Friday, 19 December 2014

How Firebrand’s new Level 4 IT Apprenticeships can get your business £10,000

By Sarah Morgan

Firebrand Training is excited to announce an expansion to our Apprenticeship portfolio. Developed with the Government’s Trailblazer project, you can now grow your business with Level 4 IT Apprentices from Firebrand.

You’ll be able to choose from a shortlist of talented young adults, ready to grow your business. They get two years of government funded IT training worth £27,000, a weekly starting salary of £150 and your business gets incentives of £2,700 to £10,800.

Train qualified staff on professional programs

Firebrand’s Level 4 IT Apprenticeships are available right now. Your apprentice can take the following two year training programmes:

  • Cisco CCNA Routing & Switching

    Your apprentice will develop into the role of Network Engineer. They will learn how to design, install, maintain and support communications and get certifications like the Cisco CCNA. But that’s just a fraction of what they’ll learn – find out more now.

  • Microsoft Network Engineer (MCSA)

    On this programme your apprentice will learn the principles of networking and gain well-known industry certifications like the CompTIA A+ & N+, ITIL Foundation and the Microsoft MCSA: Windows 8.1

  • Software Developer

    Firebrand will develop your apprentice into the role of Software Developer. They’ll learn how to build, manage and deploy code within enterprise environments and will become high quality developers within your organisation. Plus, they’ll get professional certifications like the MCSD: Web Applications and the MCSA: SQL Server.

  • Bespoke

    Work with Firebrand to build your perfect program and create an ideal new employee. In 2015, we will be launching more level 4 apprentice tracks, including custom and bespoke programmes.

How a Level 4 Apprentice will plug the skills gap in your business

IT skills are in short-supply – the EU predicts a shortfall of 700,000 IT roles by 2015. With this shortage, it’s no surprise that businesses across the UK are struggling to find qualified new staff.

With strong backing from the UK government, the apprenticeship scheme is tackling the skills gap – making it easier for your business to get bright young employees on board. The Skills Funding Agency has announced an additional £40m to fund apprenticeship places, as well as an extra £20m to fund the higher educational element.

Level 4 Apprenticeships combine the best of on-the-job training with high level qualifications. These apprentices will give you the knowledgeable workforce your business needs to grow. In fact, 25% of employers in England rate qualified higher apprentices as 25% more employable than those who took an alternative route to work.

Hire an apprentice and you’ll quickly train someone to understand exactly how your business works. You can also develop existing staff as they work with your apprentice, through mentoring opportunities and more.

Find out more about the benefits of higher apprenticeships here.

Level 4 Apprenticeships Accelerated

We’ve worked with the Government’s Trailblazer project to bring you Level 4 Apprenticeships. And as always, we will be delivering them the Firebrand way: solid training weeks for your apprentice and more uninterrupted time spent working for their employer.

Here’s how it works:

1. We advertise your vacancy and create a shortlist of candidates, matching your business needs, for you to interview

2. Your apprentice will get 23 to 38 days of accelerated Firebrand training and IT industry standard certifications like: Cisco CCNA, Microsoft MTA Networking Fundamentals, MCSA: Windows 8.1 and ITIL Foundation v3. With accelerated learning, your apprentice will be qualified in half the time.

3. You’ll pay just £6,000 to £9,000 over two years with the government contributing double what you pay. You’ll be able to spread the payment over 18 months (interest free) and the Government will also pay you £2,700 to £10,800 in incentives.

Get access to 1,000s of applicants looking for work right now - find out more about taking on an apprentice with Firebrand’s one and two-year programs here.

But that’s not all.

Turn a talented university graduate into an IT professional, fast

If you’re looking for a more experienced employee, why not hire a graduate straight from university? Firebrand graduates all have a STEM (science, technology, engineering or maths) degree and are more than ready to enter the IT industry.

To find out more about growing your business with talented university graduates, register your interest here.

Related articles:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Best IT certifications for 2015

By Sarah Morgan

Getting certified is a brilliant way to prove that you are as skilled as you say you are. But a certification doesn’t stand alone – if you can’t apply it, what’s the point? Now that 2014 draws to an end, let’s take a look at some of the best IT certifications for 2015 that will advance you to the next stage in your career.

The need for qualified IT professionals is now massively outpacing the supply – it’s estimated that Britain alone will need 500,000 new IT professionals over the next five years. And with the widespread uptake of technologies, like Cloud and virtualisation, getting certified in 2015 really will make all the difference.

