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Five quick tips to keep your admin skills sharp

Sure money is tight, but that doesn't mean your skills have to pay the price. Here are five cost-effective ways to keep your Windows admin skills sharp.

Joe Webb, Consulting Expert

So what if your company has slashed its training budget to nothing? There are still plenty of ways to stay on top of the latest Microsoft technologies without breaking the bank.

Your Windows admin skills do not have to suffer because of lean budgets, said Joe Webb, principal at Webbtechsolutions, a Brentwood, Tenn., integrator and consultancy.

Webb, who is a Microsoft Certified Trainer, offered the following tips and commentary for Windows administrators who are looking to stay sharp. Choosing the skills that give you the most value for your time is also critical, he said.

  • Even if the training budget is depleted, think about attending a technical conference, and learn some things there. Often, the two come out of separate budgets.

  • Attend local user group meetings. If you don't, you're missing out on a great opportunity to get some free help and make some excellent contacts. Do what you can to develop your leadership ability, project management ability and communications skills, which are all important for Windows administrators and IT people in general. Volunteer for a leadership position at your local user group, or join a local chapter of Toastmasters International.

  • Determining which skills to develop often depends on the size of your shop and your responsibilities. Keeping up to date on security trends is important. Also, think about learning scripting using the Windows scripting host. Doing so provides an opportunity to automate a lot of tasks, particularly when coupled with a scheduler, and scripting provides consistent results. Say you want to add 300 users to an Active Directory. By using scripting and coupling it with Active Directory, you can programmatically add those names one by one.

  • Consider becoming a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), one of the fastest growing Windows certifications. These people not only have the ability to understand the operating system, to some extent, but also know how to manage and store data.

  • Learn more about the .NET environment. Microsoft has put a lot of emphasis on this. Webb is not suggesting that administrators go out and become programmers, but the more they can learn about the framework, the better they will function as administrators in their environments. In the past, Webb said, he's met some really bright programmers who knew nothing about the network, and he's known some bright network administrators who couldn't write simple scripts. The days of being very specialized are probably coming to an end. You will probably have to be a specialist at a general level.


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