Today a nice box of author copies of “Exam Ref 70-345 Designing and Deploying Microsoft Exchange Server 2016” arrived at my door. What a title. I have begun referring to in conversation as the “Exchange 2016 certification guide.”
Holding a physical copy of the book in my hands marks the end of a long process for me, which started in March this year when I signed a contract to co-author the book for Microsoft Press. Hopefully it marks the beginning of a new certification journey for many of you reading this.
The Journey to Publication
This year has taught me that traditional book publishing is a very different beast than the self-publishing we’ve been doing for the likes of Office 365 for IT Pros. When we publish eBooks we write, write, write, edit, produce, and then ship as soon as the book is ready to go. Then we fix anything that needs fixing afterwards, because no book is ever perfect. The experience of my first book with a traditional publisher (Microsoft Press) wasn’t the same. Not better or worse, just different. With the contract signed in March I needed to wrap up some other commitments first, then did most of my writing in May and June, which were hectic months of working late nights and weekends to meet my deadlines.
Things suddenly get very quiet after you hand in your first drafts for editing and review. There’s little jobs like writing introductions, acknowledgements, and bios, but nothing substantial. Until the publisher comes back with comments and questions that need fast turnaround, so there’s another flurry of activity to address all the feedback items. After completing edits there’s one last burst of activity when the final proofs are sent to you for review. The only changes that can happen at this stage are minor corrections, nothing substantial that would impact the layout of the content on the pages. As it turns out, I did miss at least one typo that has made it into the final print of the book and will haunt me forever. But such is life in the world of print publications.
After proofs were reviewed everything went quiet again. I was assured that the layoff of Microsoft Press editorial staff would not impact this particular book, and to my relief it looks like it hasn’t (although who knows what went on behind the scenes to get this project completed). The change from “pre-order” to “in stock” happened with little fanfare. Last night I was surfing around Amazon and noticed the book was now listed as in stock, and is already a “hot new release” in the Microsoft certification category (behind what I’m sure is a mis-categorized Python book).
Is Certification for Exchange Server 2016 Worth It?
I know that some of you might be wondering whether Exchange 2016 certification is worth pursuing these days, considering the clear trend towards Office 365. If you’re already interested or perhaps still considering it, I’ve got an offer towards the end of this blog post that might be helpful to you.
Some of you are already convinced it’s not worth certifying for an on-premises product in a cloud-first world. For IT pros who work for customers that are well into their cloud journey, I happen to think that Exchange 2016 certification is still of great value, even though Office 365 adoption is growing so fast.
The on-premises Exchange product is the same code that runs in Exchange Online. While it’s true that cloud services take away a lot of the concerns of deploying and managing on-premises infrastructure, there’s far more to Exchange than building servers, managing storage, troubleshooting DAGs, and other tasks that Microsoft takes care of for you when you host your email in office 365. The features of Exchange that provide a lot of the business value to customers and end users are yours to administer whether you’re on-premises or in the cloud.
To break that down, here’s the exam objectives for 70-345:
- Plan, deploy, manage and troubleshoot mailbox databases (15-20%)
- Plan, deploy, manage and troubleshoot client access services (15-20%)
- Plan, deploy, manage and troubleshoot transport services (15-20%)
- Plan, deploy and manage an Exchange infrastructure, recipients, and security (15-20%)
- Plan, deploy and manage compliance, archiving, eDiscovery and auditing (10-15%)
- Implement and manage coexistence, hybrid scenarios, migration and federation (10-15%)
Of those objective, the first three (mailbox databases, client access, and transport) are perhaps 20-40% directly relevant to Exchange Online customers. But even so, there’s value in understanding how Exchange infrastructure works to provide resilience and high availability, rather than be a mysterious cloud service. For example being able to speak confidently about how Native Data Protection, and how Exchange Online doesn’t use traditional backups (gasp!), is helpful for consultants dealing with clients who are unsure about “the cloud”, or IT teams pitching to internal business customers.
For the other three exam objectives I would say they are more like 70-80% directly relevant to Exchange Online customers. Topics such as managing recipients, RBAC roles, auditing, retention policies, data loss prevention, rights management, federation, hybrid, and eDiscovery are as important in the cloud as they are on-premises. And not all of those topics are covered by the Office 365 certification exams, so if you want to learn them and gain an acknowledgement of your proficiency in those areas, then Exchange 2016 certification is a good way to go.
And as an added bonus, there’s only one Exchange 2016 exam, instead of the two separate exams that have been required for Exchange 2013 and earlier versions. So if you’re contemplating an Exchange exam to fulfill an MCSA/MCSE requirement, or to fulfill a Microsoft Partner requirement, it might be faster to just do the Exchange 2016 exam.
One last thing! When you get your hands on your copy of the book, take a selfie and tweet it to @ExchServPro to let me know. I can’t wait to see people reading the book and passing their Exchange 2016 certification exam.
Thanks for your support, and good luck!