Reasons to consider certification

I saw a link to a report by TechRepublic giving reasons to value certification in 2009. The idea behind the piece is that we are in a time of economic crisis, cutbacks and the like, and asking the question about whether or not people should be looking for certification or not.

Most of the points made come down to differentiating yourself from the masses. For individuals I would have to agree. If you are trying to get a job, and are looking for every possible argument to get yourself in the door, certification can’t hurt (don’t expect to beat someone with experience though). But from a company’s perspective, should a company be looking to train employees (and encourage certification)?

As a trainer, I’m going to flippantly say “Yes, you should send all your staff on training…”

…but don’t worry – I’m going to try to back it up as well.

At the moment, almost every company in the world is trying to cut costs. Whole departments are being sacked if they’re not being effective. And one thing that might differentiate your department from the next one could well be the skill level. You need to lift your game to be able to compete at the moment, so why not get your whole department trained up in an area that concerns you. If your team writes software, make sure they’re writing software as well as possible. If your team is in sales, you had better make sure that your salespeople are as good at making that deal as possible. Training can help with this.

And actually, certification can help too. If there is a certification available in a relevant area, and someone has the time to go and sit the exam, then get them to do it. It rarely costs much, and it will probably help your department if you can say “Our people are getting stronger”, or “Our people are active in professional development”. Not to mention the confidence boost associated with passing an exam, or the added knowledge gained by studying (if required).

If you’re reading this and thinking “Well my boss doesn’t see it that way…”, why not ask if getting certification might help the department’s viability? If the answer is no, then you’re probably no better off. But if the answer is yes, well… you might get some training and some new skills.

A review – Windows PowerShell Scripting Guide

As a User Group leader, I have the chance to review books for MSPress (and then give a copy away to the user group too!). So at the end of last month I got sent a copy of Windows PowerShell Scripting Guide, by Ed Wilson (I hope that link works – if it doesn’t, find it in the Windows section).

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book. I had just done a presentation at the user group about PowerShell with SQL Server, and I was curious to see what kinds of things this book covered. People ask me now and then about a book for learning PowerShell, and I wanted to see if this could be the one to recommend.

As a book for learning PowerShell, I’m not sure that it’s really the best one to grab. I intend to get a look at Microsoft Windows PowerShell Step By Step (also by Ed Wilson) to see how it compares. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t recommend this book to people.

What this book does give is a nice overview of PowerShell, followed by a bunch of areas within Windows for which people often do scripting. So for me, this is really handy. I don’t consider myself much of a Windows Administrator, and this book does a nice job of filling in some of the gaps. It’s quite heavy on the WMI side, but that’s probably fair enough (considering that you really can’t do much in Windows Scripting before wanting to take advantage of WMI). It goes through subjects such as services, shares, logs, networking, user admin, IIS, and more. As someone involved primarily on the SQL side, I’m not sure how much I’m really going to use much of this, but there will definitely be times when I do. Scripts for creating local users and groups will certainly come in handy, as will many others in the book.

This book also comes with a CD, containing all the scripts that are in the book. It seems like a great resource, which I’m sure I’ll go back to repeatedly. The book is over 650 pages, which will certainly take up space in anyone’s bookshelf, but if you’re a Windows Administrator, or someone who’s just looking to expand their PowerShell ability, then I can thoroughly recommend it.

If you’re a member of my user group, then you can currently buy this book for 40% less than the price listed at the MSPress store, but as well as that I’ll have a copy of it to give away at the March meeting.

A reason to visit Manchester

I shouldn’t knock Manchester – I’m sure it’s a great place. Being from the London area though, I’ve always had to find reasons to consider visiting Manchester. Now that I’m living in Australia, finding reasons to go is even harder.

Manchester’s stock has risen recently, joining the ranks of Reading, Birmingham and Hatfield to host a SQLBits conference. Definitely a trip worth making if you’re in the UK. It’s on the last Saturday of March.

Registrations are now open, so get along to the site and plan to be at this event. One day I’ll end up being in the country on the right day and make it to one of these events.

The guys behind this event are all good guys, and the content will be very high quality again (and even more sessions – the number of sessions has increased by about 50%). The last event had nearly three hundred people attend, and this one event has over three hundred registered so far.

Lots more information (including registration) at: http://sqlbits.com – or on Simon Sabin’s blog.

Poorly scheduled downtime

Not me… someone else, but it did make me think.

If you need downtime, you schedule it carefully. If your server needs a reboot for some reason (maybe some patch), then you find an appropriate window in which to place it. Typically this ends up being between 2am and 3am, but working out a time when a backup won’t be interrupted, or when overseas customers need the system to be up, and so on.

I want to rebuild my laptop soon, but I want to make sure I do it at a time when I have a few days up my sleeve – time when I don’t need my laptop. Turns out that might be this weekend, as I’m going to have a small operation at lunchtime tomorrow (elective surgery, potentially – but hopefully not – involving two bricks). I’m likely to be wanting to rest for a couple of days, so it could be a good opportunity to find the right pile of installation DVDs and do a system rebuild.

Funnily enough, I was just reading about an instance of poorly scheduled downtime by another company. ITV were showing a 4th round FA Cup match ‘live’ (well, almost) a few hours ago involving one of the oldest rivalries in sport – Everton v Liverpool. There were about three minutes left in the game, which was looking like going to penalties, so they thought they’d sneak in a quick commercial. A bit of ‘downtime’ if you like. Except that during those few seconds away, Everton scored a goal. Already there are articles popping up about the incident, and ITV are looking like idiots.

Whatever industry you’re in, if you need some downtime, please plan it carefully. Imagine what happens in the ‘worst-case’ scenario. And wish me ‘luck’ tomorrow.

SQL 2008 Books Online update

I’ve just installed the January 2009 refresh for SQL Server 2008’s Books Online. I’ve only glanced at what’s different (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd408738.aspx), but I just love the fact that SQL Books Online is a work in progress. Books Online lets you provide feedback on any page, and that feedback often makes it into an upcoming refresh.

Of course, the whole of Books Online is available online, but I like to have a local copy, which gives me better access to the Index page. Now, if they gave me an option to run it in a hybrid mode, querying online for updated data, then that could be really neat too – and avoid the need to download the refreshes. But for the time being, get yourself along to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=765433F7-0983-4D7A-B628-0A98145BCB97&displaylang=en and grab a copy.