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Review of Train Signal Windows Server 2008 Active Directory Training
I work for Microsoft as a Partner Technical Consultant providing Microsoft Partners with Advisory, Deployment and Migration assistance on Platforms, System Center, Exchange and Virtualization Technologies. Part of my responsibilities is to help Microsoft Partners ramp up on latest Microsoft technologies. Training has always been my passion and I am a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and have been delivering MOC courses on Windows 2008/R2, SCCM, Windows Deployment, Exchange and Microsoft Virtualization.
One of the major challenges a Trainer has to face is to transfer the knowledge he/she has to the delegates and above all help them to channelize it for use in the real world. As a Microsoft Certified
Trainer, one thing I ensure while delivering the MOC courses is to ensure that I not only explain what the new features in the product are, but also when and where those features could be used in a production environment as well as the best practices of implementing it. Having worked on Active Directory Migrations, Transitions, Designing and Deployment, I have a pretty good knowledge on the subject.
My first interaction with TrainSignal was when I was searching for training on Exchange Server 2010. I had to learn Exchange 2010 as quickly as possible for a project that I was working on. An online search for the Training landed on the TrainSignal website. I could have used the Official MOC Course (10135) to ramp up on Exchange but was looking for some video based tutorials to minimize the learning curve.
As soon as I saw J.Peter Bruzzesse’s name as the instructor for the course, I decided to shell $397 for the Exchange 2010 course by TrainSignal. I must admit, it was worth every penny I invested. Peter is a top notch Trainer and has years of experience in training and on Exchange Server Technologies. More about the TrainSignal Exchange Server Training in my next blog post. Since I was pretty much impressed with the Exchange Course, I did some research on TrainSignal and found them to be best in Computer Based Training (CBTs).
During the recently organized Microsoft Career Conference which was attended by MCTs, students, IT Professionals worldwide, I had the opportunity to attend one of the sessions by Ed Liberman. Ed is an MCT, MCSE, MCDST,A+,NET+,SERVER+ certified professional and has more than 18 years of experience in Training and Technology. I must say, Ed you rock!!
He covered the Module 6(Group Policy) of the MOC Course 6425B on Active Directory 2008. The session had a huge number of attendees which is just a testament how famous Ed is. His explanations are much more simplified and he does a wonderful job of cementing what you need to know to master the subject. Ed currently works for TrainSignal as an Instructor for Windows Server related Technologies.
After the conference, I dropped an email to Ed requesting if I could review his course on Active Directory 2008/R2 via TrainSignal. He and Gary Eimerman (Director of Product Development, TrainSignal) were kind enough to send a review copy of the course. The copy arrived within a week since I am based out of India. Meanwhile, I was able to access the content online. The DVDs were shipped via UPS Courier and were well packaged from being damaged during Shipment.
The DVD Case contains three DVDS, the course being split over the first two discs while the third disc contains mp3, WMV and i-Pod files . That's a good gesture since the files on the third disc can be ported to an MP3 player or a portable video player so that you can learn while on the move. Excellent thought guys!
The Look and Feel
The PPTs used for the course are well crafted and the videos and videos are prepared using Camtasia Studio. The videos look very professional and that enhances the value of the training. Poor decks and horrible auditing can make a course rich in content fall flat on its face. This was expected from TrainSignal since they offer a course on PowerPoint as well J
The Actual Meat - The Content
All said and done, the part I was most interested in was the course content. Before I evaluate the course, let me explain the three parameters I look for in any training content or book.
Is it technically accurate?
Does it deliver the material it claims to deliver?
Is it worth to spend my hard earned dollars on?
The TrainSignal course on Active Directory aims to prepare your for the MCTS Exam 70-640, Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring.
