vital too. However, the interaction will never be the same as in a classroom – and nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to doing labs. Hyper-V has made it possible to offer complex technical labs online, and so we provide an environment for each student – but the flow of a lab will not work if you keep having to wait for support that is not actually in the room with you. So what can be done? Well, the labs have to be tight: a task must have a clearly understood aim and measure of success – and it simply has to work (sounds obvious, but sadly this is not always the case). Also, you can offer a video demonstration of the entire lab, which can either be used as a whole learning piece, or dipped into when you get stuck.

      We seem to be seeing some success, because not only is demand growing, but the number of “help me” interactions is way less than we anticipated (typically in the single figures for what would traditionally be a 4 day course).

      Without actually doing a course, it is hard to get the whole experience – but this video will at least give you an idea of the lecture/demo part of it.


      Useful Resources

    • IT Camps: Windows 8 Dates Released!


      Many of you who have attended our Windows Server 2012 events have also been asking if and when we are going to run the Windows 8 Camps… Well here’s the info you’ve been waiting for:

      The UK IT Pro Team are back on the road delivering IT Camps to venues up and down the UK and we’re are pleased to announce the first set of dates to coincide with the launch of Windows 8.

      These hands-on sessions will give you an introduction to Windows 8 for enterprise.

      The agenda will be set by you, but some of the topics that are likely to be covered include:

      • What’s new in Windows 8
      • Windows 8 app deployment and Windows 8 OS deployment
      • New features for enterprises such as Windows to Go, and changes to features like BitLocker, BranchCache, Remote Desktop (Terminal Services) and VDI


      Click to register for these events

    • Winner Announcement: Windows Server Design Competition

      We are really pleased to announce the winner of the Windows Server Design Competition!  It was a really tough call to decide who should win this one!  I never realised we had such talented design lead IT Pro’s.

      The Winner of the Windows Server 2012 Design Competition is….

      Josiah Allen-Litchmore

      The judging panel loved the clean simple design and the use of the Windows logo and colour which fitted really well with the Windows Server 2012 branding! Josiah will receive his very own MicroServer with his design on it very soon! 


      Which looks like this when it’s on the Server!!!! Smile


      We would also like to give an honourable mention to the following designs.


      Douglas Cameron


      The inner workings of Server 2012 by D Bremner


      Mayan Server by James Clarkson


      And a late entry by Chintan Vashi

      If you didn’t win this competiton but are attending the Windows Server 2012 launch event then you are still in with a chance of winning one of 29 MicroServers with Josiah Allen-Litchmore’s design on them!  Make sure you turn up if you’ve registered to be in with a chance to win.

    • Guest Post: Something So Strong – Completing the High Availability BI Infrastructure

      chris-testa-oneilChris Testa-O'Neill is a Senior Consultant for Coeo Ltd, a leading provider of SQL Server Managed Support and Consulting in the UK and Europe. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, sole author of the MCTS SQL Server 2008 Microsoft E-Learning courses and technical reviewer for SQL Server 2012 BI Official Microsoft courses for Microsoft Learning. He is heavily involved with the SQL Server community as a speaker and an organiser of SQLBits, a Regional Mentor for SQLPASS and he runs his own user group in Manchester, UK. As well as being certified as a SQL Server MCDBA, MCTS and MCITP in all tracks

      This is part four of four of implementing Highly Available Business Intelligence environment using SQL Server 2012 and SharePoint 2010 technologies including PowerPivot for SharePoint, PowerView and Reporting Services. Part one described the considerations required for implementing the environment. Part two focused on the network infrastructure preparation including an Active/Passive SQL Server cluster to host the SharePoint configuration databases that is required to support the environment and part three focused on the Kerberos requirements for the environment

      Once these are in place, the focus can turn towards building the Highly Available environment itself. Here is a reminder of the architecture


      Provisioning SharePoint 2010

      The first step involved is to create a SharePoint Farm. This requires provisioning both the application layer and web front end layer servers with the SharePoint prerequisite installer that prepares the servers for the installation of SharePoint 2010. If the servers are connected to the internet, the files are installed automatically. However if the servers are not connected to the internet, then you can run the files manually or create an unattended script to manage the installation from a network share. It is important that this is run on all servers first.

      Installing SharePoint

      Once the prerequisites are installed, proceed with the installation of SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition on both the Application server and the Web Front End Servers. At the end of the installation ensure that you deselect the option to Run the SharePoint Product Configuration wizard Now. Once SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition is installed, then install service pack 1 on every server. If you are considering using Microsoft Office Web Applications (OWA), consider installing this now with OWA service pack 1 so that it is automatically configured when you configure the SharePoint Farm.

