Microsoft has a slew of certification exams lined up to accompany the release of its Windows Server 2003 operating system. Among the first of these to go to beta—and subsequently to be among the first to go live—is Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment (exam number 70-290). This exam is a nuts-and-bolts look at the operating system at a cursory level. The five main topic areas it focuses upon are:
- Physical and logical devices
- Managing users/computers/groups
- Resource access
- The server environment
- Disaster recovery
You can review the objectives for this exam on Microsoft's Web site. Rather than focus on each objective and subobjective in this article, we will look at seven of the most important things to know so that you can successfully prepare for this exam.
Tip #1: Be ready for record-length questions
In the early days of Microsoft certification, exams asked multiple-choice questions that were fairly straightforward. At no point were they ever as simplistic as those on CompTIA exams, but they were comparable. As the exam numbers incremented, Microsoft started adding headers to the questions: "You are the network administrator for Acme…," etc.
Somewhere down the road, someone at Microsoft misread Bloom's taxonomy and became convinced that question length somehow parallels question difficulty. Since then, there has been no stopping them. In fact, it's easy to come to the mistaken conclusion that question writers contracted by Microsoft get paid by the word.
If you took any of the Windows 2000 exams (particularly 70-216 and 70-219), you know how verbose a simple question can be. You'll be surprised, however, at how much longer the same question has now become. The questions include a lot of superfluous information to determine whether you can figure out how much of it you really need. Although a couple of questions like this are useful, having an entire exam of them wears you out quickly, so you need to plan ahead.
Tip #2: Be ready for drag-and-drop
Multiple-choice remains the primary question type, but the number of drag-and-drop questions are increasing on the exams. On the betas recently given, the number of questions of this type was at 25 percent or more.
Microsoft refers to this type of question as "select-and-place," and to quote:
"A select-and-place exam item tests a candidate's ability to synthesize information and assemble a solution to a problem or scenario graphically. This type of exam item can reflect architectural, design, troubleshooting, and component recognition problems more accurately than traditional exam items can because the solution is presented in a form that is more familiar to the computer professional."
Although it's certainly arguable whether a drag-and-drop question is "more familiar to the computer professional" than a multiple-choice one, there is no arguing the fact that you need to be comfortable with this format. If you can't immediately jump in and start answering the question, time spent contemplating how to answer the question will devour precious minutes that could be spent finding the right answer on another question.
Tip #3: Be ready for questions on new technologies
No one likes to add nifty features to an operating system that go unnoticed, and one of the best ways to draw attention to them is to quiz you on them. The alphabetical list below covers some new and improved technologies to know. You can find information about these technologies through the use of the operating system, help pages accompanying Windows Server 2003, and Web sites such as those hosted by the support side of Microsoft.
- Automated System Recovery (ASR)
- Diskpart utility
- Diskraid utility
- Emergency Management Services (EMS)
- File Replication Service (FRS)
- Group Policy Management Console (GPMC)
- Open File Backup
- Password Backup and Restore Wizard
- Remote Assistance
- Remote Desktop
- Shadow copying of shared folders
- Software Update Services (SUS)
- Virtual disk service
Tip #4: Know the changes
There are several changes between operations in Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, some subtler than others. Microsoft expects you to know about these changes. Among those to be aware of:
- You must activate the operating system to use it.
- The default share permissions for Everyone are now Read versus Full Control.
- There are (or will be) four versions of the product available: Web edition, Standard edition, Enterprise edition, and Datacenter edition. Check Microsoft's site for a comparison of the versions.
- Some Terminal Services terminology has changed. For an overview of Terminal Services, including the wording now employed, check out the Microsoft Web site. In addition, be sure to read the top ten improvements list posted on Microsoft's site.
Tip #5: Know the benefits
If this list is beginning to sound like a marketing tool, you're starting to understand an important concept: Vendors, and not just Microsoft, want their most trained users—certified administrators—to also serve as evangelists for their products. The best way to guarantee this is to make sure certification holders know all the features and can expound upon them at length.
For that reason, be sure to know Microsoft's top ten benefits of using Windows Server 2003 over any other operating system that might be deployed within the organization.
Tip #6: Have a rough idea of licensing pricing
This exam doesn't include any questions asking you to specifically figure pricing. Actual numbers never come into play because they date the exam, they do not translate well, and they are a topic for accountants rather than administrators. Nevertheless, Microsoft does want you to know that you need licenses to use the products. If you don't know that, it loses money.
A number of links related to pricing and licensing are posted on Microsoft's site, and I recommend reading through that information to get a good feel for the concept without getting mired down in the numbers.
Tip #7: Know that IIS is improved
Internet Information Server (IIS) gets better with each release. The latest version is 6.0, and it includes numerous improvements over 5.0. Although this exam is not IIS specific, it does expect you to have knowledge of the service. You'll find everything you need to know in "What's New in Internet Information Services 6.0."
A number of certification exams will soon become available for Microsoft Windows Server 2003. Exam 70-290 will be among the first. It will also be among the least difficult because it emphasizes the technology and the changes in the operating system, while others are likely to focus more on planning and deployment.