Category Archives: Training

This morning I had a cup of coffee and MCSM: SharePoint

Not a bad way to start the day.

We’re using the Paulig Cupsolo –coffee maker at our training facilities in Helsinki, and even though I don’t normally like super industrial coffee, I’d say this little machine outputs pretty decent java. While sipping my first (huge) cup of coffee I also learned that all existing Microsoft Certified Masters on SharePoint 2010 can now start using the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Master: SharePoint branding. I knew about the grandfathering policy for MCM, but I’m very happy to be able to use and share the branding of future SharePoint certifications. If you’re interested in my experiences on achieving MCM, or ramping up for MCSM: SharePoint 2013 (for which I’ll need to upgrade), stay tuned – I’ll be posting thoughts and tips on those in the near future.


Also worth noting is the fact that the following exams are now visible on Microsoft Learning, but the actual exams are still dated for early February 2013:

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2012
  • Exam 70-331: Core Solutions for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • Exam 70-332: Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013

Anyone can do the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 Upgrade exam today. It’s available at Prometric – go take a look. We’re running a Prometric certification day once a week on Thursdays in Helsinki, Finland – see details (in Finnish, sorry) here.

I’m now a Microsoft Certified Master on SharePoint Server 2010

I’ve just received the official confirmation from Microsoft that I’ve passed all the requirements and I’m now a Microsoft Certified Master: SharePoint Server 2010!


I started preparations (and saving money) for MCM (R11) in November 2011, so it took a little over 8 months to complete from reading the pre-reading content to passing both the knowledge and lab exams in July 2012.

Why bother with MCM?

For two years I contemplated if I should apply for the MCM training. The cost (more on that in a bit) seemed a bit steep and most people in the Nordic countries, where I mostly work, didn’t seem all that impressed with yet another acronym. It sometimes felt as if the really old MCSE-style certifications (from 1995, not the recent upgrades) were all that recruiters, IT managers and business decision-makers wanted to talk to.

I’ve been pretty serious about SharePoint for quite some time now. Having written a book in my native Finnish language on MOSS 2007 in early 2007, I’ve had a blast working with SharePoint Server 2010. About a year ago I had a chance to work with some of my old colleagues from Microsoft (I left in early 2009), a few of them having attained the holy MCM grail. They were still the same guys so nothing magical about becoming a certified Master. I still felt, though, that advancing my career, gaining more experience and doing something that not everybody is capable of doing was still on my bucket list. From there I made the decision to apply for the MCM rotation pretty quickly.

And I reasoned that if I just stop eating for the duration of the training I’d save enough to pay my way through the training..

The cost


It’s not cheap, that’s for sure.

I ended up paying the regular $18,500 (about 15 000 euro) program fee. In addition there’s a $125 entrance fee for applying. Since my rotation (R11) was a hybrid one I needed to travel to Redmond for 8 days. Add in plane tickets and hotels (about $1000 for plane tickets and $1000 for hotel), and we’re looking at a pretty considerable sum of $20,650 (16 700 euro).

I also needed to retake both of my failed exams, which added an additional $2750 on top of this.

Yes, it’s a lot of money. Was the training worth the investment?

It’s too early to say, having just received the certification. If I consider the amount of training I was given, I don’t consider the amount of money too outrageous:

  • 60+ hours of onsite training given by the very best of the best – people like Vesa Juvonen, Spencer Harbar, Kimmo Forss, Todd Carter, Bill Baer, to name a few
  • 2000+ slides of deep technical content
  • 100+ hours of remotely delivered training, twice a week for 3 months
  • Access to top of the line lab servers remotely
  • + stuff that’s under NDA for MCM candidates

If you simply divide the program fee ($18,500) with the hours of training you’ll receive (about 160 hours), a single hour costs you $115 and some. Where else can you ask an MCA or SharePoint Product Manager a technical question in real-time and actually receive very good answers for that kind of price?

The challenges and some advice

As a father of two small children I felt the hybrid rotation of MCM is amazingly challenging. Reflecting back to January of this year I think it would have been easier to stay in Redmond for 3 weeks and try to complete the certification in one go. I chose the hybrid approach due to family reasons and because I also felt staying in Redmond for 3 weeks would drive me crazy.

