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Azure Certification Prep

Hi folks, this blog post comes to you as part of the Azure Back to School community event ran by Dwayne Natwick.

Many thanks to Dwayne for allowing me to take part.

You can read more about the event on the official website

I am talking to you today about Azure Certification Prep, let’s not waste any more time and dive right in.

Whether your starting your Azure certification journey or along ways down the road the first thing you need to do is some homework on the exams:-

  • Which exam is the right one for you at this time?
  • Have you read the official exam page from Microsoft?
  • Have you read up on any changes about the exam that may have taken place?

I always suggest people start with the AZ-900 Azure fundamentals exam and this is for everyone, including experienced Azure users. This exam will set you up for the following if you are new to the exams or haven’t done any exams in a while:-

  • Learn to study (learn to take notes and try to remember the content you’ve read)
  • Get you into the habit of reading, trying to recall information, sitting practice tests.
  • There is also the no small feat of booking the actual exam and sitting it, lots of people put this off and dread exams.

Skills Measured
This area is key to your success in the actual exam, the content in this section is in essence what Microsoft will be testing you on, ensure you are comfortable with all of this content before taking the exam. Exams are usually broken down into 4 maybe areas and you’ll see a percentage scoring next to each section. An example of this would be the AZ-900 exam which has the following:-

Describe Cloud Concepts (15-20%)

This means that 15-20% of your exam will be on this subject area, some exams have areas as much as 35-45% so this is the area you want to be very sharp on as lots of questions will be around this area.

Advice
Whilst studying you tend to get a feel for how it is going, I would advise you try some practice tests and try to gauge from them if your ready or not. Book your exam as this will then help concentrate your mind and ensure you study, nothing like an exam deadline coming up to make you want to read the content, learn and pass your exam.

So a this point we have checked out the official exam guide, we know what topics we are going to be tested on, lets assume we are sitting the exams at home, we have to know what to expect when sitting an exam from home.

Sitting an exam in your house

There are some rules which you need to adhere to when taking an exam from your office / home and some of these are as follows: –

  • There is no bit of paper allowed for taking notes so if you need to take notes then there is a way to do this on-screen within the test, get familiar as you may need this.
  • No one is allowed to enter the room at any time during your exam, and you cant leave either.
  • You’re not allowed to read the exam questions out loud, cover your face or leave the webcam perimeter box for any reason, if you do you’re very likely to fail.
  • You have to take photos of your identification and the desk your siting at, behind where you are sitting, to the left, and to the right of where you are sitting.
  • The rules are there for people to read so be sure you know what you can and cannot do otherwise you run the risk of an instant failure which would not be fun.

Advice
Ensure your pc / laptop is charged, arrive 30 minutes early and go through your identification steps as soon as you can as it can be a little unsettling at times and you don’t want to be flustered before the exam begins.

Learning Resources
I always go in search of good learning resources for an exam and I always start off with Microsoft Learn. Here you will find learning paths for your exam and you can go through them at your own pace, make sure not to miss these as they really are excellent.

My favorite Learning Resources

Practice Tests
Whilst studying I always think its a good idea to do some knowledge checks, you may read some content week 1 and forget it week 2, practice tests help reinforce my learning and help me recall things I need to know for each exam. I have used practice tests from several different places and here are some of the people who have good training as well as good practice tests:-

Advice

  • Don’t start studying and then put it off would be my advice, you’re likely to forget some of what you learned.
  • Book the exam 2 weeks out and then this will focus your mind.
  • Read the questions carefully even in the practice tests.
  • No exam question has answers which are wildly wrong, Microsoft don’t do this anymore so you wont be able to rule lets say 2 from 4 answers right away for being wildly wrong with regards to the question.
  • Take the exam once your fairly confident you know what the answers to most of the questions, you wont get them all right but try to wait till your at least some what confident in your knowledge.
  • ALWAYS check the official exam page in case the skills measure area has been updated – exams are updated regularly and you don’t want caught out.

Wrap Up
No one likes sitting exams, but just think of the amount of things you have learned, and don’t be afraid to fail an exam, I have failed 3 and it just made me more determined to pass the next time and learn what I didn’t know the first time around.

If you need advice about anything exam related, please do reach out on twitter.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.



COVID-19 – overcoming business challenges with Microsoft Azure

I was recently asked to contribute to Nigel Frank’s Azure industry whitepaper, which collates Covid-19 related advice for businesses and professionals. My insight has been featured alongside that of a number of my fellow Microsoft Azure MVP’s.

The whitepaper covers five particular challenges many are struggling with at this moment: cost saving, data security, remote working, growing at scale, and business continuity. Hopefully, my own and my peers’ advice will go some way to helping those looking for answers at this unprecedented time.

Please do have a read and share with anyone who would benefit from it: https://www.nigelfrank.com/overcoming-business-challenges-with-azure/

Stay safe!
Gregor



Ignite the Tour Zurich

Speaking At Microsoft Ignite the Tour, Zurich

On March 4-5th I will be attending and speaking at the Ignite Tour, Zurich and will be talking about Deployment Practices for Greater Reliability as part of the Ops learning path.

