Exam Reviews

The Complexity of a Web Site Solution

Tackling the Site Server exam requires an understanding of IIS, Exchange, and SQL Server, too. How ready are you to call yourself a Web expert?

We can surely expect an explosion of online shops and services to hit in the coming year. No wonder many of us have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of exam 70-056—Implementing and Supporting Web Sites Using Microsoft Site Server 3.0. You may agree with me that now is, indeed, a good time to dig deeper into the certification trenches of Internet technologies like Site Server 3.0, Microsoft’s Web solution and pre-cursor to Active Directory technologies.

This was my first beta exam, so it was a great challenge for me to remain focused through four hours of single choice, multiple choice, “choose two,” and “choose all that apply” questions. Luckily, I only had a few of the dreaded scenario-type questions. Of course, being a beta, this exam wasn’t adaptive, but it may very well become so after it becomes live.

As always, your starting point to tackling any Microsoft exam should be the Microsoft Training and Certification Web site. Check the preparation guide and exam course matrix. These offer an excellent representation of what you can expect on the exam broken down into its individual components which include: Personalization and Management, Search, publishing, content management, content deployment, Content Analyzer, Report Writer, and Knowledge Manager. Singly, these are complex enough. Collectively however, Site Server’s features—in addition to their interrelation with IIS, SQL Server, and Exchange (if you plan to index public folders)—can prove to be quite difficult, and the exam reflects this. You can find easier electives that will help you achieve your certification goals. However, this golden chalice is well worth the effort and counts as an elective credit towards the premium MCSE and MCSE+Internet titles.

The fact that Microsoft offered five free exam vouchers if you passed the beta exam could be an indication of its efforts to steer support professionals towards the forefront of Internet technologies. Expertise and experience with products like Site Server 3.0 are sure to be in growing demand.

Site Server (70-056)
Reviewers’ Rating: "You must fully comprehend all of the individual components that comprise Site Server 3.0 and show proficiency in several key Microsoft products like SQL Server and Exchange."

Title: Implementing and Supporting Web Sites Using Microsoft Site Server 3.0

Number of questions: 161 on beta; fewer on actual exam.

Time allowed: 4 hours for beta; expect around 90 minutes for live exam.

Current Status: Live as of August 1999.

Who should take it? This exam counts as an elective for MCSE and MCSE+Internet.

What classes prepare you? Course 1125—Implementing Microsoft Site Server 3.0.

Preparation

With hands-on preparation, tackling each component separately seems to be the best way to learn the intricacies of Site Server 3.0. If you plan to prepare for this exam by reading a few study guides, I wish you the best of luck. The simple act of installation alone can been a nightmarish adventure (more on this in a moment). Your best line of defense in preparing for this exam is working with the product as much as you can either at a local training facility or by downloading an evaluation version from Microsoft and putting it through its paces in a testing lab environment.

Since, as I mentioned, each component almost warrants its own study, I’ll highlight some preparation suggestions and exam highlights for each.

In the Beginning

The exam expects you to know the proper installation order for Site Server 3.0. No easy task. It would be a “Pinocchio-ism” to say that anyone could have a Site Server install up and running within a few hours. Your nose would reach timber-length proportions were you caught muttering, “Service packs? We don’t need no service packs!” However, the exam doesn’t expect you to know where or when the Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) 2.0 Service Pack 2 fits into the equation, nor whether you need to change the default net library to TCP/IP as per Knowledge Base article Q19… But you should understand the installation order of major components like SQL 6.5, Site Server 3.0, Site Server Service Pack 2, and Windows NT Service Pack 4. Hands-on experience will make a big difference here; so line up your CDs and start installing.

Tip: Not really a requirement for the exam, it’s still good to know the complete installation order; this is nicely documented at www.microsoft.com/siteserver/site/Support/default.htm.

Searching for Certification Success

A lot of the beta exam involved questions regarding Search Server and/or Catalog Build Server in some form or another. Site Server 3.0 offers the ability to catalog several different sources of data, called Web, file, and Exchange public folder “crawls.” Adding to its complexity, Search also provides the ability to apply site rules, NTFS file permissions, and NT and Exchange Account permissions, and to perform Incremental or full builds. Mix in Knowledge Manager with its Search, Index, or ODBC content sources. All are areas you should be comfortable with. Search is a powerful feature well worth the extra effort of study—in the process, you’ll uncover great strengths of the product.

The best way to prepare for Search questions is to create several search engines using different “crawls.” I suggest adjusting the range of access granted to your catalogued data by manipulating NTFS file permissions and monitoring your results in the Gatherer logs. Try searching for items that you know shouldn’t be indexed, like “confidential” or “private,” to verify that you’ve applied the proper restrictions. This will help you gain the understanding needed to succeed on this section of the exam.

Better still—set up an Exchange Server installation to practice with. You’ll be that much closer to success. You may find that you’re tested on Exchange security and optimization in relation to accessing public folders.

Tip: Read the following article to round out your knowledge of Exchange: “Integrating Microsoft Site Server Search with Microsoft Exchange.” You’ll find it at www.microsoft.com/siteserver/site/DeployAdmin/
IntegrateExchange.htm
.

