If you’ve ever worked out, been to a gym or been in earshot of a couple of muscle heads, you’ve surely heard the term, “Train Hard or Go Home.” Sometimes insight comes from the unlikeliest of places. This super intelligent phrase can also be applied to your VMware training approach. How? Well its easy, you have to Train Hard or Go Home, period. VMware training is not something to take lightly. First of all, most of the courses that are required to gain certain VMware certifications are merely a quick overview of the material in the course book. Yes, there are classes that dive deeper and there are instructors who will offer a much more in-depth and real-world learning experience, but for the most part the classes just aren’t enough. If you aren’t interested in gaining a certification, you aren’t interested in promotion and or more money. Certainly if you’ve been around IT long enough you know the weight that some technical certifications have in getting you a new job and or promotion. VMware certifications are becoming a very hot commodity. Companies want to virtualize and don’t know where to start, that is when they turn to the VCP, VCAP-DCA/DCD, or if they are lucky enough, the royalty of VMware certs, the VCDX (trumpet sounds). What I’m trying to say is that if you don’t train hard, you will end up going home from your certification exam with a failure report, or you will simply fail in your job, which both have resume generating implications.
What Type of Training Should I pursue?
Now that I’ve made my point about training (climbing down from my soapbox), I want to point out some of the best training companies and opportunities that will prepare you best for your certification exam and your job (really, just get the cert, you’ll be cooler for it). Some training is much more expensive tha others which does not necessarily make it better than others. There is training that is held over months, and some that last only five days (yikes). In certain training scenarios you may walk into an amphitheater type setting with 60 students and one instructor; while others offer a maximum student:instructor ratio of 8:1. Which do you choose? That can only be answered by you, but my hope is that you find some direction from this post. You have to decide a couple of factors; why type of learner are you? How much can you spend? How much time do you have? Ask yourself those three questions to gain a better understanding of which of the following types of training you should pursue.
Instructor Lead Classroom Training
The first type of training we can discuss is the instructor lead classroom style of training. This is the most prevalent option to training and just happens to also be the most personal approach. With instructor lead classroom training you actually crawl out of bed in the morning and make your way to a physical classroom where you will most likely spend 8-10 hours a day sitting at a desk and listening to a VMware Certified Instructor (VCI) present you with the information via Power Point or on the white board. What’s nice about this type of training is tha you can actually converse with the instructor who should be somewhat of an expert on the subject. In my experience with VCP training, my instructor was very informative and he knew the material inside and out. Not only do they have real-world experience, but they have also successfully gone through the vetting process by VMware to become a VCI. In the classroom training you will have a course book and a lab book which you will go through cover to cover in class and practice labs. This is a great way to get some hands on experience with real VMware infrastructure if you are very new to VMware.
Unfortunately this type of training tends to be the most expensive approach. Depending on where you live, you may have to incur travel expenses such as airfare, lodging and meals. Many of the better training companies will put together a nice package deal that at times includes air fare, but usually always includes meals and lodging. If you want to make a mini vacation out of your training experience (do not choose Las Vegas, you can’t handle it), you can choose from just about any location in the United States and overseas as well. The problem is, most of this type of training is usually boot-camp style and very intense, which leaves hardly any room for sight-seeing or partying. If this is the type of training you want to pursue, make sure you enjoy lecture style teaching, and you are prepared for five or more 10+ hour days in a row.
Instructor Lead Remote Training
Remote training is also led by an instructor and can be taken via the Internet from just about wherever you can get Internet access. if you decided to take this route you need to ensure that you will have Internet access throughout the duration of the course because in 99.999% of the cases they will not reimburse you for lost classroom time due to network connectivity. In this training scenario you will have a VCI and he/she will teach the course to you in a webex type setting. You will log into the course and participate with other class members who are logged in. At times you will be placed in groups to work on labs together, but for the majority of the course you will be listening to the instructor lecture you as he/she goes through the slide deck. Since this type of training is very similar to what I covered under the Instructor lead Classroom Training heading, we don’t have much else to cover. The premise is the same, you are gaining real world knowledge from an experienced VCI as well as official VMware course materials. what you don’t receive with these courses are physical course material such as a lab book, or course book; in this scenario all of your course materials are online in .pdf format most likely.