Within the talk I will cover how to move toward a more reliable deployment of software and infrastructure as code, I’ll cover testing and talk about what good looks like and show some demo’s of what an up to date app deployment looks like using services like AKS and Azure Devops.

I have never been to Zurich and speaking at conferences was one of my goals for this year, I am really looking forward to seeing some friends during my trip and be able to present.

I have been using Presenter Coach which is built into PowerPoint if you use PowerPoint online and will record a quick demo of this if people think it would be worthhwile.

If you’re attending let me know and I will come and say hi, maybe even see you at my talk.

Any questions let me know in the comments below.



How I had a successful 2019

This year has been an amazing year for me, too many good things to recall if I’m honest and I’ll keep it short, below are some of the highlights for me (in no particular order)

  • Invited to meet Scott Guthrie at an ask me anything session in London
  • Awarded MVP in Azure in August
  • Helping run the Glasgow Azure User Group
  • Ran the Azure Global Boot Camp, Glasgow Edition
  • Attended my first ever Microsoft Ignite in Florida
  • Attended my first ever Experts Live Europe in Prague
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
  • Helped work become Gold Certified in a few more competences
  • Blog has had over 200,000 hits this year (50 posts this year)
  • The Azure Advent Calendar has been a huge success, more info on that later this month.
  • Joined TechSnips.Io
  • Started a YouTube channel
  • Named in Nigel Frank International in the Top 20 Azure influencers on Twitter
  • 3 podcast appearances

Looking forward to 2020 which will bring the following :-

  • Ignite the Tour London
  • Ignite the Tour Zurich
  • Scottish Summit (doing a talk and helping out)
  • Azure Global Boot camp (organising & more on that next week)
  • MVP Summit 2020
  • Ignite 2020
  • Hopefully lots more travelling
  • Hopefully attending conferences
  • Reach 5000 twitter followers
  • Recording some training material

It has been a huge amount of fun, learned more a lot about myself, visited a number of places.

My number one highlight might sound corny but meeting the people who make up the community has been incredible, Ignite and at Experts Live I met so many awesome people that I have chatted to on Twitter. I’ve met people I’ve looked up to and asked for advice from and the people who inspire me.

If you need help or have questions about anything please reach out to me on twitter or LinkedIn, always happy to help with anything I can.

I could never thank everyone but trust me I’m thankful for meeting each and every one of you.

This #azureadventcalendar has been a fantastic way to end the year and soon I’ll be at Ignite the Tour London and then the Scottish Summit here in Glasgow at the end of February.

Huge waves and thanks to everyone who I chatted to throughout 2019 and lets do it again next year.

Happy Holidays! – Gregor.



Using Azure Recovery Vault to backup SQL Server within your Virtual Machines

In this blog post I’ll show you how to go about baking up SQL Server within your VM’s on Azure. I’m going to assume you have created an Azure Recovery Vault already.


Step 1 – Log into Azure and go into your Recovery Vault.


Step 2 – Click Backup.


Step 3 – Choose SQL Server in Azure VM (Preview).
Step 4 – Choose Start Discovery and that goes off to discover your VM’s which have SQL Server on them.
Step 5 – Select the Virtual Machine name(s) from the list and then hit the Discover DB’s button.
Step 6 Select Configure Backup.
Step 7 – Select from the list the instance(s) and then select the DB’s you wish backed up, you can also change the AutoProtect to ON from the drop down and this will always backup each new database added going forward.


Step 8 – Select Ok.



Step 9 – Choose your Backup Policy Options.

And that should be that, you now have your SQL Server’s within your VM’s on Azure backed up using a Policy which you can configure to suit your needs and change ant any time you wish.



What I learned last week – 13th August – 17th August

This week I have been busy mostly busy with bug fixing some code we have which used to be a windows service but is now a TopShelf service – if you use windows services you’ll know that there hard to debug, enter TopShelf

TopShelf is almost identical to a windows service but runs like a console app and that allows you to debug the code you would have within your windows service. To change your code from a windows service to a TopShelf service is minimal code indeed and well worth the small amount of effort.

What I learned this past week

  • Visual Studio 2012 and Windows 8 are available, if you use Visual Studio 2012 then check out a fantastic extension called Web Essentials – go check it out.
  • RavenDB – the guys who bring you Raven are hard at work on a 1.2 release which will bring a number of great changes, I have upgraded my home-brew project to the latest unstable version and the upgrades to the front end are cool and most welcome – more soon when I get more time hands on.
  • Select2 is a very neat little javascript library which you use to make your select boxes on web pages far sexxier – take a look here.
  • Elmahr 0.91 is out – more here.

What did you find useful this week? – please let me know by leaving a comment after the beep.



