Certifications / Microsoft

4 Tips for Building a Career on Microsoft Windows Server 2016

by Team Nuggets
4 Tips for Building a Career on Microsoft Windows Server 2016 picture: A
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Published on September 28, 2017

Sysadmins, unite! Microsoft Windows Server 2016 opens up new career opportunities for the aspiring sysadmins among us. We explore the skills, knowledge, and certifications you need to build a career that can capitalize on Server 2016 and related technologies.

Here are four great ways to start building your career today.

1. Get the Basics Down

Some things change, some things remain the same, and Server 2016 is no exception. With all of this talk about new and improved features, it's easy to forget that the fundamentals are essential to your success. Key server roles that have existed since the days of Windows NT 4.0 are not only still around but remain foundational infrastructure of any Windows-based network.

We're talking about roles like Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, file services, print services, and IIS. For the newbie admin, you have to master these roles, as they are the bread and butter for your daily admin tasks. If any of these break on any given day, you'll know because your phone will start blowing up with calls of "THE NETWORK IS DOWN!!!" The seasoned admin will know exactly where to look to quickly find the culprit.

When workstations can't access anything on the network, you check ipconfig and they are picking up 169.254.x.x addresses. DHCP has stopped handing out IP addresses. Again, more problems hitting servers or web sites. IP looks right, you can't ping anything by name but pinging by IP address is fine. DNS is down!

A single workstation can't log in with any network user, "domain controller not available." You log in with a local user, websites are loading fine, check ipconfig /all and someone has statically set a public server for the DNS! No local DNS means the computer can't find a domain controller, so no logins for you!

The courses that cover these roles, including Windows Server 2012 70-410 and MTA Windows OS Fundamentals, are essential, but the better choice might be to start with the CompTIA Network+. With the basics under your belt, you can move on to two of the most turbocharged features in Server 2016: Virtualization and Nano Server.

2. Adding Virtualization to Your Skill Set is a Must

The core of Hyper-V hasn't changed much, but there are many additions to learn with Server 2016. One favorite is rolling cluster updates. Back in the old days (of Server 2012), upgrading all the hosts in your Hyper-V cluster was a nightmare.

The entire cluster and all VMs had to be taken offline and every host's' OS upgraded before bringing anything back up. Not only did this lead to a long weekend from hell for many admins, it severely hampered the adoption of 2012. No more with 2016! Hosts can be upgraded one at a time, without taking down any VMs.

Another massive time-saver is hot adding RAM and NICs to VMs. Previously, these upgrades required shutting down the VM first, so upgrades to any critical server had to wait until after hours. Now do it live and avoid firing up your laptop from home to reconfigure VMs over the weekend.

Ready to check out new features in Hyper-V or maybe play with it for the first time? A home lab is for you!

3. Nano Servers? Be Ready for Them.

Nano Server has gotten lots of love on the blog lately, so we won't completely rehash it here. Just know that this mini version of Server 2016 cuts out a lot of fluff, making it super lightweight and cloud-ready.

As more and more companies go all-in on cloud computing, Microsoft's opting to stay relevant in your infrastructure. You can be sure the certifications will test on it, so spin up some VMs and experiment. 

4. Certify, Certify, and Certify

Speaking of which, whether you are just starting out or if you're a Windows Server veteran, Microsoft has you covered when it comes to advancing your career through certifications. Little has changed in the cert roadmap from previous versions; after cutting your teeth with an MTA, move on up to the MCSA, then up to the grand master MCSE level. An upgrade path also is available if you already are certified in Server 2012 or 2008.

If you go for an MCSA or MCSE, just know that historically these tests are hard. Knowing concepts is one thing, but the level of minutiae in the questions they hit you with has blindsided many an admin their first time out testing. You really need a depth of experience over a broad range of tested domains.

It's always worth finding out if your employer will help out, either with training materials (like a CBT Nuggets subscription; we just released a new Server 2016 course) or by paying for the actual tests.

Between becoming certified and exploring all that Windows Server 2016 can do for your network, hopefully, you are on your way to building a successful and supercharged career!

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