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A Complete Guide: How to Become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert in Cloud Platform and Infrastructure

Why get MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certified?

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Earning a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification validates the necessary skills related to particular Microsoft product areas. This certification is for cloud administrators, cloud architects, computer support specialists and information security analysts. If you hold a retired cloud certification, you will benefit from updating to the modern MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification. Those retired certifications include MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect, Microsoft Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions, Microsoft Specialist: Administering Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, Microsoft Specialist: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, and MCSE: Server Infrastructure certification.

This certification prep guide focuses on the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification, which further demonstrates your proficiency in the following areas:

  • Cloud Technologies
  • Identity Management
  • Systems Management
  • Virtualization
  • Storage
  • Networking

In nearly every aspect of IT, cloud plays a role. Most organizations have some dependency on a cloud platform and many of these companies use Microsoft Azure as part of a hybrid cloud infrastructure to host their services as part of a highly efficient, globally distributed and highly scalable architecture.

To remain competitive in IT careers, cloud almost certainly needs to be part of your skillset. The MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification is intended for individuals who are looking to enhance their current career or are looking to get into a new career in areas of cloud computing.

Earning an MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification qualifies you for jobs such as cloud administrator, cloud architect, computer support specialist, and information security analyst, among others.

This guide will provide background, logistics and essential tips for the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification exam.

What is the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification?

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The MCSE Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification confirms that you possess the skills needed to run a highly efficient and modern data center, with expertise in cloud technologies, identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage and networking. This MCSE certification also serves as the replacement for the now-retired MCSE: Private Cloud.

Who should take the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure exam?

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Cloud technology professionals who have earned their MCSA certification in Cloud Platform and Infrastructure should purse this certification. If you possess any of the following MCSA credentials, you are an ideal candidate:

View the complete MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification track.

How will becoming MCSE certified impact your job and career?

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According to the Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, certification value is at an all-time high. The IT industry continues to validate skills and capabilities learned via certifications with higher salaries. According to the report, 95% of IT decision-makers believe certification provides added value to the organization.

Individual benefits are obvious too—certified IT professionals in North America earn 22% more than their non-certified peers. In fact, the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification comes in at No. 4 on the Top 10 Highest Paying Microsoft Certifications list. In addition, the MCSE is considered the Master’s degree to the MCSA’s Bachelor’s. Those that possess a MCSE hold higher status in global IT departments.

Some additional benefits of certified personnel, according to IT decision-makers, include:

  • Improved productivity
  • Less skills gaps
  • Faster project completion
  • Quicker deployment of products and services
  • Provides an edge over competitors

MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure exam guide

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There are 10 exams to choose from to earn your MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification. Each is designed around a specific cloud discipline so you can tailor your training and certification to the topic and technology area that aligns with your business needs.

For example, an Information Security Analyst would take the Securing Windows Server 2016 certification exam. You need to take and pass just one exam to acquire the certification—the only caveat is you cannot take the same exam you passed to earn your MSCA certification.

Register on the individual exam pages above and schedule your exam time with Pearson VUE.

Test format: Microsoft doesn’t make the exam formats or question types public. According to the Microsoft Certification exam page, a number of possible question types could be used, including active screen, best answer, multiple choice and short answer. To get a feel for what you might experience, visit the certification page and view current examples.

Duration: You have 150 minutes to complete between 40-60 questions (actual number of questions may vary)

Registration fee: $165

How to prepare for the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification

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A mixture of formal and information learning provides the most value in preparation for a certification exam.

 

Instructor-led training courses

Microsoft is on the cutting edge when it comes to training individuals and enterprises on how to best deploy, manage and maintain their technology. To keep up with their innovation, Microsoft is constantly evaluating their certifications and Microsoft Official Courses (MOC) training for necessary updates. Microsoft Learning and Global Knowledge diligently work together to ensure major technology and course updates coincide. Any minor updates in technology can be highlighted on the spot, which proves to be a big advantage of instructor-led training. Our instructors bring the most current real-world examples to the classroom. Instructor-led courses enriched by real-world experience and hands-on labs are the gold standard of learning.

 

Recommended courses

Each course on the following list corresponds to one of the Microsoft certification exams listed above. Determining how to align a course to an exam lies in the last three digits of the Microsoft course and exam numbers. For example, the Microsoft Official Course 20413 is the recommended training for exam 70-413.

Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure (M20413)

  • Five-day instructor-led virtual classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will develop skills and knowledge required to plan, design and deploy a physical and logical Windows Server 2012 R2 infrastructure.

Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure (M20414)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom.
  • You will acquire the knowledge and skills to plan and implement a highly available, secure infrastructure with focus on Active Directory Federation Service (AD FS), public key infrastructure (PKI), and Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS).

Upgrading Your Skills to Windows Server 2016 MCSA (M20743)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will upgrade your technical skills from Windows Server 2008 or Windows 2012 to Windows Server 2016.

Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (M20532)

  • Four-day virtual instructor-led classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will learn the skills to build a highly available solution in the cloud, configure and deploy web applications as well as creating and configuring Azure virtual machines.

Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions (M20533)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will develop skills to implement infrastructure components such as virtual networks, virtual machines, containers, web and mobile apps, and storage in Azure.

Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions (M20535)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will learn to compare various infrastructure, serverless, database and communication services, such as App Services, Virtual Machine Scale Sets, Azure Cosmos DB, SQL Database, Container Service in Azure and more.

Configuring and Operating a Hybrid Cloud with Microsoft Azure Stack (M20537)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom.
  • You will learn how to describe the components and architecture then deploy Microsoft Azure Stack. Learn to offer resources, manage IaaS, PaaS, updates, monitoring and troubleshooting in Azure Stack.

Securing Windows Server 2016 (M20744)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will develop the skills to mitigate malware threats, identify security issues by using auditing and the Advanced Threat Analysis feature in Windows Server 2016, secure your virtualization platform, and use new deployment options (such as Nano server and containers) to enhance security.

Implementing a Software Defined Datacenter (M20745)

  • Five-day live or virtual instructor-led classroom or self-paced on-demand course.
  • You will learn how to implement and manage virtualization infrastructure in a software-defined datacenter by using System Center 2016 Virtual Machine Manager.

 

Training exclusives  

Global Knowledge offers training exclusives with the purchase of any Microsoft Official Course. Each course comes with 12 months access to the following benefits:

  • Practice labs
  • 24x7 mentoring
  • Indexed class recordings
  • Unlimited course retakes
  • Digital courseware

 

Azure free trial 

Aside from formal training, there are additional resources that candidates can review to feel better prepared for their required exams. For instance, Microsoft offers a free trial to Microsoft Azure, where participants can spend up to $200 in credits practicing the same skills they’ll need to pass exams.

Sign up for a free trial here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/free/    

 

 

Review exam objectives 

On each exam page (see MCSE: Cloud Platform & Infrastructure exam guide section above) you’ll find a list of exam objectives as well as a list of videos and prep materials that are recommended prior to testing. You can use these resources if you think you need more practice before taking a certification exam.

 

Recorded sessions and events 

Microsoft provides videos of many of its conference and events sessions at https://channel9.msdn.com/. These supplemental sessions can be used to focus on some of the areas that require more review before testing.

 

Azure Learning as a Service (LaaS) courses  

To fill any gaps in an annual training plan, Global Knowledge has introduced Azure LaaS. These courses are presented as a combination of text, downloadable eBooks, links to additional reading, instructional videos, demonstration videos, labs, and end-of-section reviews.

Meant to serve as a complement to a multi-day, instructor-led training course, these free, topic-based, on-demand courses will provide more detail to enrich your learning experience and further develop your pre-exam skills.

MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure exam: Tips & tricks

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Know what you need to know 

Microsoft certifications are neither easy nor fun, according to Tracy Wallace, lead Azure instructor at Global Knowledge. The exams dive deep into the finer points of the topics being tested, and almost every question seems like a trick question because they are nearly impossible to guess.

From Wallace’s blog post on tips for Microsoft certification exam:

“So, how do you know what will be on the exam? The scary answer is that you can’t, at least not everything. No matter how much you study, you will likely encounter questions you have never seen any material on (more about this later). However, breathe a sigh of relief because there is one place to go to find out most of the topics that will be on an exam. Microsoft publishes exam description pages for every exam they administer.”

 

Find good study material  

The Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) is the best study material you can ask for. The MOC content is written by experts and aligns with the exam objectives. The exam questions are not recited word-for-word in the courses, but the general concepts on the exam are covered in detail by the MOC course.