2014 saw a barrage of cyber-attacks inflicted upon businesses around the world. In fact, more organisations fell victim to cybercriminals in 2014 than 2013, the US State of Cybercrime revealed. And reports are already predicting an increase in cybercrime for 2015.

So from security to cloud and project management qualifications - getting certified for 2015 could be one of the best decisions you make next year. Here's our list of the best IT certifications for 2015.

1. Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 

Support for Windows Server 2003 ends July 14th, 2015. Using the system after end of support could cost you up to £120,000 a year in custom support. You will also lose the ability to process online transactions via Visa & Mastercard as Windows Server 2003 will fail to adhere to PCI compliance.

Despite warnings from Microsoft, estimates from HP suggest 11 million systems are still running Windows Server 2003. This could be a cripple your business, come 2015, considering the estimated 3 to 18 months it takes to migrate a datacentre of 100+ servers.

Thousands of businesses will now be migrating to Windows Server 2012, making the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification a valuable asset. Get this cert and you’ll reduce the hassle of migration and be able to make the most of your new server software faster.

Start planning your migration today (if you haven’t already) and make it a smooth process for your organisation by taking the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 course.

2. EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker

There was a 50% chance you were a victim of cybercrime in 2014, data from Microsoft revealed. The same is true for one-in-five small and medium businesses.

Certifications like EC-Council’s CEH are now becoming increasingly sought after for businesses of all sizes. After all, nobody wants to face a crippling security breach like Sony’s recent attack.

Protect your business from cyber attacks like this (image from Sony's recent breach)

Take on the CEH in 2015 and you’ll get comprehensive ethical hacking and networking security training. On this course you’ll learn how to conduct penetration tests against your own systems. With the knowledge of a hacker at your disposal, you’ll identify and close security holes that a cybercriminal could otherwise exploit.

The CEH certification also qualifies you for a wide range of roles within IT security from Forensics Analyst to Application Security architect.


In the past year alone, cyber security vacancies have doubled with demand now overwhelming supply, according to data from Technojobs.

The CISSP is a global standard and widely recognised as the information and cybsersecurity benchmark cert. Achieve it and you’ll display solid proof of your rounded IT security experience as well as a common baseline and standardisation of knowledge.

Certifications like the CISSP are in demand (2014 saw a 10% growth in the average salary for cyber security professionals) as they are frequently required for the majority of senior roles within cyber security.

Protect your organisation from IT security threats of all kinds - find out how to become a CISSP.

4. Microsoft MCSA: Office 365

Take the Microsoft MCSA: Office 365 and position yourself to take advantage of Microsoft’s new Cloud focus. This is also your first step to achieving Microsoft’s new Cloud Productivity competency for your business.

Achieve this certification and you’ll use the power of the cloud to save time, money and free up your business’s resources. You’ll get the skills required to set up an Office 365 tenant, including federation with existing user identities. If you evaluate, deploy and maintain Office 365 services, or plan to in the future – this is the course for you.

5. VMware® vSphere 5.5 

Businesses continue to embrace virtualisation technology as a way to reduce cost and complexity of critical applications. ‘The always-on-business will become the norm across the globe’ writes Don Williams, Vice president at Veeam Software.

Users want continuous access and to keep up, businesses have turned to virtualisation technologies to provide this. Products like VMware’s vSphere enable businesses to virtualise their server resources and aggregate them into logical pools for use across the entire business.

vSphere 5.5 is the fix for costly infrastructure sprawl as it allows your business to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer. Gone are the days of having multiple servers running at sub-optimal capacity - virtualisation technology gives increased productivity by reducing physical servers and ensuring each is running at full capacity.

Learn how to apply virtualisation technology within your organisation in 2015, with VMware’s official vSphere 5.5 certification. Find out more here, but bear in mind, this certification may change with the release of vSphere 6 sometime in 2015.

6. Microsoft Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions 

Cloud technology is growing and demand for Cloud qualified professionals is growing with it. In 2014, 56% of IT departments couldn’t find qualified staff to support their cloud projects and demand for ‘cloud-ready’ IT professionals is also set to grow by 26% in 2015, IDC reports.

Microsoft's Public Cloud offering, Microsoft Azure, continues to grow with more than 1000 new customers joining everyday. After investing $15 billion in building and maintaining the global datacentres that power the Azure platform, it’s clear Microsoft have big plans in the Public Cloud space for 2015. You can tap into the demand for cloud skilled professionals by looking at the newly released Microsoft Specialist certifications focusing on the Azure platform.

