Failing 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012/R2

On Friday 3rd November I failed Microsoft Exam 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012 R2. First attempt: 580. 2nd attempt: 540. Absolutely gutted to have failed it a second time as I was a lot more confident this time around having revisited everything I struggled with on the first exam. Seems like there’s some wide gaps in my knowledge that I haven’t plugged.

Make no mistake: 70-411 is a difficult exam. It is a very broad test covering a variety of scenarios and tools.

It’s also come to my attention that Microsoft no longer allow you to substitute 70-463 (Implementing a Data Warehouse) with other exams such as 70-411 to contribute towards the SQL MCSA which means a pass would have been a hollow victory.

What’s Worked?

Course 20411D – Delivered by QA Ltd in Leeds. The instructor was very knowledgeable having real-world knowledge and exam experience. Notes taken around this proved useful.

Previous Job – lots of experience in managing Windows Server 2008. IT strategy would have seen the business go to Windows Server 2012 R2 and implement some of the new technologies introduced in the newer OS. The interest alone was inspiration to boot up some test VMs and make an effort to learn it.

Exam Ref 70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 R2 Book – Compared to the SQL training kit books it’s a bit thin but it’s still covers enough of the key topics to be useful.

But What’s Not Worked?

MeasureUp practice exam – although this has been useful for 70-461 (Querying SQL Server 202/2014) and even more so for 70-462 (Administering SQL Server 2012/2014) this has not helped much for 70-411. I was getting 80% and above in the practice exam. In 70-461 and 70-462 once I started hitting 80% (which in MeasureUp terms is a pass) I felt confident I’d hit “the barrier”. The exam difficulty result wasn’t hugely off the experience in the practice exam.

With 70-411 I think that the MeasureUp exam is very far off. Some questions came through on the actual exam that covered topics I’d just not hit in the MeasureUp exam. I also noticed some terminology differences and obvious typos which given how much these exams cost is a bit disappointing.

Job Change – whilst I love my new job it did have an unfortunate side effect: I use Windows Server much less regularly. I therefore don’t have to continuing real-world experience building up. Whilst I do interact with Windows Server every day as a SQL technical consultant it doesn’t cover things like managing Active Directory or setting up Windows Server Update Services. I felt I was getting caught out by the more in-depth questions particularly where PowerShell administration is involved.

To summarise I think my approach had gaps due to real-world experience, dependency on practice exams and the choice of subbing exams out. My next steps towards netting that most coveted MCSA will be to examine Data Warehouse exam 70-463 and (most likely) make an attempt on that.

Please Consider the Environment Before Printing This Blog Post

Email thread gone out of control because someone spun it off? Long email trail forwarded from a colleague with the words “see below” and nothing else right at the top? A colleague asking for help because they have 100 folders, can’t find an email and can’t use search? I’ve even suffered reading through a LinkedIn article discussing best ways of signing off an email (apparently just use “Best”). Been there, done that, clicked the unsubscribe link at the bottom. The question really is not when can we replace email? more “how long is it actually going to take for us to make it happen?”.

Email really adds to people’s day. Email inboxes end up becoming a vastly over/under organized trove of information. Most of it pointless but some of it potentially treasure.

  • Office Communication – My office uses Skype a lot because we can work anywhere, share desktops, make it a video call. Otherwise we go and talk to each other (but not before asking if the other person is busy). There’s also the phone system your office has had around since the 80s but you need to work out how to dial it first.
  • Client Communication – Skype. Just do it. Video call people and watch their facial expressions as you let them down (gently). Phone them if you must but NEVER use email to arrange a call. It’s sad. So very sad.
  • Knowledge – Nobody should be using email as an authoritative store of information. Full stop. It was never built for such a purpose. Deploy a Wiki, use Evernote or OneNote, find yourself a document management solution or make a network share to store stuff if you have to. Watch mishaps & misinformation fall and knowledge be recorded forever (or at least until ransomware nabs it).
  • File Sharing – I get it. You need to send that critical file to colleagues before you send to the client. Or upload it to OneDrive and work on it together. Accept no print outs.
  • Credential Sharing – IF YOU DO THIS PREPARE TO BE BOARDED BY PIRATES. Phone exchange works best but some SIP systems send traffic unsecured (!!!).

