As we all know IT is a rapidly progressing market and for us IT professionals that means we’re constantly trying to learn and update our core skills to keep up with the changes. And as we’re all aware it’s not always possible for our employers to provide the necessary time or money to help keep up these skills leaving us in the dilemma to having to invest our own time and money into staying current.
I’ve spent my own money on a home lab and given up nights and weekends studying and learning new products. And for me self study and self investment is worth it. The achievement you feel when you pass an exam and gain that qualification is a buzz. There is even more of a buzz when you the skills you have self taught become useful in your day to day job.
There are lot of resources out there to help you along the way when trying to learn at home. I invested in an HP Microserver a few years ago and it didn’t break the bank, and it provides a very nice wee home lab that I’ve built, broke, re-designed and re-build many a time. The capacity of it provides enough grunt that I can emulate a small Microsoft lab similar to what you would use while on a Microsoft training course in a classroom.
Home Labs or Virtual Labs
HP regularly run cashback offers on their Microservers, the current cashback deal runs until the 30th June 2015. I’ve found the cheapeast deals to be had over at ServersPlus.com – http://www.serversplus.com/microserver_cashback
You can find free evaluation copies of Microsoft’s software here https://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/evalcenter The trial licenses last 180 days which should be adequate enough to have a good understanding of the software.
Microsoft also offer a large selection of free Virtual Labs. Many are targetted towards learning a certain skill within their products so you don’t have the free rein you do with your own home lab however they can be useful and I have used in them while at work when I need to understand something or have been travelling and don’t have access to my home lab. You can find them over at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/virtuallabs/bb467605.aspx
Microsoft have a free Virtual Academy open to all that. It can help you plan what certification track you wish to persue, and offers you training materials that can help you achieve those certifications. I’ve not seen anyone use this resources solely as a method of passing a Microsoft exam however it is a useful resource.
Videos from previous MS Ignite and TechEd Europe events are available online at Channel9 which can be helpful in getting an overview on certain products or learning some hints and tips from the field. There are also a lot of videos from behind the scenes. The videos can also be downloaded as MP4s so you an store them on your device of choice and watch while
There are a lot of other useful resources out there than can help you invest in your career when your employer can’t help. Learning in your own time can can hinder your family/social life however if you show willing to invest in yourself and your career it could lead to great things!