If you’re a developer, the Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions certification is a brilliant way to gain a greater understanding of the Azure platform in 2015. This specialist course, built for developers, teaches you how to establish your own Azure virtual network environment, construct Azure Virtual Machines, host azure websites and design resilient cloud applications.

If you already hold the MCSD: Web Applications cert, this qualification is a brilliant way for you to get a rounded understanding of the Azure platform for 2015.

To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-532.

7. Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

This is the second of Microsoft’s new specialist Azure certifications. With it, you’ll learn how to migrate your on-premise infrastructure to Azure. You’ll also learn how to:
  • Plan and implement data services based on SQL
  • Deploy and configure websites
  • Publish content through CDNs
  • Integrate on premise Windows AD with Azure AD
To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-533.

8. AXELOS PRINCE2 Foundation and Practictioner

PRINCE2 is the de-facto standard for project management in the UK and is held by 63% of all project management professionals. With over a million exams taken globally, it’s already recognised as the world’s most popular project management methodology.

This qualification covers the management, control and organisation of a project. It embodies years of project management best-practice and provides a flexible and adaptable framework that suits different projects.

The PRINCE2 remains a sought-after certification for 2015 as employers continue to demand this qualification for their project management roles.

9. Microsoft MCSE: Private Cloud

The MCSE: Private Cloud certification focuses on the skills to combine Windows Server and System Centre 2012 to build a private cloud for your business. This certification requires the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 as a prerequisite. 

To boost the uptake of this already popular cert, Microsoft have launched various initiatives to help IT professionals get the prerequisites for this in-demand cloud certification.

To find out more about how to get the MCSE: Private Cloud certification, check out Microsoft Evangelist, Keith Mayer’s step-by-step guide. Or, if self-study isn’t for you, take a look at this accelerated course.

10. CompTIA A+

Many an IT professional’s career has been built upon the solid foundations of the CompTIA A+ certification. In fact, over 1,000,000 people have achieved the A+ in the past 20 years.

Major brands - like Dell, HP and Lenovo – require that their technicians are A+ certified in order to service their products. It’s even supported by government branches like the US Department of Defence.

The skills you’ll get from this certification are vendor neutral, meaning they’ll remain universally applicable across your entire IT career.

If you’re new to IT then this cert is one of the best ways to break into the industry. Take the CompTIA A+ and set yourself up with a comprehensive base of IT knowledge for 2015.

If we missed any great certifications you’re planning on taking in the New Year, please comment below!

We supported our best IT certifications for 2015 with a lot of our popular blogs from 2014, take a look at them below:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top 5 MCSA: Windows Server 2012 revision resources you could be missing out on

By Sarah Morgan

As well as qualifying you to take on the role of computer systems administrator and network specialist, the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 cert also opens up your progression through to the MCSE certifications.

It’s the cornerstone certification that proves you know what you’re doing when it comes to the Windows server environment. Specifically, it’s your first step towards earning an MCSE: Server Infrastructure or MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification, advanced and specialised certs that really set you apart as a high level IT professional . Find out which MCSE certification suits your role here.

To get the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification you’ll need to pass three exams:

  • Exam 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
  • Exam 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012
  •  Exam 70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services

And to give you the best start possible in these tough exams, we’ve compiled some of the best resources to help you get this career boosting qualification.

1. 90 Days to MCSA

Microsoft wants to skyrocket your IT career and their 90 days to MCSA project will do just that.
3 one-hour videos, covering all 3 exams and presented by Microsoft certified trainers form the meat of the content here. But don’t approach these with the idea that they are your only revision tool. They are by no means all-encompassing and you’ll certainly have to read around to get the broader knowledge you need.

However, these resources are great. As they are created by Microsoft, you can expect the information to be accurate and reliable. Plus, the presenters are certified Microsoft trainers, so they know what they’re talking about.

Each video is also equipped with its own mini-forum where students can discuss their revision, examination and technology questions. These are very active forums too. Just a cursory glance shows that this is an active and participatory forum with official moderators and an active user base. If you have any nagging questions, about one of the three exams, this is the place to go.

That’s not all. Each exam is also accompanied by an individual wiki page. On it, you’ll find detailed curriculum relevant to each of the three exams, including links to the exhaustive Microsoft TechNet library, in which you’ll find even more information.

You’ll also find handy whitepapers, detailing individual features and functions in great depth. This will help get you the in-depth knowledge you need to get the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification. 