There are also myriad books available as study guides. Be sure you stick to the well-known and reputable publishers such as MS Press, APress, Sams, etc. and avoid the gray market content found on the internet. Most of the gray market sites violate Microsoft intellectual property rights and you could face significant penalties from Microsoft if you are discovered using them.

A resource that most overlook is TechNet (or MSDN for developers). While it is a massive repository of Microsoft knowledge, using a site search could help identify valuable content based on a list of skills you would like to develop.

 

Practice  

Practice using the technology and practice taking the exam. Using the technology is one of the most important aspects of learning and maintains the credibility of the certification. According to Wallace, “certifying people that have just studied for an exam and have not ever touched the product devalues the certification.”

Just because you know the technology doesn’t mean you’ll pass the exam. If you struggle with test taking, no amount of technology practice will prepare you for the exam. That is where practice exams come in. There are a couple of well-known companies that produce Microsoft sanctioned practice exams—Trancender and MeasureUp.

The good news? Global Knowledge offers Microsoft Official Courseware training that aligns with specific exams, and each course comes with hands-on labs to practice using the technology and select courses also include six-month access to practice exams.

 

Manage your time  

This is the universal test-taking tip that everyone knows, but few actually follow. When you sit for the exam you will be given a finite amount of time to answer a specific number of questions. Do some quick math and determine how much time you can spend on each question. From Tracy’s blog:

“I know a lot of exam candidates who have failed because they realized that they ran out of time and guessed at a number of questions. If you spend a couple of minutes on a question and don’t have the answer, make a guess, mark it and move on. If time permits go back and review the question, but only change the answer if you are sure of the right answer, or you are sure the guess you made is wrong.”

For more tips on taking the certification exam, check out the full blog post, Six Tips for Passing a Microsoft Certification Exam (from Someone Who Hates Taking Tests).

 

How do you know if you pass?  

A pass/fail status notification will be provided within a few minutes of completing your exam. You will also receive a printed report that details your score and any feedback on your performance for the skill areas measured by the exam. Your score will then be forwarded to Microsoft by your exam delivery provider within five business days of your exam date.

 

What happens if you don’t pass the exam?

If you happen to fall short of a passing score, you can retake the exam at your leisure. You should, however, take time to review your printed report and focus on the skills areas where you performed the weakest on the initial exam before retaking. If you don’t manage a passing score on the second retake, you will be placed into a 14-day waiting period before you can retake the exam for a third time, as well as each subsequent attempt. Review all the exam policies and frequently asked questions.

An exam retake is full price—unless you choose to take advantage of exam specials that Microsoft might be running. Review the current specials from Microsoft Learning.

How to maintain your MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification

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This MCSE certification does not expire or require recertification. However, each calendar year, you can add to your transcript by passing a different exam from the list of electives, which demonstrates your continued investment to broaden or deepen your skills in a specific technology area.

MCSE is the end of the Cloud Platform and Infrastructure path. There are two next steps: take a different elective Cloud Platform and Infrastructure exam each year to renew the “earned on” date of the MCSE, and/or start down another path (for example Windows Server MCSA and MCSE).

Check out our Microsoft Certifications page to determine your next path.

Once you pass the certification, to get maximum exposure, you’ll want to immediately load your certificate into your LinkedIn Profile (don’t forget to include your actual certificate number—LinkedIn refers to this as a “License Number”).

Summary

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Cloud computing delivers unparalleled value and agility compared to traditional on-premises data centers. Developing and nurturing cloud IT skills is an absolute imperative. In fact, many organizations today are held back on major IT initiatives because of their cloud skills gap. Amplify your status by earning the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification. You will develop the skills necessary to manage and scale existing workloads and help your company reach key business objectives.

 


About the author

Tom Tuttle 

Tom Tuttle is the product marketing manager for Global Knowledge’s Microsoft, Application Development and Analytics learning portfolios. He believes that marketing should be relevant above all, and that he will write the marketing workflow that will perfectly align every IT professional with the right course at the right time from Global Knowledge’s immense curriculum. Tom also fancies himself a chef, having once owned a popular central North Carolina-based food truck.

 

Mark Baugher contributed to this certification prep guide.