Is the CompTIA Server+ Worth It?
Server+ is one of CompTIA's lesser-known certifications. It's a basic certification, targeting IT professionals within their first two to four years of experience. Despite not being as well-known as some of CompTIA's other certifications, such as A+, Network+, and Security+, earning a Server+ cert will almost certainly add value to your resume.
CompTIA Server+ is the only vendor-neutral server certification available today, primarily competing against vendor-specific certs like MCSA Server Administrator and CCNA Data Center. While these latter accreditations focus on their own products and implementations, CompTIA Server+ zooms out to a broader scale, targeting server and networking fundamental principles.
What is the CompTIA Server+?
CompTIA Server+ is an entry-level, broad scope certification that centers on working with, you guessed it, servers. Server+ was created in 2015 and revolves around on-premise data center architecture, with limited emphasis on the cloud. Many aspects of server administration within Server+ assume physical access to servers, which is becoming less common.
However, a new version of Server+ is scheduled to be released in May of 2021. It will undoubtedly include a higher emphasis on the cloud and less focus on on-prem data center server administration.
What Does the CompTIA Server+ Test?
Server+ verifies knowledge and ability in four domains:
Server Hardware Installation and Management: 18%
Server Administration: 30%
Security and Disaster Recovery: 24%
The CompTIA Server+ Certification Exam Objectives Guide breaks down how the questions are structured within each of the four domains listed above. Review this list and self-evaluate; if you feel comfortable in a given area, you're probably not going to need much prep time for those details—remember, this is a foundational-level cert.
CompTIA summarizes Server Hardware Installation and Management as being able to "install, configure, and manage server hardware and server operating systems." These are knowledge-based scenario questions that require you to know procedures that are generally standardized in any IT situation.
Given a scenario, install physical hardware.
Given a scenario, deploy and manage storage.
Given a scenario, perform server hardware maintenance.
The Server+ exam looks for basic Server Administration abilities at a high level. If you have a year or two of working with servers under your belt, you're probably not going to have any problems answering questions in this area. Specifically, Server+ wants you to be able to:
Given a scenario, install server operating systems.
Given a scenario, configure servers to use network infrastructure services.
Given a scenario, configure and maintain server functions and features.
Explain the key concepts of high availability for servers.
Summarize the purpose and operation of virtualization.
Summarize scripting basics for server administration.
Explain the importance of asset management and documentation.
Explain licensing concepts.
Establishing a base level of both physical and virtual security is foundational to effective server administration. The material in this area is highly conceptual and has a much lower emphasis on scenarios than the other three domains. CompTIA wants candidates to “demonstrate an understanding of key disaster recovery, high-availability, and backup concepts," asking candidates to:
Summarize data security concepts.
Summarize physical security concepts.
Explain important concepts pertaining to identity and access management for server administration.
Explain data security risks and mitigation strategies.
Given a scenario, apply server hardening methods.
Summarize proper server decommissioning concepts.
Explain the importance of backups and restores.
Explain the importance of disaster recovery.
The Troubleshooting domain of the Server+ exam is the opposite of Security and Disaster Recovery. In this area, CompTIA wants you to "successfully troubleshoot common server problems" and demonstrate your knowledge of which actions to take in frequently encountered scenarios. Nearly all of the questions in Security+’s Troubleshooting area are scenario-based.
Explain the troubleshooting theory and methodology.
Given a scenario, troubleshoot common hardware failures.
Given a scenario, troubleshoot storage problems.
Given a scenario, troubleshoot common OS and software problems.
Given a scenario, troubleshoot network connectivity issues.
Given a scenario, troubleshoot security problems.
The questions are all multiple-choice, and there are quite a few of them. You can expect to see up to 100 items on an exam that only allows 90 minutes. The good news is that this means they’re looking for a grasp of general networking constructs and knowing what to do in situations that are pretty black and white.
How Much Does the CompTIA Server+ Cost?
The exam voucher for CompTIA Server+ will cost $338 if that’s all you purchase. Depending on how confident you feel about your current knowledge and ability to pass on the first try, you might want to consider some of CompTIA’s bundles. For example, $449 will get you an official study guide and an additional exam voucher (for a total of two), and for $559, you can add practice labs on top of the study guide and two vouchers.
The passing score for Server+ is 750 out of 900 possible points, or 83 percent. Once you earn the CompTIA Server+ certification, it is good for life and never needs to be renewed. Additionally, passing the SK0-004 exam will automatically renew your lower-level CompTIA certifications, such as A+ and Network+.
What Experience Do You Need for the CompTIA Server+?
CompTIA doesn’t require anything to sit for the Server+ exam other than purchasing a voucher. However, they highly recommend that a candidate has 18 to 24 months of IT experience. The term “IT experience” is intentionally vague and indicates the certification’s broad, conceptual focus. If you have that level of expertise, or you’re a sharp technician with a year under your belt, you shouldn’t have any issues passing the exam.
Who Should Take the CompTIA Server+?
Generally speaking, anyone who works with servers at any level could find the CompTIA Server+ certification valuable. Keep in mind that this is a basic certification, and you’ll see diminishing returns the further you go in your career. However, if your employer requires earning new certifications or you have other CompTIA certs that are about to expire, this may be a good option for you.
CompTIA Server+ for Server Administrators
Server+ is an ideal certification for young server administrators. Regardless of which vendor equipment you end up working with, the knowledge covered in Server+ will apply. If you’re early enough in your career that job switches seem likely, you might jump from Microsoft to Cisco to Juniper equipment in a short span. Earning certs for those specific vendors is undoubtedly a priority, but Server+ will give your resume the broadest boost.
CompTIA Server+ for Server Support Technicians
The knowledge you gain as a server support technician is excellent preparation for the Server+ exam. CompTIA intentionally centered the content on understanding foundational concepts and experience with scenarios that you will almost certainly encounter frequently. Earning the Server+ certification may well be a key differentiator when competing with other server support techs.
CompTIA Server+ for IT Technicians
Virtually any IT technician position will prepare you for Server+. While there may be particular focus areas in some domains where you feel weak, the lion's share of the information is something you'll learn just working in any IT field day to day. The CompTIA Server+ certification will almost certainly add value to the knowledge and experience you bring to the table.
Is the CompTIA Server+ Worth It?
If you keep in mind what the CompTIA Server+ cert is, it’s worth it. Server+ was designed to validate foundational knowledge and experience of universal skills for a broad range of IT professionals. Since the average salary of someone who has a Server+ cert is $83,000, it is strongly positioned as a valuable introductory certification.
Using the CompTIA Server+ to Learn Skills
If you’re early in your career and work in IT, but your role doesn’t specifically focus on server administration, you will likely have weak areas in some of the specific domain breakdowns. Use CompTIA Server+ to establish that you have a basic working knowledge of all server areas, then pursue more advanced certifications in targeted areas that will advance your specific career goals.
Using the CompTIA Server+ to Validate Skills
The CompTIA Server+ certification is designed to validate a broad base of knowledge, skills, and ability. While Server+ will undoubtedly be more useful to server administrators and technicians, it can be an excellent level-setting tool for professionals in any IT area. Employers would be wise to use it to differentiate young techs who stay in their niche and those who are willing to step out and learn new things.