Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Priority IT Certifications

Which certifications should you make your priority? If you’ve purchased the LabSim library of certification training courses, you already have training for 12 of the most important certifications for IT professionals. Seven of them were included in Dice Learning’s recent list of the Top 10 Pay-Boosting Certifications in Tech:
  • Security+
  • MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator)
  • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
  • Network+
  • MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional)
  • CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
  • A+
  • MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer)
  • PMP (Project Management Professional)
  • ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library)

“When you combine in demand skill-sets and proven salary impact, specific certifications become valuable to individual technology professionals,” said Evan Lesser, Director of Dice Learning.

’s approach to training with LabSim courses is to prepare you through certification training to have the skill-sets needed to do your job and do it well. When you know more and can do more to contribute in your IT role, your career will move more quickly in the direction you want to take it.

While TestOut wants to help you certify and knows certification will be an asset to your career, certification by itself isn’t our end goal. Our LabSim courses train you to certify in the right certifications AND be a top performer in your organization.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Certify at your level and with what you do."

When you’re at the beginning of your career in IT and not doing quite what you want to be doing (yet), it’s tempting to think that certifications will be the quick solution to career advancement. You may think you need to “rack up” as many certifications as you can in the shortest time possible in order to open doors to better career opportunities. But this plan overlooks the point of certification in the first place, and chances are, a certification not coupled with practical experience won’t get you very far anyway.

This is not to say that certifications shouldn’t be your goals. They still should. Certifications have always played an important role in demonstrating expertise in IT fields. But consider what Ken Wagner of Certification Magazine suggested to a recent IT grad interested in a career in information security. After pointing out that security is a hard field to break into without prior experience, Wagner told the graduate, “Certify at your level and with what you do. When you first get into IT, work toward the CompTIA Security+. Forget about the higher-level security certs like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) for now until you actually work in the information security field.”

The recommendation to “certify at your level and with what you do” is an important one to remember, no matter what area of IT you want to go into. So, what is your area of practical experience? For example, do you work with networks? Your experience coupled with hands-on certification training will prepare you to receive the Network+ certification. Then, as you continue professional work in networking, you’ll be able to add to your networking qualifications with higher-level certifications. The idea is to work on certifications as you build your experience, not before you build your experience.

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, wrote that certifications “carry their value only when they’re paired with experience. Choose training opportunities and certifications that realistically enhance your ability to help your current or next employer.”

With that in mind, consider the certification that matches the experience you’re currently gaining for the career you want. Seek training that will give you hands-on experience as you prepare to certify, and build a foundation of skills for your career path.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Monday, August 23, 2010

MCTS Certification: A Step in the Right Direction for Your Career

Did you know that you only need to pass one exam to earn your Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification? While MCITP requires passing two to four exams for certification, MCTS can be achieved sooner, and many of the single exams that you may pass to receive MCTS designation also count toward MCITP.

Eric Eckel, president of two technology consulting companies, published a list on TechRepublic of the top ten IT certifications from his practical viewpoint in the industry. Ranking MCTS as number two on his list, Eckel wrote, “Mastering a single exam, especially when available examinations help IT pros demonstrate expertise with such popular platforms as Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008, is more than reasonable.”

The MCTS designation shows that an IT professional has mastered a specific Microsoft technology—and because Microsoft obviously offers a lot of different technologies, MCTS certification allows you to demonstrate a specialized expertise.

For example, a current LabSim user who recently graduated college, started his career in IT, and is beginning to train for certifications that will build his skillset, told me that working with servers is his passion. For him, the MCTS certification will be the best place to start. Either exam 70-640 (TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring) or exam 70-642 (TS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration) fulfill the requirement to be MCTS certified and demonstrate expertise working with Microsoft server technologies. A great start for his resume, the MCTS certification with an emphasis in servers will then count toward the MCITP: Server Administrator certification that he can work toward next.

This example shows just one route an IT professional could take on his or her path to learning and certifying in Microsoft technologies. If Microsoft server technologies aren’t your emphasis, consider one of the other categories of expertise for MCTS certification that will work toward your own career goals.

In his article listing his top ten certifications, Eckel said, “The world runs on Microsoft.” He in no way downplayed the importance of Apple technologies, and he included as many Apple certifications on his list as Microsoft certifications. But he pointed out that, realistically, IT professionals need to be experts on Microsoft technologies. Start with the MCTS certification and you’ll take a big step in the right direction for your career.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Match LabSim Content to Your Textbook for A+ and Network+

Have you seen the recently-developed courseware maps for LabSim A+ and Network+? Instructors, these new course maps are for you!

Although LabSim courses are designed to stand alone as a full curriculum for IT subjects, some instructors also supplement LabSim training with textbooks. However, without a chart that shows instructors exactly which chapters and sections in the text match up to the sections of LabSim, instructors have a lot more work on their hands planning their course schedules.

TestOut has done this work for you by creating useful course maps. Charts based on the objectives of CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ exams show exactly what sections of the corresponding LabSim courses cover those objectives, as well as what chapters of the textbook cover the same objectives.

