The first book on Windows 2000 certification is out -- and, in spite of its early arrival, it does a decent job of sparking your preparation efforts.

Certification Jumpstart

The first book on Windows 2000 certification is out -- and, in spite of its early arrival, it does a decent job of sparking your preparation efforts.

Microsoft knows that the key to making Windows 2000 successful is to have companies adopt the product early and deploy Win2K throughout their enterprises. But this requires knowledgeable people to do the deploying. To that end, Microsoft has invested $40 million in a training initiative aimed at getting the word out and administrators trained. But is it enough? If you’ve taken advantage of some of the one-day training seminars and accelerated courses that the training initiative has offered through Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs), you should have received a good overview of the new technologies available in Windows 2000. You also probably walked away with a queasy feeling that Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) be damned—your life as an administrator just became very difficult.

Deployment aside, the other pressing issue is upgrading to the Win2K certification path. December 2001 will arrive sooner than you expect. With such a short timeframe to upgrade and with the Win2K exams expected to be of a higher difficulty level than the NT 4.0 exams, there’s no time to waste. Start acquiring the right training tools now to help you reach that goal.

Product Information
MCSE Windows 2000 Certification Headstart
Syngress Media, Inc./
Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1999
ISBN 0-07212-250-1, $59.99

First Impressions

MCSE Windows 2000 Certification Headstart from Syngress Media, Inc./Osborne McGraw-Hill is the first book I’ve seen that specifically addresses Win2K certification.

This is one big book—1,141 pages to be exact. Written with the combined efforts of 11 different contributors, most of whom are MCSEs, this book takes a piecemeal look at the various components making up Win2K. The authors preface the volume by stating (and I concur) that rote memorization of facts (and for that matter taking practice exams) won’t prepare you adequately to pass your Win2K exams. The real key to success will be extensive hands-on, real-world experience.

Each chapter is broken down into “Headstart Objectives,” designed to correspond with exam objectives. For the most part this is correct, though the first objective in the book is “The History of the NT Technology,” which I have a hard time believing Microsoft would test you on. (In fact, Microsoft has already released the preliminary objectives for the core exams and several of the core/elective exams. You can find all prep guides on the Microsoft Web site at www.microsoft.com/mcp/certstep/mcse.htm#w2k.)

The book does a fairly good job of covering most of the major objectives but falls short in some areas. Notably, you’ll find little or no detail on the Internet Printing Protocol, multiple-display support, card services, infrared devices, wireless devices, driver signing, Task Scheduler, offline file synchronization, multiple language support, Internet Connection Sharing, process management, NAT, Certificate Server, SNMP, or Kerberos.

Now keep in mind that just knowing what these components do won’t be good enough when exam-taking time comes. You must know how to plan for, configure, and properly deploy these components within an organization. These are training gaps that can be bridged by reviewing other technical publications and, more important, with hands-on practice.

Reading Between the Lines

Like many of the other first-release Win2K books, this volume is already slightly outdated; it was written during the beta process. For example, the book starts with a discussion of the history of Win2K, available versions, and current platforms supported. You can disregard the portions about Win2K on an Alpha platform; Microsoft dropped Win2K support for the Alpha in late 1999. For this same reason, you’ll probably find that some of the sample exercises don’t work verbatim from the book due to user interface changes in the final release of Win2K.

From Chapter 2 onward, you get a whirlwind tour of the major features and components of the Win2K platform (no small task). Numerous hands-on exercises will give you some good practice installing and configuring the various components you’ll be tested on. Take your time and don’t skip any of these practice exercises. Most of the components discussed will be new to you as an aspiring Win2K systems administrator. It’s important that you have access to a network of computers running Win2K to perform these exercises. Retention of the book material will be much greater if you can actually see how the product works rather than just read about it.

“Heads Up” notes draw your attention to pitfalls and issues you may experience when working with Win2K. Sidebar discussions titled “Accelerating to Windows 2000” point out the differences between NT and Win2K and provide tips and techniques for making sure an upgrade goes smoothly. Question and answer sections interspersed throughout the chapters assess learning on the fly. Two of the more useful features in this book are “On the Job” notes and “Exam Tips.” The former discusses real-world scenarios and problems you may encounter when implementing Win2K; the latter provides exam prep pointers. The exam tips, however, are few and far between. This is to be expected; the only exams available at the time of this writing were the MCT exams, which are different in content than the MCP tests.

At the end of each chapter is a “Two Minute” drill, essentially a checklist of the main points. These are helpful for a last-minute review before an exam or simply to revisit certain topics without having to reread the entire chapter. Finally, each chapter ends with a 15-question, multiple-choice self test. The questions are basic, but properly designed for knowledge assessment.

The authors have done a superb job in making advanced technical concepts easy to understand, but I’d venture to say that this book is still not intended for a novice user. The prospective reader should already be experienced with NT 4.0 systems administration and networking in general. The technical editors have done a good job ensuring that the content is accurate.

I highly recommend this book to any systems admin struggling to learn the intricacies of Win2K while focusing on exam objectives. Keep in mind that the book is slightly outdated, doesn’t cover all the exam objectives, and isn’t for the novice user.

My final words of advice this month are these: Take a triad approach to preparing for Win2K exams. First, make sure you have a sound background in computer networking with a good understanding of how NT works, since Win2K builds on this platform. Second, read numerous and appropriate technical references including Microsoft TechNet and the Win2K online help (Microsoft has done an exceptional job with help screens) to acquire a good understanding of what makes Win2K tick. Finally, incorporate hands-on practice with Win2K in your daily admin work. Don’t take any shortcuts; otherwise, you’ll fall short of your goal of becoming a Windows 2000 MCSE.

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