To summarise: you can make your life and others a lot easier just by ditching your 100 a day email habit. Let’s all get cracking before Inbox Zero makes a return.

Passing Exam 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL 2012/2014

Recently I passed my first Microsoft Exam. After lots of time studying, tinkering and practising I can now say I’ve passed exam 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014.

For those looking to take exams you might find my “study mix” helpful. I’m not going to divulge what was on the exam but what I would say is that you need to be prepared and you really, really need to know your T-SQL right from the knowledge about how and why queries work to how you write them.

  • Courses – I attended a course in Leeds, West Yorkshire provided by a company called QA Ltd. They provided a service they call “certification in a box” which is: the course, a voucher for the corresponding Microsoft labs for 14 days, a voucher for a MeasureUp practice exam for 180 days and a voucher to take the final exam. The instructors were very knowledgeable and I thoroughly enjoyed the courses as well as learning a lot.
  • Training Books – My humble beginnings in SQL were from Sam’s Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes a Day but for this exam you need something far heavier. Microsoft Press have a book written specifically for those taking exam 70-461. Just a word a of caution: don’t take the included practice exam as a good measure of what the real exam is like. Microsoft Press even event spelt ‘training’ wrong on the CD label.
  • Practice Exams – The course from QA provided a practice exam from MeasureUp. Again, I’m not going to let you in on the exam content but this practice exam isn’t exactly what you should expect for the real thing. It was great for learning as it does provide explanations of why an answer was wrong.
  • Experience – As I mentioned above you really need to know the practicalities of how SQL works. If you can do it under pressure in your job you can do it in an exam (which is less pressure!).
  • Lab – As a keen target archer I found inspiration to build a database on a PC at home. This gave me a great example of how to build an eventually query data from it without regurgitating examples.

Lastly a word about “braindumps”. Don’t. That’s all you need to know bout them.

My next exam will be 70-462: Administering SQL Server 2012/2014 and then followed by Exam 70-411 to hopefully earn an MCSA in SQL Server.

Let’s Review WiFi Security

I recently decided to update my wireless keys and I wanted to share some notes to help others understand what needs to be done to not only have a secure network but also one that performs well.

Tip 1: Choose WPA2.

WEP and WPA are both done for. In addition the 802.11n spec states that you must use WPA2 or else your WiFi won’t set a rate of any higher than 54Mbps. You also need WMM APSD enabled so don’t forget that either. Is there any counter argument left here?

If you are in an enterprise environment you should deploy WPA2-Enterprise which relies on an accounting method such as RADIUIS instead of shared paraphrases to authenticate. This makes it much easier to manage who or what gains access to the network.

Tip 2: choose a sensible length key with a mix of letters, cases, numbers and symbols.

Whilst you’re unlikely to have an issue with someone sat outside in a white van cracking your WiFi keys it’s no harm to choose a password that is something other than a word you might find in a dictionary.

Balance your passphrase complexity and length with user friendliness. A 32 digit key that looks like your cat had a rampage on your keyboard only infuriates your family and tires poor little fingers.

A passphrase 12 digits long with uppercase, lowercase, some numbers and a few symbols thrown in should suffice. Don’t write it down on a scrap of paper either!

Tip 3: Don’t rely on MAC filtering or hiding your SSID. They aren’t security settings. They’re actually management functions to help guide 

MAC filtering can be very cumbersome to maintain not to mention someone in that infamous white van mentioned above can sniff out what MAC adresses are transmitting on WiFi which can then be spoofed very easily.

Hiding your SSID in effect sets a flag to the device OS “do not display me”. Imagine of someone wrote software that just ignored such a flag? I’m sure someone hasn’t done that. Surely…

Tip 4: Segregate guest traffic and don’t hand out connection details to your core network.

If you want to offer guess access do it right. Even in a SOHO environment you should avoid the risk of someone introducing a malware bitten device into your network.

For best results your guest access needs to separate the guest traffic by using a VLAN. Consult your router’s documentation for specific details here.

 

 

Hello World

I am pleased to be able to introduce myself. I am Joseph Scott from the United Kingdom. I have recently moved away from a family business where I was employed as an IT & Marketing consultant and have started life as a technical consultant with a specialisation in financial systems.