As some of this wiki is contributed by members of the community, Microsoft make it clear that they do not provide any endorsement on third party resources.

2. Microsoft Virtual Academy

Microsoft provides some high quality and varied Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 courses on their Virtual Academy.  You’ll find 31 courses including topics like virtualisation features, efficient networking management and new storage capabilities.

The courses themselves are well produced 20-30 minute videos presented by Microsoft evangelists,
experts well-experienced in their chosen technologies. These videos can also be downloaded in both high and medium quality – we recommend getting all of them onto your tablet or laptop for a quick revision fix whilst on the commute or elsewhere.

Microsoft complements their Virtual Academy with a support forum. If you’re struggling with something, just ask and one of the official forum moderators is sure to answer.

3.  Mastering Windows Server 2012 R2 – ISBN: 978-1118289426

Before you take on training or start revising, make sure you become familiar with the Windows 8 / Server 2012 R2 interface. Without this prior basic knowledge, you will undoubtedly struggle on training courses and it will make your revision hard-going. Luckily, Mastering Windows Server 2012 is one way of getting up-to-speed.

Even in this age of virtual academies and video tutorials, you can never underestimate the power of a good book.  This one comes highly praised with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon (out of 37 total reviews) and glowing recommendations from our very own Firebrand Windows Server 2012 instructors.

This book gets you up to speed on the new Windows Server 2012 R2 features like Hyper-V and Storage spaces and also includes real-world scenarios to put them in perspective. But don’t think it’s only about the new stuff; this book is designed to cover every aspect of Windows Server 2012 R2 technology.

Its’ been created by Mark Minasi, a highly regarded instructor and author, alongside a team of Windows server experts led by the equally prolific Kevin Greene. Minasi is well-known for his straightforward approach to writing and his ability to make even the most complicated technologies easily understandable.

You can find this great book in paperback and kindle on Amazon for £26.99 (at the time of writing).

4. MCSA Exam study guides 70-410 / 70-411 / 70-422 by Keith Mayer

To help you prepare for your three Server 2012 R2 exams, Keith Mayer, Microsoft senior technical evangelist, has released three comprehensive study guides packed full of useful resources.
Each study guide includes hands-on exercises and resources to build your confidence with the updated R2 exam topics. Keith has over 20 years of experience and it shows. Each of these three guides contains everything you need to get up to speed with all the changes made to the Windows Server 2012 in the past year.

Plus, every study guide is brimming with links to videos, downloadable exam objectives and step-by-step tutorials. This is a collection of resources and industry insight that only a seriously experienced Microsoft technologist could compile.

Check the exam guides out here:

5. Firebrand Learn

Firebrand learn gives you access to a range of free digital learning resources like: Firebrand Official Course Material, practice tests and exercises.

As part Learn, we’ve uploaded Firebrand’s entire MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 course material online. It’s available for free, for everyone.

This resource was compiled by our Firebrand Instructors, professional consultants who know the material inside out.

Access your Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 courseware instantly on Firebrand Learn.

Some extra tips

Before you take on the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 exams, we strongly recommend you get hands-on experience with the software itself. It’s not enough to just get ‘book-smart.’ See if you can get Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise on your PC and use Client Hyper-V.

Additionally, if you happen to have an extra computer, download Hyper-V Sever 2012 R2 and use this to build your lab.

Thirdly, you can try out an Azure trial – here’s a guide for that. But if you don’t have the time to build your own lab, you can get unlimited lab access during your Windows Server 2012 R2 course with Firebrand.

And lastly, don’t underestimate the exams. You can never revise too much!

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Fast track your career into Cyber Security in 2015


Continuing growth in salaries, a shortage of skilled professionals and a rapid increase in available jobs make a career in cyber security a real prospect. Follow this guide to fast track your career into cyber security in 2015...

If you’re considering a career in cyber security then 2015 could be the year for you. The hacking of Sony Pictures is the latest in a string of high profile attacks, which continues to put recruitment of skilled cyber security professionals top of the agenda.

Cyber security vacancies in the UK have doubled in the last year, with demand outstripping supply, according to a recent study by Technojobs. Combine this with of a 10% growth in the average salary for UK cyber security professionals, now £57,000, and increased Government support and it’s easy to see why the current climate is perfect for employment in the field of cyber security.

Follow these tips to fast track your career into cyber security in 2015…

1. Find the right job for you

First things first, work out which job is right for you. Whether you want to become a Computer Forensics Investigator, Information Security Analyst or Penetration Tester, it’s important to know what the job entails.
SANS have compiled a list of the top 20 Information Security and Cyber security jobs which you can use to track down job descriptions on the major job boards.