6 months into the job

Monday 11th May will see be me 6 months into my new job, my last place I was there for 11 years so it was quite a big thing for me moving on.

The new job is going well, I like the way we go about our work, we talk about it, we plan it, then we try as best we can to do proper test driven development.

Last week saw us starting a new RavenDB based MVC 3 project which will be using Agile techniques using sprints – it will also include some new tools which I havent yet used such as initializer and twitter bootstrapper – more on them to come as I get hands on during the project.

Starting a new project is always great, although we are under pressure to get this out the door, were luck to not having paying customers demanding software releases as soon as possible, this means we don’t cut corners and can produce code which has been thoroughly tested and due to the tools we use we know it’s of decent high quality.

Testing driven development has been quite a mind shift from what I have been used to, in the past I would have written the code and then done some manual testing usually from the front end, so this has been a great leap forward – it’s not the be all and end all of course and code can still contain bugs, however, changing code and knowing if you broke something is very nice.

The main difference has been using Resharper, style cop and unit tests along with a great build system – all checked in code has the same style and formatting which is rather nice.



I feel fortunate where I work

I moved jobs a little under 3 months ago and I know work for Maclean Electrical as a developer in a small team.

At Maclean’s I work in an Agile development team working on a number of projects which we use to drive the business forward and make the company more productive.

Maclean Electrical

Our code base is a made of a number of different projects including some windows service projects, some MVC web apps, a Windows Forms application and even an ASP.NET 2 web app.

The development team strive for a number of goals a couple of which are below as below:-

  • Test Driven Development – write a failing test, write the code tp make the test pass, refactor your code.
  • Code Coverage – the code you write should meet a high level of test code coverage, each project had individual levels but should be around 70% as a minimum.
  • Refactor where possible – refactoring the code you come across so that you always leave it better than you found it where possible.
  • If you break the build, its your responsibility to fix it, yeah it’s normally me I know.

We have a very nice setup at work using TeamCity as our build server and we have ported over a few things as Nuget packages to make life easier going forward – I can push a deployment of the code which runs all the unit tests from the build server to deployment or the test environment in one click.

At work we are about to start looking at using RavenDB and the developers are all being sent on a course in London for training on a 2 day course.

Working for a company who listens to their developers and has fantastic communication with everyone in the team is always good in my book. The developer’s in the team often chat about what technologies are new and who’s looking at what and what they have thought about it. We don’t stick with what we know and are always looking at new technology as a way of sharpening our skills which I love to do anyway.

I guess we have a team of passionate developers who communicate well and who really enjoy their jobs – if you enjoy your job it makes a huge difference. If you want a book on a particular subject then it’s ordered, if you come across a tool that you find helpful its bought.

Do you enjoy your job as much as I do? – I do hope so.



Steps for improving my development skills in 2012

Note:- This will be an on going blog post.

My plan is as follows:-

Firstly I plan to write a lot more code at home, to me that’s definitely the best way to learn. My first goal this year is to get better at writing unit tests/tdd and learning how to use mocking properly.

January: Watch all of John Skeets Tekpub series on C#, go through Roy Osherove’s Unit Testing Kata’s and watch the @tekpub and @pluralsight videos on Unit Testing.

How did I fare in January?:

  • having set out my goals above for January I would say I have learned a lot when it comes to TDD, still got a lot to learn especially when it comes to mocking.
  • I have watched the first 6 of the 25 video series so still got a lot to watch and learn about. The detail in this particular series is exceptional and if you want to learn c# in detail then this is for you.
  • I bought the following book on Dependency Injection :-

February: Get up close and personal with RavenDB.

March: Time to start an app using RavenDB.

I shall update as we go but this is a good start. Let me know if you come across something you think is worth learning.



My Review of 2011

In 2011 I started blogging and this post will be a review of the year which is about to come to an end.

At the start of 2011 I was working on a windows mobile 6.5 project up until around April, which was the first time I have even looked at any windows mobile development – the project itself was a good one and I enjoyed working on it – my overall feeling from it though was that windows mobile 6.5 was old and clunky and things seem to have gotten a lot better with the latest version including the mango release.

From April to August I was working for Barclay’s Stockbrokers in Glasgow working on moving their entire code base from windows server 2003 to server 2008 and re-writing the way al off this software was built and packaged using MSBuild and WIX.

From August to the start of November I was back at base which was Pulsion Technology working on various projects.

In mid November I resigned from Pulsion and took a job at my new employers Maclean Electrical in Cumbernauld, where I am now working. Moving jobs after 11 years was a little daunting at first but I am so so glad I made the move.

During the year I have purchased Tekpub and I also have a subscription to Pluralsight training which are both fantastic – I am also a Friend of Redgate and have been looking at their most recent releases which look very interesting indeed.

In 2012 I hope to travel to one of the big conferences at some point as I didn’t travel abroad this year – I also hope to get stuck into RavenDB soon and learn more about Agile and see what else 2012 brings with it.

Thats it folks enjoy 2012!