      Configuring SharePoint

      After the installation of the SharePoint source files. Go to the first application server and click on SharePoint Product Configuration wizard in Start, Programs, SharePoint 2010 folder. This will start the configuration of the first server; create the SharePoint farm and define the SQL Server Cluster as the location of the SharePoint configuration databases. You will also define the database access account (also known as the SharePoint Farm account) that acts the SharePoint Farm service account. A passphrase is also defined; do not lose this as it will be used to join the other servers to the SharePoint Farm.

      Once the other servers are joined to the farm, go back to the first server to complete the configuration in SharePoint Central Administration. In this webpage you are presented with the option to configure SharePoint using a wizard or to configure SharePoint manually. It is recommended that you configure the additional SharePoint Services manually. You will also want to configure logging within the SharePoint farm to help troubleshoot any errors that occur in setting up this environment.

      SharePoint Core Services

      Before installing PowerPivot for SharePoint, Power View or Reporting services, there are a number of SharePoint core services that should be configured. These include

      · SharePoint Search Services – Enables you to search for content stored in SharePoint

      · Create a Site Collection and Site – This will be used to create the high level site that will be the platform that hosts the applications. Consider using the Business Intelligence template when creating the site collection and site

      · Claims to Windows Token Services – a required service for Excel Services should Excel Services query remote data sources

      · Excel Services – is a pre-requisite service that is required for PowerPivot for SharePoint to run.

      · Secure Store – An optional service, but would be required if you wish to store credentials that will be used to connect to a remote data source

      Additional information on configuring these services can be found in the PowerPoint presentation at the end of this article.

      PowerPivot for SharePoint

      With the SharePoint core services configured, proceed with the installation of PowerPivot for SharePoint using the SQL Server installation media. Before installing you should perform the following steps on which PowerPivot for SharePoint is installed:

      Add the excel and PowerPivot account to all local admins on the farm and add the following rights

      o Act as client after authentication

      o Act as part of the operating system

      o Log on as service

      Once done, install PowerPivot for SharePoint on the first application server. Once installed you can then Configure or repair PowerPivot for SharePoint which automates much of the setup. This will be found on the Start menu of the application server. All that is required is the service account of the PowerPivot account and the SharePoint farm Passphrase as it will be making changes to the farm. You can then use Central Administration to check that PowerPivot activation has been done. To activate any feature perform the following steps:

      1. In Central Administration, Click Site Actions.

      2. Click Site Settings.

      3. Click Site Collection Features in the Site Collection Administration Group.

      4. Find PowerPivot Integration Feature in the list.

      5. Click Activate.

      Once done, you are ready to test the PowerPivot functionality by uploading a PowerPivot workbook to the SharePoint site. When successful testing is completed, repeat the setup on the second application server to provide high availability by providing a second instance of PowerPivot for SharePoint.

      Reporting Services Integration for SharePoint

      This requires using the SQL Server 2012 media to install Reporting Services for SharePoint Integration on the Application servers. You then add the Reporting Services Add in on the Web Front end servers and the application servers. Then a Reporting Services Application can be created that will be used to determine the service account the Reporting Services will execute under by performing the following steps as found in Books Online:

      1. In SharePoint Central Administration, in the Application Management group, click Manage Service Applications.

      2. In the SharePoint ribbon, click the New button.

      3. In the New menu, click SQL Server Reporting Services Service Application..

      4. In the Create SQL Server Reporting Services Service Application page, enter a name for the application. If you are creating multiple Reporting Services service applications, a descriptive name or naming convention helps you organize your administration and management operations.

      5. In Application Pool section, create a new application pool for the application (recommended). Using the same name for the new application pool as the service application, makes ongoing administration easier.

      6. In the Database Server, you can use the current server or choose a different SQL Server.

      7. In Database Name the default value is ReportingService_<guid>, which is a unique database name. If you type a new value, type a unique value.

      8. In Database Authentication, the default is Windows Authentication. If you choose SQL Authentication,

      9. In the Web Application Association section, select the Web Application to be provisioned for access by the current Reporting Services Service Application. You can associate one Reporting Services service application to one web application.

      10. Click OK.

      11. The process to create a service application could take several minutes to complete. When it is complete, you will see a confirmation message and a link to a Provision Subscriptions and Alerts page. Complete the provision step if you want to use the Reporting Services subscriptions and alerts features. For more information, see Provision Subscriptions and Alerts for SSRS Service Applications.