2. Get certified

Sometimes the quickest way into the cyber security sector is to get certified. In fact the majority of commercial cyber security and defense-related IT Security jobs require security certifications as a prerequisite. So the lack of certification may be the only thing standing between you and your cyber security career. Find out.

If you are looking at entry-level positions then the CompTIA Security+ and Microsoft MTA Security Fundamentals are a great place to start.

Those considering a more advanced position would be well placed to consider EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification or ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification.
Then there is the industry gold standard Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) from (ISC)2, for those eyeing up a position in Senior Management.
This is merely scratching the surface, there are a range of security certifications available from other renowned vendors including Cisco, Symantec and GIAC.

3. Make sure you have the right experience

This echoes back to the first point, when you’re looking at job descriptions, scope out the level of experience required for the job in question. You may realise that you don’t have the right experience at this stage, but at least you know what you’ll need to be working towards.
For those looking at starting a career, this may mean taking a non cyber security-related job as a stepping-stone. As pointed out in a fantastic post from Ira Wrinkler in Computerworld:

“You cannot be expected to protect computers if you don’t know how to administer a computer system, you can’t secure a system that you can’t properly configure on your own, you can’t secure a database if you aren’t fluent in the database management system, and you certainly can’t write secure code if you can’t code at all.”

A great way to bridge the experience gap at the entry level is through voluntary work experience or internships. Keep your eyes peeled, they are everywhere.

4. Get your CV in shape

This can be applied to any industry, but always make sure your CV is up to scratch. This will be the first impression you make to a potential employer, get it wrong and it will be the last.
Having past experience in the recruitment sector here’s my top advice:

  • Ensure your CV is tailored to each individual position. This includes a covering letter outlining why you want the job and why they should consider you.
  • You need to make an impact in the first few lines, so highlight relevant experience and achievements from the outset.
  • Don’t waffle, if your CV is more than 2 pages then it’s too long.
  • No spelling mistakes, with modern day spell check it’s unforgivable.

5. Consider signing up with a recruitment agency

This advice is perhaps more for the seasoned professional, but signing up with a specialist recruitment agency can significantly improve your chances of landing that coveted role. Yes you’ll have to go through an interview, but once on the books there are numerous benefits.

A good recruitment consultant will:

  • Have in depth understanding of the industry and some powerful connections
  • Advise you on how to improve your CV and interviewing skills
  • Sell you into employers, even if that employer isn’t currently looking
  • Get the first shot at a high profile position that may never make a job site
So there we have it, five tips to set you on your way to a new cyber security career in 2015. I wish you every success.

Author Profile

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the Industry for almost 3 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Have your say in the Contractor UK Reader Awards 2014

(Image Credit - Stuart Miles at
After winning the sixth Accredited Training Centre of the Year award from EC Council and being named in the Top 20 IT Training companies for the fifth year running, Firebrand are in the running for yet another award. This time nominated for “Best Training Provider” in the Contractor UK Reader Awards 2014.

Set up by Contractor UK, home of the UK’s IT contracting community since 1999, the eighth annual Reader Awards are an opportunity for Contractors to recognise excellence in the IT contracting community.

Have your say by casting your vote in 9 separate categories including:
  • Best Recruitment Agency
  • Best Contractor Accountant
  • Best Umbrella Company
  • Best Client
  • Best Jobsite
  • Best Training Provider
  • Best Forum Adviser
  • Forum Personality of the Year
  • Most Entertaining Forum Thread

So if you think Firebrand deserve your vote for Best Training Provider in 2014, head there and vote now.

Guidance for voting:
  • You can only vote once
  • Ensure your nomination is spelled correctly
  • All votes must be cast no later than Midnight, Friday December 19th 2014

A ContractorUK spokesman reflected: “Our Reader Awards are the only annual awards decided by the contract IT marketplace, which was even busier in 2014 than it was in 2013, so we expect voting to come down to the wire.”

Check back in January when the Winners will be announced.

Author Bio

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the Industry for almost 3 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Are you affected by the 31 Microsoft exams retiring in 2015?

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at
Don't get caught out by the numerous Microsoft exam retirements planned for 2015. There are a colossal 31 exams planned for retirement over the next 12 months.

This inflated list is the knock on from 2014 when 7 exams were given a 12 month stay of execution despite Microsoft planning the retirement of 14 exams on July 31st 2014. These 7 exams will now join 26 additional Microsoft exams which will be phased out in 2015.