The course has nearly 24 hours of training (23 Hours, 42 Minutes and 32 seconds to be precise) divided into 28 videos, breakdown of which is given below:-
Lesson 01 - Getting Started with Windows Server 2008 Active Directory
Lesson 02 - Lap Setup
Lesson 03 - Scenario
Lesson 04 - Introduction to Active Directory
Lesson 05 - The Role of DNS in Active Directory
Lesson 06 - Installing Windows Server 2008 R2 and Active Directory
Lesson 07 - Remote Management
Lesson 08 - Creating Active Directory Objects
Lesson 09 - Managing Active Directory Objects
Lesson 10 - Configuring Access to Network Resources
Lesson 11 - Configuring Group Policy Objects
Lesson 12 - Working with Group Policy Exceptions
Lesson 13 - Configuring Group Policy Preferences
Lesson 14 - Using Group Policy for Software Deployment
Lesson 15 - Configuring Password Policies
Lesson 16 - Delegating Administrative Control
Lesson 17 - Managing and Maintaining Active Directory
Lesson 18 - Active Directory Backup and Recovery
Lesson 19 - Creating Sites and Configuring Replication
Lesson 20 - Securing a Branch Office Domain Controller
Lesson 21 - Upgrading Your Active Directory Infrastructure
Lesson 22 - Working with Trust Relationships
Lesson 23 - Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services Overview
Lesson 24 - Active Directory Rights Management Services Overview
Lesson 25 - Active Directory Certificate Services Overview
Lesson 26 - Active Directory Federation Services Overview
Lesson 27 - Preparing for Your Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring (70-640) Certification Exam
Lesson 28 - Next Steps
I have already passed this exam and like I said before I work on Active Directory day in and day out. However I decided to watch these videos from the perspective of a student. As a student, it wouldn’t really matter how much Ed knows before the course begins, what would really matter is how much I, as a student can grasp at the end of the course. Ed does succeed in drilling down the AD concepts and explains them with his excellent presentation skills.
To begin with, Ed is an MCT. Period. Doesn’t that say it all? So what you would expect from an experienced and certified trainer like Ed stands good for this course too. Throughout the course, Ed talks about his experiences while explaining a topic and what you should do and what to avoid. The course begins with an introductory lesson that details Ed's profile and why he is eligible to teach it and about the overall TrainSignal training approach. The course uses a fictitious company called Globomantics (similar to the Exchange Course) and builds the entire AD Infrastructure for the company including transitioning of the AD Infrastructure from AD 2003 to 2008 for a company called WiredBrainCoffee.com (Like Ed mentions, the NetBIOS Name just strips of the last 'e' of the company name :-)...Ed, are you tired of using Contoso.com or Adatum.com??? 🙂 A good thing about the course setup is that it doesn’t seem to be a fake attempt to showcase the "real world" experience. The scenarios are craftily woven and gel with the concepts being discussed. Ed starts from nothing…yes nothing…just bare metal machines (actually VMs) and a vision. As the course progresses, you realize that one by one, you are nearing the end result of implementing an AD Infrastructure for Globomantics.com and implementing the vision. The course also includes a section on how to install Windows Server 2003 (for the upgrade video), Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.
The one video I would really recommend to go through again and again is the Lesson 5, role of DNS in Active Directory. Without having a solid background on how DNS queries work, understanding and troubleshooting AD issues would surely be a challenge. Those well versed with Installing and Configuring Server 2008 R2 and with Remote Desktop may skip Lesson 6 and 7, but I would still recommend going through it to maintain the flow and catch up on something new that Ed knows and you don’t.
Lessons 8 and Lesson 9 deal with creating and managing Active Directory Objects. The topics detailed closely align with the Official MOC course especially the use of command line utilities like dsadd. That's one thing I liked about the course that does incorporate most of topics and techniques detailed in the official course MOC 6425B which is a 5 day course and one of the most popular ones to be delivered by CLPS worldwide.
Lessons on Group Policies including GP Preferences and GPSI (Group Policy Software Deployment) are concise and clear. Fine-Grained Password Policies, first implemented in Server 2008 is taught in Lesson 15. A must watch. Distribution of Administrative work load by using Delegation is explained in Lesson 16. Few of the most crucial videos to look out for in this course are the ones on Maintaining, Backing Up and Recovering AD, Sites and Replication, RODC and Trust relationships. I really liked the use of Serve Core and CoreConfigurator to deploy a RODC since most of the trainers I have seen use the Full blown installation to deploy server core since they tend to shy away from command-line administration or simply aren't aware of the Core Configurator Tool.
