Industry certification has long been a well-recognized method of proving one’s expertise. The Windows 2000 track extends that tradition by raising the certification bar higher. While an NT 4 MCSE was no walk in the park, Windows 2000 will require a downright dedicated commitment if an IT pro is to add those four famous letters to business cards.

Say what you want about the state of certification, two things are certain: There’s a shortage of IT workers, and certified professionals earn more than their uncertified counterparts. Those are two good reasons to enter the Windows 2000 track.

The odds are you might already be well along the Win2K MCSE path. If you hold NT 4 certifications, and you’re eligible to sit for the accelerated Windows exam for Windows NT MCPs, you can knock down four of the seven required exams in one step. If so, all you need are a few electives, and you’re sitting pretty.

The core four…
The Windows 2000 certification track includes four core exams. In keeping with the move to toughen the certification process, the skills, expertise, and knowledge required for passing these four exams essentially equals that required to earn the entire Windows NT 4 MCSE.

These core four tests form the necessary foundation for installing, configuring, and maintaining Windows 2000 in an enterprise-computing environment. Here’s a brief breakdown of each exam and the knowledge it tests.

Exam 70-210: Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
This exam will most likely test skills similar to those measured in the Windows NT Workstation 4.0 exam. Candidates will need to demonstrate the ability to install Win2K Pro, upgrade from a previous version of Windows, administer the OS, troubleshoot hardware issues, and optimize system performance. In addition, candidates must have the ability to configure network services and implement and maintain security.

Exam 70-215: Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
Here’s the new counterpart to the 70-067 test that graded expertise with Windows NT Server 4.0.

The Win2K Server exam will test a candidate’s proficiency at not only installing the OS and configuring and troubleshooting hardware, but also optimizing system performance, administering storage capabilities, and configuring security.

But the exam doesn’t end there. In order to earn a 70-215 cert, IT professionals must also demonstrate the ability to efficiently administer access to files and resources. This will require familiarity with Microsoft’s Distributed File System.

Exam 70-216: Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
It’s in this exam that true enterprise-wide networking expertise is tested. Unlike the Windows NT in the Enterprise exam, though, candidates will have to prove their knowledge of DNS, DHCP, VPNs, and more.

Exam 70-216 will test candidates’ abilities to manage DNS, DHCP, and remote access services on Windows 2000 servers. They’ll also need to prove their proficiency with network protocols, WINS, IP routing, Network Address Translation, and certificate services.

Book knowledge alone may weed some candidates out at this stage, as a solid understanding of not only execution, but network design will be required for successful completion of this cert. And, as any seasoned administrator can tell you, that only comes from in-the-trenches experience.

Exam 70-217: Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
Same as 70-216, only instead of designing, you’re administering, right? Well, no. Actually, this is the Active Directory exam. Here’s where systems engineers prove not only their ability to install, configure, maintain, and troubleshoot the Active Directory, but also their knowledge of DNS use in Active Directory, the enhanced use of group policies, the optimization of Active Directory components, and the implementation of security—again, through the use of Active Directory.

Book knowledge isn’t going to get an administrator through this one. Experience will be a test-taker’s best friend here, no doubt.

…Plus another core…
Once you’ve completed the core four exams, or taken the accelerated Windows 2000 test, the choices begin. In the event you’re the resident security expert at your firm, you may want to gravitate toward the exams focusing on network security. Possibly you’re the admin responsible for administering users and resources, instead. If that’s the case, you may want to follow the directory services route and collect those certs.

Either way, Microsoft’s broken the program down such that you’ll need to select another core exam. Here are your options.

Exam 70-219: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
With this exam, Microsoft is moving to ensure its administrators can not only administer but also design directory services networks. It’s important that systems engineers possess these skills, as they are often the ones within an organization charged with doing so.

Exam 70-219 will test a candidate’s ability to analyze business requirements and design appropriate directory service architectures. Successful completion of the exam will require knowledge of company strategies and business models, and how they integrate with a network infrastructure design.

In addition to understanding business and technical requirements of a network, IT professionals will also have to prove their ability to structure DNS strategies, a namespace, an Active Directory design, policy management, multiple site coordination, and replication strategies.

Exam 70-220: Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network
If security’s your bag, you’ll want to consider adding 70-220 to your collection of certs. In addition to the security expertise tested in exams 210, 215, and 217, exam 220 is dedicated solely to the protection of an enterprise network.

Candidates preparing for this exam will need to demonstrate proficiency in controlling access to resources and auditing the access to those resources. They’ll also need to master authentication procedures and processes in Windows 2000 and the use of encryption. Requirements will include the ability to design an authentication strategy, a public key infrastructure, and network security services. Systems engineers eyeing this security cert will also need to prove an understanding of the methods used for securing LAN, WAN, and VPN traffic, and access between those networks.

Exam 70-221: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
The big question is: How is this exam different than the 219 counterpart? Instead of focusing on directory services, this test measures a candidate’s ability to design an efficient network architecture based upon specific requirements. For example, this exam will test an IT professional’s ability to build an appropriate network topology, route traffic efficiently, configure name resolution services, and incorporate telephony solutions.

Whereas 219 tests the ability to build powerful directory services, 221 grades an administrator’s knowledge of building efficient, distributed networks based on end user needs.

…Plus two electives, and you’re done
Once you’ve followed up on your core requirements, electives are the only item standing between an IT professional and an MCSE. Elective options include the other exams from the 219-221 series, furthering the opportunity for systems engineers to develop increased expertise in the areas of security, directory services, or network design.

In addition to the aforementioned exams, candidates can also consider any current MCSE exams that haven’t retired. Thus, you can leverage the mileage received from some of those older Windows NT 4.0 electives. Just remember, though, that they’ll be the next to retire.

Selected third-party exams may also count. Another option is exam 222, which tests an administrator’s ability to migrate systems from the NT 4.0 platform to Windows 2000.

Exam 70-222: Upgrading from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Microsoft Windows 2000
This is sure to be a popular exam, as the skills and expertise developed in preparation for the test will undoubtedly come in handy at corporate enterprises around the globe. While the exam might seem the simplest of the lot, think again.

In addition to understanding much of the Windows NT 4 platform, candidates will have to prove their ability to prepare a production system for migration, and plan and prepare for hardware requirements. They will also need to master the transitioning of services, domain name restructuring, creating new trusts and Active Directory objects, and migrating local groups and computer accounts. And it doesn’t end there. Successful candidates will have to prove their ability to troubleshoot migrations gone bad.

All things considered
Microsoft has laid a fairly daunting road ahead for those seeking to gain or maintain their Windows certifications. As a result of strengthened requirements and a tightened focus permitting the concentration on and development of a specific area of expertise, MCSEs are likely to offer enterprises greater value. After all, nothing worth having comes without a price.

Erik Eckel MCP+I, MCSE is Community Editor for AdminRepublic. When he’s not getting blown off the back of the peloton, he can be found configuring and troubleshooting Windows 2000 networks.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.