Largely affected are the legacy MCTS and MCITP certifications which have been gradually replaced by new MCSA, MCSE and MCSD certifications associated to latest technologies.

So lets take a look at the planned list of withdrawn exams. (The information that follows is subject to change.)

Microsoft Dynamics

With the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 announced on the 1st December 2014, it is unsurprising that a series of exams are planned for retirement. The legacy technologies to be affected include 2009, 2010 and 2011 versions of Dynamics.

Microsoft Dynamics exams retiring on December 31, 2014
  • MB3-859: Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Financials
  • MB3-860: Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Project Series
  • MB3-861: Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Installation and Configuration
  • MB3-862: Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Inventory and Order Processing
  • MB4-873: Microsoft Dynamics SL 2011 Financials
  • MB4-874: Microsoft Dynamics SL 2011 Installation and Configuration
  • MB5-537: Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System 2.0 Store Operations
  • MB5-538: Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System 2.0 Headquarters
  • MB5-845: Microsoft Dynamics POS 200


With the replacement MCSA: Windows 8.1 on offer and a new Windows 10 Operating System set for release in 2015, the following Windows 7 exam retirements are to be expected.

Windows 7 exams retiring on January 31, 2015

Windows 7 exams retiring on July 31, 2015
  • 70-681: Windows 7 and Office 2010, Deploying
  • 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals

Windows Server

The MCTS Windows Server 2008 R2 certification has long since been replaced by the latest MCSA: Windows Server 2012 and follow on MCSE: Server Infrastructure certs. It was only a matter of time before the virtualiztion exams for Windows Server 2008 took their place in the hall of fame.

Windows Server 2008 R2 exams retiring on July 31, 2015
  • 70-659: TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization
  • 70-669: TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Desktop Virtualization

SQL Server

It's about time these SQL Server 2008 exams were kicked to the curb. Exams 70-450 and 70-451 were two of the lucky certifications to be spared in 2014, looks like their days are now numbered. Alternative certifications include the MCSA: SQL Server which leads into MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE: Business Intelligence which are aligned to SQL Server 2012 and 2014.

SQL Server exams retiring on July 31, 2015
  • 70-450: PRO: Designing, Optimizing, and Maintaining a Database Administrative Solution Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • 70-451: PRO: Designing Database Solutions and Data Access Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • 70-459: Transition Your MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 or MCITP: Database Developer 2008 to MCSE: Data Platform
  • 70-460: Transition Your MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence

Office 365

As Microsoft's cloud powered Office 365 continues to proliferate businesses across the globe, we see the first spate of exam retirements for Office 365. You can already work towards the replacement exams which are included as part of the MCSA: Office 365 credential.

Office 365 exams retiring on December 31, 2014

Office 365 exams retiring on January 31, 2015
  • 74-325: Administering Office 365 for Small Business

Project and Project Server

Back in 2013 we saw the launch of Microsoft Project and Project Server 2013. So as Project Managers adopt the new software or transition from the 2010 version, we wave goodbye to the associated MCTS exams.

Project and Project Server exams retiring on July 31, 2015
  • 70-177: TS: Microsoft Project Server 2010, Configuring
  • 70-178: TS: Managing Projects with Microsoft Project 2010

Visual Studio

With the introduction of HTML5, Microsoft appear to be diversifying their offering away from .NET as they react to the evolution of the Developer world. Microsoft's entry level developer focused MTA certifications will also see a new lease of life in 2015 as the certs gain increased credibility.

Visual Studio exams retiring on July 31, 2015
  • 70-518: PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 70-519: PRO: Designing and Developing Web Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 98-363: Web Development Fundamentals
  • 98-372: Microsoft .NET Fundamentals
  • 98-374: MTA: Gaming Development Fundamentals

Volume Licensing

Volume Licensing exams retiring on January 31, 2015
  • 70-671: TS: Designing and Providing Volume Licensing Solutions to Small and Medium Organizations
  • 70-672: TS: Designing and Providing Volume Licensing Solutions to Large Organizations

Other technologies

Forefront and BizTalk Server 2010 exams retiring on July 31, 2015
  • 70-158: TS: Forefront Identity and Access Management, Configuring
  • 70-595: TS: Developing Business Process and Integration Solutions by Using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010

Author Bio

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the Industry for almost 3 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

How the new Sony hack proves security isn’t taken seriously


Sony Pictures was crippled this week when cybercriminals forced the shutdown of their internal systems.