Throughout January, February and March there were (live) online trainings for 4-5 hours at a time. My two sons often wake up very early (think 5:40 am) and after dropping them to kindergarten I’d often do 9 hours at the office. After that I’d still have 4-5 hours of level 400 content to listen to. Plus the hands-on labs, pre-reading, additional reading and running my own SharePoint consulting and training company at the same time.

I think it’s fair to say the first half of 2012 was the most taxing for me in my 35 years of existence.

For anyone hoping to attend an MCM training, I’d like to give a simple advice: Clear up your schedule before starting the training and not while you are doing it. I was constantly reorganizing my calendar to cram as much customer projects to offset the costs and time spent on my MCM training.

About knowledge

Do I know everything about SharePoint now? No, and I never will. I know what I’m good at and I know where my weaknesses lie. I’ve learned so much in the past 6 months that it’s hard to fully understand all the topics, techniques and insights I’ve had the opportunity to learn.

The key is not about knowing some trivial technical tidbit for a very special scenario, but rather to understand the overall landscape and being confident and capable of doing deep-dives with comfort to new topics and challenges.

It was eye-opening for me to be able to reflect my existing skill set with others and especially to learn how others have achieved certain solutions and results. I also knew what my strengths were when starting the MCM rotation but I also learned a lot about my weaknesses and false assumptions on certain topics.

What now?

Now, it’s time to put the newly-acquired skills and certification to a good use by delivering world-class SharePoint solutions, training and troubleshooting! :)

SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 Consumer Preview resources

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Visio and Project client), SharePoint Foundation 2013 and SharePoint Server 2013 consumer previews. Internally these are called Beta 2-level releases, so consider before installing them in production machines.

There seems to be so much to choose from so I’ve decided to compile a list of all the goodness that was released:

Office 2013 clients:

  • Office 2013 (x86 and x64) from MSDN Subscriber downloads
  • Visio 2013 (x86 and x64) from MSDN Subscriber downloads
  • Project 2013 (x86 and x64) from MSDN Subscriber downloads

Product keys are in their usual places for the clients.

SharePoint 2013 bits:

  • SharePoint Foundation 2013 (x64 only)
  • SharePoint Server 2013 (x64 only)
  • SharePoint Designer 2013 (x86 and x64)
  • Office Web Apps Server (x64)
  • Audit and Control Management Server
  • Office 365 ProPlus Preview

Tutorials and support material:

  • Overview of the support material
  • SharePoint 2013 IT Pro Training
  • SharePoint 2013 Developer Training
  • SharePoint for Developers
  • SharePoint 2013 Technical Library (compiled help-file)
  • eBook: Deployment Guide for SharePoint 2013
  • Design sample: Corporate Portal with Path-based sites for SP 2013
  • Search architectures for SharePoint Server 2013
  • Enterprise search architectures for SharePoint Server 2013
  • Back up and restore: SharePoint Server 2013
  • Services on server mapping worksheet for SharePoint Server 2013
  • Design sample: Corporate Portal with Host-named sites for SP 2013
  • Databases that support SharePoint 2013
  • Topologies for SharePoint 2013
  • Language Packs for SharePoint Foundation 2013
  • SharePoint Server 2013 Client Components SDK
  • How to test upgrade
  • SharePoint 2013 Upgrade Process
  • Language Packs for SharePoint Server 2013
  • Configure a SharePoint 2013 in Three-Tier farm
  • Demonstrate SAML-based claims authentication with SP 2013
  • Test Lab Guide: Demonstrate intranet collaboration with SP 2013

Other interesting stuff:

  • Lync Server 2013 (x64)
  • Exchange Server 2013 (x64)
  • Project Server 2013 (x64)

I’m now an MCSA–again?

Having just written about the latest changed to Microsoft’s certification program, I was immensely happy to receive this email yesterday morning:

Congratulations on earning your Windows Server® 2008 Core certification! We hope you enjoy the benefits of your certification and of membership in the Microsoft Certified Professional community.

Wait, what? I thought I was already a certified Windows Server 2008 guy, with both the necessary MCTS-based certifications and MCITP for Enterprise Administrator. I’ve kind of lost track on all the different Windows Server-certifications, there are simply so many available.

A quick peek at the MCP site reveals that nothing has changed with regards to actual certifications I’ve taken:


Clicking on my transcript, I see that I do indeed have the new MCSA, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate certification:


What about my previous MCSA from 2003? It’s still there in my transcript:


What this means is that I get to keep my existing MCSA from 2003, and I’ve also earned the new MCSA for 2012. In time, my old MCSA will still be visible but will eventually lose value while the new MCSA gains in popularity. This probably takes a few years for HR managers, recruiters and managers to realize that MCSA is new, and not 9 years old.