      Once this is complete, within Central Administration ensure that the reporting services and PowerView Integration for the site is activated.

      1. Click Site Actions.

      2. Click Site Settings.

      3. Click Site Collection Features in the Site Collection Administration Group.

      4. Find Power View Integration Feature and Reporting Integration Feature in the list.

      5. Click Activate.

      You can then access Report Builder to create and test reports. If Windows authentication is required, it is important that this is tested to ensure that the Kerberos configuration is done correctly. You can use the following webpage to help troubleshoot Kerberos, although it is also recommended that you have read through the Configure Kerberos authentication for SharePoint 2010 Products whitepaper before embarking on this architecture.

      Attached is a PowerPoint presentation that I present at numerous conferences. Additionally if you want to see how IT and business can collaborate more effectively with PowerPivot and PowerView on a SharePoint 2010 platform, the following 30 minute video explores how this can be achieved


    • Windows Server 2012? Windows Azure? Windows 8? System Center 2012?


      Tech.Days Online is back!

      We are extremely proud to announce that Tech.Days online is back!!! An unmissable virtual online experience jam-packed with exciting topics including Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Azure and Systems Center 2012. Following on from this we’ll have discussions on the fast-paced IT Industry. This 2-day event commences on the 30th and 31st October and is not to be missed!

      These impactful sessions headlined by Simon May, Andrew Fryer and Steve Plank will be co-hosted by guest speakers. That’s right! Presenters from Microsoft’s very own Most Valuable Professional (MVP) community will be sharing their own real-world experiences.

      The presenters will be tackling various topics, uncovering what’s new with OS and App Deployment, how to manage virtualization with Virtual Machine Manager, the new features of Windows Azure aimed at IT Pros and much, much more.

      We appreciate you can’t all be in the same place at the same time in real-life and so we are going to get you up to speed virtually with these amazing technologies whether you’re a Windows Azure fan, Windows 8 fanatic, Windows Server 2012 geek or System Center specialist!

      See you on the 30th and 31st Oct - Click here to register and find out more :

      Register for Day 1:                                                                                 Register for Day 2:




      Tech.Days Online 2012 Evaluation Form Prize Draw Terms & Conditions


      1. ELIGIBILITY.  This promotion is open to
        any person resident in the United Kingdom who is eighteen (18) years of age or
        older at the time of entry.  Employees of
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      1. ENTRY.
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             Conference –  Windows Server and
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      Winning entries will be determined by a random
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      • 1 Windows Phone 8 [SJB1] for the winner selected from attendees on 30

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      Prizes are as stated and are not transferable.  No cash alternatives available.  Microsoft reserves the right to substitute the
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      Participants in this promotion agree that
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      Microsoft cannot
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      Promoter: Microsoft Limited (“Microsoft”), Microsoft
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    • Event: Don’t forget the free UK Windows Azure Camp for the IT Pro, 27th Sept.


      This camp is aimed at the IT Pro. On it you will build and deploy an entire SharePoint infrastructure with a dual-machine server-farm, Active Directory Domain Controller and SQL Server. On the road to that infrastructure you will create a dual-server, load-balanced IIS website, a WIndows Azure Virtual Network in to which you will deploy the Active Directory Domain plus all the member servers (SQL and SharePoint) and you’ll also learn how to generalise your images and add them to your library of images to make future deployment simpler. It’s a very lab focussed camp.


      For more details about what a camp is like – see this post.

      This camp follows the Windows Server 2012 launch event and the Windows Server 2012 IT Pro Camp so if you are attending one or the other, or even both, you might find it useful to extend your time by another day.



      Links for registration/details to the various events are here:


      25th September: Windows Server 2012 Technical Launch event

      26th September: Windows Server 2012 IT Pro Camp

      27th September: Windows Azure IT Pro Camp

      28th September: Windows Server 2012 IT Pro Camp

    • More IT Camps Dates Released!

      If you haven’t yet registered for one of our IT Camps now is the time to take a look at the content and register for one that is of interest to you.  The first set of camps filled up really fast and have been full to the brim with jolly excited people!  The key discussion topic for the camps at the moment is Windows Server 2012 – Virtualising Servers.

      Why are they all excited… Well here’s what Reuben Cook had to say after attending the event and a picture he took there:


      ”A cracking day and an excellent break from the usual auditorium delivery method, or in previous years in a cinema in Hammersmith (for us at least), so a lot less people than a cinema full so registration went fast – if it is coming to a venue near you (see UK Tech Days Upcoming Events) get in quick!”

      So what are you waiting for? Register now and get involved!