Imagine getting into work on Monday morning, booting-up your PC and being greeted with this:

It feels like something out of a cheesy 90’s spy-thriller but this is the reality that Sony Pictures employees had to deal with on Monday…and are still dealing with 4 days later.

Yes, Sony’s internal network had become the next victim of cybercrime in this recent spate of hacking. It’s a clear message for organisations: invest in your cybersecurity or this could happen to you.

Warning messages threatening to release data ‘secrets’, if undisclosed demands were not met, appeared on all internal computers, preventing login. The message also displayed ‘#GOP’ – pointing to a group named Guardians of Peace.

As of Thursday morning, the network remains down on many Sony offices and according to information reportedly shared by employees, it could be down for weeks.

Hackers also targeted Twitter accounts associated with Sony Pictures, leaving the same message and calling out Sony Pictures CEO:

You, the criminals including Michael Lynton will surely go to hell. Nobody can help you.

If that wasn’t enough, the digital image also showed Michael Lynton’s head, edited into some form of Night Of The Living Dead landscape. These hackers clearly want to capitalise on the fear they can strike into the world’s biggest businesses.

One reddit user, posted a copy of a message allegedly displayed on the hacked network. The redditor explained, “I used to work for Sony Pictures. My friend still works there and sent me this. It's on every computer all over Sony Pictures nationwide.”

The post explained how the public could gain access to the 217.6mb .ZIP file, allegedly containing lists pulled from the organisations internal network.: “These two files are the lists of secret data we have acquired from SPE,” and that “Anyone who needs the data, send an email titled To the Guardians of Peace to the following email addresses.” A list of e-mail addresses attached to anonymous email services like Yopmail and followed.

Reddit users jumped at the opportunity to scour the allegedly leaked filed. A thread on the breach claims that the .ZIP file contains passwords of Sony employees, copies of passports of actors associated with Sony films and masses of Outlook archival data.

How Sony responded

In the typical damage-mitigating style of big companies experiencing big problems, Sony issued a statement saying the firm is investigating the ‘IT matter.’
Well that’s a relief.

Hack me once, shame on you

Sony is no stranger to being hacked. The infamous PlayStation Network hack of 2011, in which 77 million personal details were stolen, resulted in complete outage of the service for 24 days.
At the time it was one of the largest data breaches in history and remains a black mark on the Japanese company’s reputation.

As recently as August 2014 we watched as another major attack, once again, befell the PlayStation network. The service was forced offline once more, though this time for a single day.

Could your business survive a hacking attack?

Clearly, Sony has failed to invest sufficiently in their cybersecurity and organisations must learn from their costly mistakes.

Organisations need to begin investing in professionals with the skills necessary to prevent intrusions like Sony’s from ever happening.

Qualifications like EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) are valuable to keep organisations secure. By employing or training professionals and helping them to achieve certifications like the CEH, businesses can proactively defend and prevent these crippling attacks.

Ethical hackers can conduct staged penetration tests against your business – will your defences hold up against a real hacker? Either way, you’ll get real insight into how you can improve your security and protect your organisations valuable data. After all, the techniques that Ethical hackers use are identical to those employed by cybercriminals.

The need for certified ethical hackers is real and with every data breach this point is hammered home.
20% of small and medium sized businesses have been targeted by cybercriminals in the past year, costing the global economy $500 billion annually. And it’s getting worse: reports already predict an increase in cybercrime next year.

In fact, with more advanced hacking tools, we can expect more targeted attacks on businesses small and large.

Sony’s latest breach is a strong message to businesses: invest in cybersecurity or face the consequences.  

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Find out why Firebrand has been named for the fifth year running in the Top 20 IT training companies

For five years running Firebrand has been recognised in the Top 20 IT Training Companies according to

Firebrand's selection for the 2014 Top 20 IT Training companies list was based on the following criteria:  

  • Leadership and innovation in IT training
  • Breadth of IT training and delivery methods offered
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Strength of clients 
  • Geographic reach

Commenting on the award Firebrand UK Managing Director, Emma Seaman said:

"Winning this accolade five years in a row stands as testament to Firebrand's ongoing commitment to providing high quality accelerated learning."

Emma went on to say:

"I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers, whose support helps us continue to win awards for excellence."  

Author Bio

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the Industry for almost 3 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Windows Server 2003 – How to start planning your migration today

Rest in peace

Just like Windows XP before it, Windows Server 2003 now too faces its end of life. On July 14th 2015, Microsoft will be ending extended support for all versions of Windows Server 2003/R2.

