Experts' roadmap to Windows management training

Where can IT pros get trained on Microsoft's new management tools? How much will this training cost? Our experts offer a guide to training resources and some words of wisdom about choosing the right training option.

Finding training for products that help IT pros manage Windows enterprise environments can be an overwhelming task if one is not armed with the right criteria.

Before diving in, IT pros should consider three top factors, said Ed Tittel, president of LANWrights Inc., a networking consultancy in Austin, Texas.

Cost, location and instructor.

IT pros should begin the search for training by weighing these criteria. In general, once potential students assess their goals and determine how much they're willing to spend, they can begin looking for appropriate training in essentially two areas: from third-party consultants that specialize in training and from vendors. Vendors that offer training on their products include Microsoft, which offers instruction on Systems Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager, among other products. Other vendors that offer training include Hewlett-Packard Co., which provides instruction on OpenView, and Computer Associates International Inc., which provides training on Unicenter.

Pick up the phone

"The easiest and best way to find training is to simply call the particular software publisher and ask them if they offer training or have a contractor who does," said Doug Paddock, a CIW security analyst and certified instructor who teaches at Louisville Technical Institute in Louisville, Ky.

Typically, vendors and consultants charge similar fees, Tittel said. Companies that specialize in IT training include Wave Technologies International, Productivity Point International, NETg and New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. If these consultants or others are in your area, you're in luck. You likely will have a choice between training from a vendor or consultant. If not, vendor training is most likely nearby. For instance, Microsoft has 1,875 training centers worldwide.

Advantage vendors

In addition to having numerous training centers, vendors have another advantage over consultants. Sometimes they offer 120-day evaluation copies of the latest software and a few licenses, so trainees can experiment when they return to their offices, Tittel said.

"The other outlets don't have the ability to do that because they're not official vendor programs," Tittel said. "That's a pretty hard advantage to beat."

Overall, community colleges tend to offer the best deals, Tittel said. Fees can be as little as $25 per hour of instruction, and class schedules often work well for people who are busy. Community colleges may offer Windows management courses in the evenings and on weekends.

Still, location usually is the biggest determining factor.

"Most people tend to pick what's available in their area, rather than whether it's official MS training," Tittel said.

Read instructor reviews

Once a location and training center are located, the next step is to learn which instructors are the best. There's no one place to determine this, and it's not easy. It takes some legwork, or Web work.

But here's a tip. Take an instructor's name and look it up in Web archives such as http://groups.google.com, Tittel said.

Who needs official training?

Then there are those folks who believe in getting training not through the classroom, but the good old-fashioned way, through actual work.

Bob Restifo, who founded A1 Computer Consulting in Riverside, Calif., in 1984, falls into this category. He works mostly with small businesses that want a proven Windows consultant, not one draped in certificates, he said. Training classes don't provide real-world experience.

"Customers care more about your experience and referrals, rather than your training," Restifo said.

Though he has logged 19 years in the Windows and Novell consulting business, Restifo holds no certificates. Instead, he uses technical books, manuals and CD-ROMs to keep current.

Below are some resources both for IT pros who enjoy the classroom and those who don't.

Microsoft's training centers:

http://www.microsoft.com/traincert

Third-party training centers:

ComputerTrainingSchools.com http://www.computertrainingschools.com

New Horizons Computer Learning Centers http://www.newhorizons.com

NETg http://wave.netg.com

Productivity Point International http://www.propoint.com

Magazines:

Certification Magazine http://www.certmag.com

Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine www.mcpmag.com

Books:

IT Industry Certification Options and Benefits, published by Faulkner Information Services

The Insider's Guide to IT Certification, by Jonathan Bischke, published by Penton Technology Media

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