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Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting a little too..... comfortable.....

After two years this month at my post, I've finally got this environment running as well as I possibly can. I've got a reliable SAN behind a solid VMware cluster, and I've got the environment automated and monitored to the nth degree. Time to sit down and rest on my laurels, right? WRONG.

Now is the time to look around and see what I can learn to either make my environment better, or to make me a better sysadmin.

I'm learning Linux, but that's going to be an ongoing thing that's going to take lots of gradual doing for me to get comfortable with. I have a dedicated Kali Linux laptop that I use every opportunity I have to step outside of the Windows world. I am also doing security stuff (hence using Kali Linux) as I can, but again that's a long, slow slog; not something you pick up a book and learn all of over the course of a couple of months.

I'm finally in the process of learning to write T-SQL statements and turn a big pile of data into information that my department can use to make better decisions. I've wanted to learn T-SQL for the longest time, but could never get interested enough in the data to write my own questions, which is how I learn best. Sales and marketing data never piqued my interest, but give me some helpdesk and inventory data, and I'm MOTIVATED! We run Spiceworks, and it dumps a ton of data into a SQLite database. I discovered that I can use the SQLite Database Browser to mount an offline copy of the Spiceworks database and start working with the data. My biggest challenge right now is understanding JOIN statements. This is giving me a headache. This is the last hurdle I need to clear before I can write a Powershell script to start pulling out some nice monthly helpdesk reports for my manager.

Besides these, I'm going to start some more structured learning. For a little while there, I had come to the conclusion that I wasn't going to play the certification game anymore. I have real projects and a decade now of real experience under my belt, so why bother? After analyzing things, I changed my mind. I want to learn x, y, and z. Why NOT go through a structured curriculum and seize the reward at the other side of the journey? I'd almost be a fool not to get certified after learning the subject material. With that in mind.....

One of my weaknesses has always been networking, and I want a better understanding of it. Not only am I the network admin's backup, but it will come in handy if I decide to move my SAN/VMware backend to 10Gb ethernet. I'd like to start working on some VMware certifications down the road, and this is definitely my weakest subject. I got my Network+ and went through a Cisco CCNA course like, 8 years ago, but the knowledge has faded over time. Also, I don't fully understand VLANs, and that bothers me. CCENT here I come!

I'm not sure if I'll continue on the CCNA track because we don't run Cisco gear, but I'm finding that CCENT is a thorough gauge for understanding the fundamentals of networking, and the subject matter is quite in-depth. I just completed CBT modules on Layer 2 communication via ARP and the TCP 3-way handshake; fascinating stuff! We have an ASA, so maybe the CCNA Security track is viable. I get 3 years to figure it out before my CCENT expires, so I'll mull it over.

Following up on that cert, which I hope to complete in a couple of months, I might as well upgrade my MCITP: Server 2008 Enterprise Administrator cert to the 2012 versions. I have deployed a couple of 2012 servers so far, so I might as well. It took too much work to get my MCSE:Security on 2003, and then upgrade it to 2008, for me to let it whither on the vine....

After I complete those, I'll step back and see what's what. VMware looks enticing; I've already taken two of their classes, so I figure I might as well get the paper to back them up. I've had my eye on a SQL administration (not dev) cert for a while now, and have learned a lot about backups, database structure, and maintenance in the past year. Veeam has a new certification program that also look interesting to me.

A couple of other subjects that look interesting to me are Project Management and Storage. I see CompTIA has entry level certs for both of those. I don't really need to get heavily involved, so these look like low-hanging fruit after I brush up on the basics of these subjects.

I want to learn how to use a couple of apps that have intrigued me for a long time, but that I just never had time to learn: Wireshark (which will actually help me along quite nicely with my CCENT) and Windows Remote Desktop Services. Frankly, I'm not too jazzed about Windows RDS. I've managed Terminal Servers in the past, and I loathe them. That said, 2012 looks like it might have made the RDS situation a little easier to use, so I'll probably look into it. I might even be able to help my employer save some money on software licensing. I'm looking at you, Adobe Acrobat. Fifteen people need to sporadically use your software, and only the professional version will suffice, of course. Maybe an RDS server is the answer....

As you can see, I'm really excited about a lot of different technologies right now. I'll write when I can. :)


  1. Love it! I'm in a similar boat and just reading this type of post makes me want go for some of those things too. Best of luck man and keep us posted!

  2. Snap again. My projects are under control, stable infrastructure, less break-fix, so it's cert time. I too am very weak in the networking side of things. I really need to get my VCP out of the way then decide what's next.

    Problem is trying to study at home is hard with a three year old taking up LOTS of my time.

    Please keep us posted

    1. Ugh I hear you. I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old, and the 2 year old can now climb out of her crib. Doing most of my studying at work for now. I decided I needed some networking chops before I attempt a VCP, because I'm uncomfortable in the networking portion of that.