Analysis

An area of strength for Site Server 3.0 is the analysis components that provide outstanding reporting functionality right out of the box. Custom Import allows you to import vital data generated from other Site Server components, like user information from your membership database, advertising data, or Web site content data. Usage Import provides the ability to import Web server log files of various flavors. The Content Analyzer takes full advantage of Site Server’s tight integration with IIS and does a respectable job of generating more data about your Web sites than you ever needed—or perhaps ever wanted to know.

Possibly the most powerful analysis component is Report Writer. You can use this tool to create custom reports, graphs, and HTML reports, or you can choose from a catalog of pre-defined reports. In your preparation efforts, create a few reports with Content Analyzer and become familiar with all the different views available. Import your analyzed sites using Custom import. Apply some whois or ipaddress lookups on your imported user data and see the different results you can achieve. The exam not only expects a good understanding of all four analysis components and what each can do, but also of how to use them in tandem to create truly customized reports.

Deploying and Managing Content

One of the coolest features of Site Server 3.0—and a Webmaster and Web administrator’s dream—is the staged propagation of content from a testing to a production environment, otherwise known as Content Deployment. The exam tests your knowledge of this feature with several multiple-choice, single-answer questions. This was the only topic where I encountered a question that presented a graphic image of a configuration screenshot. In this type of question, you’re expected to place the crosshairs on the option or checkbox that provides the best solution.

Content Deployment also generates several HTML reports that help you track the status and results of content propagation. As you practice creating deployment projects and routes, familiarize yourself with these reports and what information is available in which report. Understand rollbacks and their restrictions and the difference between destination and end-point servers, and make sure you’re comfortable with projects and routes that run across multiple mid-point servers.

Unfortunately, the Site Server 3.0 exam isn’t immune to “scenario” questions; for these, as you recall, you’re given a situation, along with the applied actions, and you have to choose what solutions have been achieved. The area of Content Management seemed prone to this type of questioning.

Content Management is an exciting feature that uses the HTTP posting acceptor (ActiveX technology). Experiment with this feature on a few of the sample sites that come with Site Server 3.0. Spend some time creating new content types and editing and approving content.

Tag—You’re It

Make sure to bone up on the site vocabulary. Also familiarize yourself with Microsoft FrontPage, even if you prefer Visual Interdev 6.0 as your editing tool of choice. Understand how to tag content from within the FrontPage Editor.

Getting To Know You—P&M

At the heart of Site Server lies Personalization and Management, so you can expect the exam to test your knowledge of the subject.

Tip: O.K. Here’s my attempt at a free Wrox t-shirt: The best way to prepare for the Personalization and Membership section for the Site Server 3.0 exam is by reading Site Server 3.0 Personalization & Management by Robert Howard, Wrox Press. Although presented more as a reference guide for programmers, I have yet to come across a publication that explains the fundamentals of the membership directory and personalization in such depth.

Understand the hierarchy involved within the Membership directory; you should be comfortable with o=organization, ou=organizational_units, and cn=common_name objects. Here’s where your knowledge of how Site Server interacts with other Microsoft products will come in handy. The Membership Directory requires an ODBC database to host user attributes and various other data. So brush up on Microsoft SQL 6.5 database and log devices, the common ports used by SQL and membership directories for communication. This is another area where hands-on configuration and installation will pay off in your understanding of the subject.

Tip: One final note on Personalization and Membership: Even though most of us would prefer to use the Microsoft Management Console, practice creating membership directory instances with the PMadmin command line utility and its various switches.

Additional Information
Several publications, Web sites, and newsgroups on the topic of Site Server 3.0 can help you prepare for the exam. Also, check out that long forgotten love story called e-Manual. Site Server 3.0 and its demo version ship with some of the most comprehensive on-line documentation I’ve ever seen. Everything you need to know is there and will help you get started. The list of resources I include below will also help guide you through the Site Server 3.0 maze—and, I hope, towards certification success.
Blair Kovacs

Books

  • Beginning Site Server by Stagner and Kanderziske. Available September 1999 from Wrox Press, ISBN 1-86100-290-4.
  • Microsoft Site Server 3.0 Bible by Brad Harris. IDG Books Worldwide, ISBN 0-76453-193-X, $49.99.
  • Official Microsoft Site Server 2.0 Enterprise Edition Toolkit by Farhad Amirfaiz. Microsoft Press, ISBN 1-57231-622-5, $79.99.
  • Site Server 3.0 Personalization and Membership by Robert Howard. Wrox Press, ISBN 1-86100-194-0, $49.99.
  • Special Edition Using Microsoft Site Server by Wadman, Velez, and Peront. Que Education & Training,ISBN 0-78971-157-5, $59.99.

Software

Web Resources

Certification Success

Expect the Site Server 3.0 exam to provide a true challenge. To master the product and succeed on the exam, you must fully comprehend all of the individual components that comprise Site Server 3.0. This product also dictates proficiency in several key Microsoft products like Internet Information Server, Microsoft SQL Server 6.5, and Exchange Server, most of which are required to run Site Server 3.0.

I know—I’m starting to sound like a broken record: Hands-on! Hands-on! However, I do strongly recommend that you work with this product for a least six months to understand its intricacies. If you can’t manage to get your hands on a working practice environment, find a Certified Technical Education Center and take one of their courses. My last bit of advice: Tackle this exam only if you have experience with or plan to support a Site Server 3.0 environment. Good luck!

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