If you use any of the following texts, LabSim courseware maps are available to help you quickly coordinate LabSim content with your text:

  • Jeans Andrews, A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining Your PC, 7th Edition
  • Jeans Andrews, A+ Guide to Hardware: Managing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting, 5th Edition
  • Jean Andrews, A+ Guide to Software: Managing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting, 5th Edition
  • Mike Meyers, CompTIA A+ Certification Exam Guide, 7th Edition
  • Tamara Dean, Network+ Guide to Networks, 5th Edition

A small selection from the LabSim A+ course map to Mike Meyers's textbook shows you how the charts are organized:

To view or download the complete LabSim A+ course mapping that matches the textbook you use, please visit www.LabSimOnline.com or click these links:


Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LabSim A+ and Windows 7 Training—Now In Your Browser

Today TestOut announced the launch of a new version of LabSim—accessed through your browser! Three courses, including LabSim A+ Essentials, A+ Practical Application, and Configuring Windows 7, are available in any major browser, on both PCs and Macs. All other LabSim courses are still accessible through the Windows-version of LabSim installed on your PC.

Over the past several months, browser-based LabSim has been in beta version, and many technology instructors and students helped test and improve the product by utilizing it in their classes. Feedback from instructors shows the overall excitement for LabSim training through a browser:
  • Hermine Turner, senior technical trainer at Focus: HOPE Information Technologies Center, wrote to us, “I am very pleased with the browser-based delivery of the A+ LabSim. Delivery of the product is much faster. . . Students will now have access at local public libraries because the client will not need to be installed."
  • Nick Newell, instructor at Northeast Mississippi Community College, told me, “I tested the browser-based LabSim all summer and will use it to teach my IT Foundations class this semester. I am really pleased with what I’ve seen!”
  • William Schlick, professor at Schoolcraft College, said, “It is faster altogether, and I’ve seen a marked difference. TestOut is definitely on the right track with this!”

If you have purchased any of the three LabSim courses now available in a browser, you can now access them both through the Windows-version of LabSim—the client installed on your PC—and through a browser on any PC or Mac with an Internet connection. Try it out! And no matter which version of LabSim you use, your results will always be up to date in LabSim reports.

Find more information about browser-based LabSim at www.labsimonline.com, or, if you already have a LabSim account, refer to these instructions for launching LabSim A+ or Windows 7 courses in your browser right now:

How to Access LabSim A+ or Windows 7 through Your Browser

To access LabSim A+ or Windows 7 in your browser with the highest quality, please note the following requirements:

System Requirements
  • Windows 7, Vista, or XP
  • Macintosh OS X or higher with Intel processor

Supported Browsers
  • Internet Explorer 7 or 8
  • Mozilla Firefox 3
  • Google Chrome
  • Apple Safari 4

1. Go to http://labsim.testout.com

2. Enter your current LabSim login and password to begin.

3. Follow instructions for adding Microsoft Silverlight, a free browser plug-in with a quick installation:
  • Select the link for either Windows Silverlight or Mac Silverlight. The download will begin automatically.
  • Open the file, and click “Run.”
  • Click “Install now.”
  • Close the browser and then open it again for the installation to take effect.
And as always, get in touch with us and let us know how it goes!

Emily Howard, TestOut

Monday, August 9, 2010

Windows 7 Training: Worth Your While?

Wondering whether Windows 7 training is worth your while—or worth your students’ while? How much will IT professionals really need to know about Windows 7 in the near future? Statistics reported by Windows IT Pro writer Paul Thurrot help answer these questions about Windows 7 deployment in the enterprise.

Admitting he was curious—maybe even a little doubtful—about the actual numbers we would see for Windows 7 deployment in large businesses, Thurrott posed the question, “Has individual excitement around Windows 7 broken through to the fiscally constrained corporate market? . . . Or worse yet, is Windows 7 just another Windows Vista, where talk about deployments eventually disappears as the reality of the situation becomes clear?”

The numbers are speaking for themselves, and according to analysts and research firm IDC, about 65% of corporations have already begun migrating to Windows 7. “Both Dell and Intel are fully deployed on Windows 7 now,” wrote Thurrott further, citing information from Microsoft general manager Gavriella Schuster. Already, Windows 7 is not another Vista.

It also sounds like Microsoft did its research all along the development timeline of Windows 7, working closely with partners (PC makers, ISVs, and solution integrators) to always be up to date on tools Windows 7 would work with and to improve the product with partners’ feedback.

The widespread deployment of Windows 7 at the consumer level, small- to medium-sized business level, and most importantly, at the enterprise level, make it necessary for IT professionals to be trained to work with Windows 7.

If you haven’t yet, try an evaluation of the new LabSim Configuring Windows 7 course in your classroom, and make sure your students are prepared to be the professional on Windows 7 when they enter their profession.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Four Key IT Certifications

You might think you’d like to pursue every certification out there, but you have to start somewhere, right? Recently Certification Magazine’s Dave Willmer wrote about the 4 most in-demand certifications as recommended by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology:
  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  2. Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
  3. Project Management Professional (PMP)
  4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

(By the way, of the 4 certifications named by Robert Half, complete training courses for 3 of them are included in the LabSim library of IT certification training).

Designations like this list by Robert Half Technology help IT professionals decide where to focus their certification efforts. Once they know the area of IT they want to pursue for their career, IT professionals can use this list and other similar lists to know which certifications are most respected in that area.

For example, Willmer writes that “fifty-eight percent of CIOs polled for the ‘Hiring Index’ ranked network administration as the technical skill set in greatest demand within their IT departments.” If networking administration is your career goal, then this list helps you narrow in on CCNA as the certification you should go after.

As you seek professional development opportunities, make sure your time is well spent by training for the industry certification that best moves your career in the direction you want to take it.

Emily Howard, TestOut