This type of training is good for th homebody that doesn’t want to venture out to a classroom every day, and would rather learn in the PJs whilst eating Cheetos on the couch (ok, not everyone eats Cheetos). While remote training may free you from the classroom setting, it still requires the same time commitment on your part. It is important to remember that this training is not self-paced, you are encouraged to keep up with the class and participate in the discussion(s). Along with the instructor lead classroom training, remote training is approved by VMware as official VMware training and can be applied toward your VCP certification (you must have official VMware training to gain VCP certified status). remote training is lightly less expensive that on-site classroom training, simply due to the smaller amount of overhead and material that is needed. If your budget is a little tight, go with remote training, you’ll save a few bucks.
Remote Training options: Global Knowledge, Learning Tree, VMware and many others
Self Paced, Web/CBT Training
Finally we come to a very popular style of training known as self paced, web or computer based training (CBT). This type of training stands apart from the others simply because it is usually not instructor lead and the training is on your time. One very important note on this type of training before we get any further; VMware requires you to have official VMware training in order to gain the VCP certification. You can take any type of training to prepare you for th exam, you can sit for and successfully pass the exam, but you will not be granted the certification until you have completed an official VMware course. If you are only interested in gaining the knowledge from these training courses to use at work and you aren’t concerned with certification, then you are free to choose any type of training you can get your hands on and self paced/CBT training is a great option. There are so many great CBTs available out on the web, just Google it and see what comes up. I’ve had good success with Train Signal videos as have many others. At times, your employer may offer you these courses through SkillSoft that you can take at your desk and on company time (check with you employer first). The nice thing about CBTs is that it is self paced and you can stop at any time, return and pick up where you left off, it’s training that waits on you. If you don’t have the money or the time, you can save a ton by going the CBT route, and take as long as you need to complete them. Most of the time, good companies will grant you access to their CBT courses for as long as you want, this way you can always go back and reference the training if you runt into an issue at work and you’ve forgotten the fix for it. Bonus!
Many people don’t require an instructor, a video or CBT to help them learn, some simply require a book to read. For some certification tracks, I’ve taken the book only route and have been successful. For the VMware Certified Professional certification this will not work as discussed earlier. if you are just interested in gaining the knowledge and are not interested in certifying, a book may be your best option. Like CBTs and web-based training, a book is the ultimate self paced type training. You can take a book with you everywhere you go, if you have an eReader, many of the publishers offer their titles as an eBook as well. There are so many good VMware books out there on topics ranging from ESX/ESXi to vSphere Fundamentals to HA/DRS and many, many more. It’s hard to choose a book to start from but if you head to your local book store you can browse the back of the book cover and the intro to see which book is a best for you. If you are studying to take the VCP exam (and have taken an approved VMware course already) Sybex has a great VCP Study Guide out that will walk you through each and every exam objective listed by VMware. My personal favorite has been an still is Scott Lowe’s Mastering VMware vSphere 4 (every sys admin should own this book). Scott’s book will take you from start-to-finish installing, configuring, managing and monitoring a virtual environment using vSphere. Read about my top 5 VMware books to give you a better idea of which book you might want based on its contents.
Time to Train Hard or Go Home!
Ok, by now you should have a good idea on where to start with your VMware training. If you are going for a VMware certification there are several to choose from but they all start with getting the VCP certification (think of this cert as the key that opes the door to all other VMware certs). Figure out how you learn best, how much money you can budget, and then find the course that best fits those scenarios. There are a ton of employers out there today looking for good virtualization administrators, architects and engineers. Training hard will ensure that you can land a good job or promotion instead of going home.