The course does contain an upgrade scenario (transition to be more precise) but does not cover Inter-Forest Migration using the ADMT tool. Also, it would have been great if Ed could have demonstrated an AD health check using DCDiag, Repadmin to check for any AD issues prior running the adprep to prepare the forest and domain. The reason I ask for this is that it’s a must task in actual production scenarios since we need to ensure that we have a healthy AD before it is upgraded to 2008 R2 (schema version 47).
Note that during the decommissioning process of the DC in Seattle, we get an error stating "Failed to configure the NETLOGON Service as requested because the wait operation timed out". This happens frequently in production environments as well. In order to resolve this, just hit the back button and click the next button again. Weird Resolution but that does work. Also, if we still experience such errors a mention of the dcpromo /forceremoval to forcefully demote the DC could have been mentioned in the video. However, Ed does mention a real world case in this video and emphasizes on planning your upgrade which is a must. Other components of the AD Infrastructure like LDS (earlier AD Application Mode), RMS and Certificate Services are discussed in the subsequent videos.
The secrets of effectively preparing for the 70-640 exam are unveiled out by Ed in Lesson 27 and 28. I for sure loved the tips and tricks shared by Ed to help prepare and master the subject.
The Oops and the Misses!
In one of the videos about AD groups, Ed mentions that Distribution Groups do not have SIDs. That's not true. Distribution Groups do have SIDs but they are never used. You can use the Attribute Editor (use View -> Advanced Features and go to the Properties of the Group.
Also, though we could never revert a Domain Functional Level (DFL) after raising it to the Highest DFL, with the introduction of the 2008 R2 DFL and Forest Functional Level (FFL), there is an exception to this rule. When you raise the domain functional level to Windows Server 2008 R2 and if the forest functional level is Windows Server 2008 or lower, you have the option of rolling the domain functional level back to Windows Server 2008.
You can lower the domain functional level only from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2008. If the domain functional level is set to Windows Server 2008 R2, it cannot be rolled back, for example, to Windows Server 2003. This is not possible via the GUI (Active Directory Domains and Trusts) but via PowerShell command-lets.
Refer http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/understanding-active-directory-functional-levels(WS.10).aspx for more details.
I was a bit disappointed to see that the AD Recycle Bin and Managed Service Accounts (new to 2008 r2) not being covered in the course. AD Recycle Bin looks too covered in the TrainSignal Windows 2008 R2 Course but should ideally have found a place in this course as well in my humble opinion.
Active Directory and Group Policy PowerShell Command-lets and Active Directory Administrative Center could also have been mentioned. But again, the course caters to a larger audience who would be need to be trained on the basics first before dwelling too deep
The Item-Level Targeting in GPP (Group Policy Preferences) could have been mentioned.
Now, this by no means devalues this excellent course on Active Directory. I really appreciate that
TrainSignal wanted me to write an honest review and that's what I have penned in here.
The Final Verdict!
Just with basic knowledge of networking, the Windows Guru Ed Liberman walks you through series of demonstrations and a fictitious company called Globomantics to help you assimilate the core concepts of Active Directory in Server 2008/R2.
I was so impressed with this course that I ended up watching it twice.
If you really want to learn about "Active Directory" and not just mug up or cram your way to success in the examination, TrainSignal is the way to go for. Ed's excellent presentation skills coupled with his extensive knowledge on the subject and the hands-on approach of TrainSignal will equip you with all you need to successfully administer, configure and troubleshoot your AD Infrastructure. Not only that, you can easy pass the 70-640 exam by watching these videos, practicing the labs and using the Transcender Exam Preparation Tool that comes as a bonus when you purchase the course.
Ed, Gary and TrainSignal, a Thumbs Up for you guys! Awesome Stuff! I would highly recommend this course and is a true value for money.
The course is offered at a price of $397 which includes online access as well as Transcender Practice Exams which is a huge bonus.
My Rating 9.5/10.
For more information about Train Signal’s video training courses, visit their website at www.trainsignal.com