Microsoft certification reboot–what changed and what do I do now?

On April 11th, Microsoft announced that the current stack of certification programs will be rebooted (or reinvented). Say welcome to your new certification overlords – the MCSA, MCSE and MCSM:


MCSA and MCSE sound vaguely familiar. Oh yes, MCSE has been around since Windows NT 3.1, and MCSA became available for Windows Server 2003. Good times.

The key different is that MCSA, MCSE and MCSM are dubbed cloud certifications. The old MCTS, MCITP and similar certifications are still alive and well. That is, until new versions of Microsoft server products are being released and old exams are aligned with MCSA and MCSE in the future. 

MCSA explained

MCSA stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate. It’s an entry level certification program for people who are looking for their first job in IT. So definitely not someone who has already completed plenty of Microsoft certifications.

The old MCSA, or Microsoft Certified System Administrator, is no longer available. Even though the new MCSA shares the same acronym, it’s totally different and should be considered as a different breed. What they do share, however, is the fact that MCSA is required for the new MCSE – just like before.

Currently, MCSA is available for these two products:

MCSA: Windows Server 2008

For Windows Server 2008, you’ll need to pass the following exams:

  • 70-640: Windows Server 2008: Configuring Active Directory
  • 70-642: Windows Server 2008: Configuring Network Infrastructure
  • 70-646: Windows Server 2008: Server Administrator

MCSA: SQL Server 2012

For SQL Server 2012, you’ll need to pass the following exams:

  • 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • 70-462: Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
  • 70-463: Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

There’s also a similar certification path for MCSA: SQL Server 2008, but I find little interest in doing that now that SQL Server 2012 is widely available.

What about MTA?

We also (still) have MTA, or Microsoft Technology Associate, which is relatively new and aimed mainly for students. For MTA, the following certifications are currently available – and unchanged with the announcement of other certifications:


MCSE explained

MCSE stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. It follows MCSA, which is a prerequisite for achieving MCSE. It comes in two flavors:

MCSE: Private Cloud

The Private Cloud track includes both Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center 2012 products, so it’s not going to be a walk in the park to complete.

You’ll need to pass the following certifications:

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2008
  • 70-247: Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
  • 70-246: Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

A recertification exam (apparently just one) is required every three years.

The second flavor is MCSE: Business Intelligence:

This is a continuum for MCSA: SQL Server 2012 and required the following certifications:

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012
  • 70-466: Implementing Data Models and Reports with SQL Server 2012
  • 70-467: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with SQL Server 2012

There’s also a second path for MCSE: SQL Server, and it’s called MCSE: Data Platform. Key different with Business Intelligence-path is that this is more developer oriented and requires the following certifications:

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012
  • 70-464: Developing SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • 70-465: Designing Database Solutions for SQL Server 2012

You can also upgrade to MCSE: BI or MCSE: Data Platform, if you already have MCITP: Database Developer 2008 or MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 completed.

Most of the exams for MCSE: SQL Server 2012 flavors are available from June 2012.

Retiring exams

A lot of older certifications are being phased out in the coming months. For a complete list, see here.

What about MCSM – what’s that then?

MCSM, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, is the successor to MCM, or Microsoft Certified Master-program.

This is the highest (technical) level one can attain for select products, including SharePoint, Active Directory, Lync, Exchange and SQL Server.

MCSM is coming with wave 15 of the new products – thus, MCSM: SharePoint would be available when the next version of SharePoint is released. The prerequisite for any MCSM is the new MCSA. So if you currently have MCITP and MCSD for SharePoint, you’ll have to upgrade or pass the future SharePoint certification exams and then you can continue to MCSM.

The ‘old’ MCM track is still alive, and existing Masters get to keep their certification.

What should I do now?

You don’t really need to do anything at the moment. If you are currently pursuing any of the available MCITP or MCTS certification tracks, keep going. You can upgrade to the newest versions and become an MCSE in the coming months. For certain products, such as Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory, there’s nothing new to offer yet since the new versions are not released yet.

Further reading

To read up on the MCSA, check out the new MCSA introduction site. There’s a similar one available for MCSE also.