But despite constant warning from Microsoft, many organisations have yet to even begin their
migration. These businesses will continue running the outdated software at their peril: huge financial costs and security risks are estimated for those running Windows Server 2003 past end of life.

11 million systems are still running Windows Server 2003, HP estimates. Clearly, many view it as an issue for next year. This could be a crippling problem when considering the estimated time for migrating a datacentre of 100+ servers can take from 3 to 18 months.

If you’re amongst that 11 million, now is the time to begin planning your migration. Here’s a birds-eye view of your migration process.

What does end of support mean for Windows Server 2003?

As of July 14th 2015, Microsoft will no longer be providing patches and security updates for this now 10-year-old software. You can expect the following:

No updates

Once end of life hits you’ll be on your own. Don’t expect any more updates, bug fixes or patches of any size.

Software like this needs continual work and even after 10 years, Microsoft are still working on critical updates for Windows Server 2003. In fact, 2013 saw Microsoft complete 37 of these critical updates.

Without the maternal care of Microsoft, critical issues and bugs affecting Windows Server 2003 will stay unfixed. You’ll be left open to cybersecurity vulnerabilities and will be more at risk of malicious attacks and data breaches.

Compliance loss

Your business will almost certainly fail to meet your existing compliance standards. HIPAA, PCI, SOX & Dodd-Frank require regulated industries to use supported platforms. Once end of life hits, Windows Server 2003 will lose its status as a supported platform and your business will lose out as a result.

In particular, adherence to PCI is required for businesses that want to host Visa and MasterCard transactions on their websites. Lose it and your crippling your businesses ability to make money online. For other standards, lack of compliance could result in high transaction fees and penalties which in itself could massively increase your costs.

Maintenance costs

Running legacy software is inevitably going to be expensive. Without Microsoft’s support, you’ll have to implement your own intrusion detection systems, advanced firewalls and network segmentation.

A TechNet post from Alex Fu cites a hefty £120,000 a year cost for custom support. Plus, practice director of Microsoft Solutions, David Mayer, estimates the price tag to be £900 per server, per year.

Compatibility woes

Without Microsoft’s support, new software and hardware products will not be built to be compatible with Windows Server 2003. You’ll likely run into compatibility issues from the outset and as time passes, these issues will only grow in scale.

How to migrate your Windows Server 2003

Migrating is hard work and takes time. However, Microsoft is on-hand to deliver resources to ease the passing of Windows Server 2003. Take a look at Microsoft’s Endof Service section before you plan your migration. 

Microsoft’s recommended four step migration process is as follows:

1. Discover

Your first step is to determine which applications and workloads are running on your Windows Server 2003. Download the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit to help assess your current infrastructure and migration project.

2. Assess

Next, categorise your applications and workloads by their type, importance and degree of complexity. During this process you should be keeping a look out for migration issues.

3. Target

Choose a migration destination for each application and workload in your data centre or in the cloud. Microsoft are clearly focusing on cloud technology. Their public cloud solution, Azure, currently comes with a one month freetrial – now’s the time to migrate to the cloud. 

Microsoft also offer destination for each application or workload, including:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • System Center 2012 R2 (Private Cloud)
  • Microsoft Azure (Public Cloud)
  • SQL Server 2014
  • Office 365

4. Migrate

Choose a migration plan and get going. Microsoft do provide a quality Migration Planning Assistant which covers in-depth the previous 4 steps. If that’s not enough, you can attend official training courses, from training providers like Firebrand, designed to teach you everything you need to know about the platform you are migrating to.

Migration resources to get started with

Microsoft Virtual Academy – curated and built by Microsoft, these well-made guides can be an invaluable source of knowledge.

We recommend studying:

Windows Server 2003 End of Life: Infrastructure Migration – this Channel 9 video (1 hour, 17 minutes) digs into the process of migrating your infrastructure. The demo-intensive session explores workload migration and foundation services like DHCP, DNS and File/Print.

Windows Server 2003 End of Life Migration: Planning for Your Workloads – watch this Channel 9 video (1 hour 8 minutes) for an organised and systematic view of migration strategies and destinations.

Migration Deployment Toolkit – this collection of processes, tools and guidance for automating desktop and server deployments may prove invaluable during your migration.

Time is certainly running out for the 11 million who haven’t yet migrated. This isn’t a problem for next year and if you treat it like that, you'll certainly regret it.


About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.