Are Cloud Certifications Worth Your Time?
IT certifications have been around for ages. They can help IT professionals boost their resume and keep their skills sharp. The community is often split on the benefits of cloud certifications, however, with some finding them worthwhile and others arguing that cloud is too broad of a category, with too many competing vendors and platforms for certifications to be valuable.
IT certifications have always been vendor-driven, however, and if you expect to work with a specific vendor’s tools, a certification can be one way to help you secure a position or provide better service to your company’s clients. If you’re a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or cloud channel partner, a certification might help you get more business, too.
What are the main pros and cons of getting cloud certified?
What ARE the UpsideS of Certifications?
The most obvious benefit of a cloud certification is that is might make you more attractive to your current or potential employer. You might be able to use it to leverage a pay raise or promotion, and your company can advertise your department’s skills to clients.
Preparing for a certification test can help you get a handle on best practices and nitty-gritty details alike. For example, the CompTIA Cloud+ certification has questions like:
- Which of these storage provisioning methods is implemented at the SAN hardware level?
- What are proper resource monitoring techniques?
- Explain the differences between hypervisor types.
- Which of the following is the meaning of IaaS?
Vendor specific questionnaires might have you tailor your answers more towards a particular product, but they will also require the same mix of general and specific knowledge in order to pass.
Beyond gaining you career opportunities, plus basic to advanced knowledge of cloud as concept as well as individual solutions, some certifications can expand your abilities in related IT realms like security, networking, and governance.
What Cloud Certifications Are There?
There are vendor-neutral certifications from third parties as well as tests for individual platforms. Here are some of the major cloud certifications available:
- CompTIA Cloud Essentials or Cloud+: these certifications cover cloud as a concept, from business and technical sides. It was created by IT executives as well as a vendor-neutral conglomerate of companies like IBM, EMC, Cisco, and HP. The Cloud+ certification highly recommends 2-3 years of previous IT experience, so it gets a bit more in-depth.
- VMware Certified Professional: For shops specializing in VMware’s virtualization suite, the VCP programs can deliver product knowledge in Cloud Infrastructure Design, Cloud Governance, vSphere, ESXi, Horizon, and more.
- Cloud Credential Council: this independent organization offers specific certifications for Business, Technology, Administrator, Developer, Security Manager, Solutions Architect, and more.
- Red Hat Certificate of Expertise in IaaS: this test will get you up to speed on Red Hat OpenStack virtualization. It is unique in using live test systems rather than having you answer questions.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert – Private Cloud: this program focuses on Hyper-V as well as Microsoft apps like Exchange. Before you can take cloud specific MCSE tests, you must pass Windows Server 2012 and other requirements.
- CloudU: this free training consists of 10 quizzes drawn from white papers, videos, and other training materials, with a final capstone exam. It was created by Rackspace but is vendor-neutral.
So Why Wouldn’t I Get Certified?
Many argue that experience is better for your career and your abilities than passing a test online, especially when it comes to cloud computing. Cloud requires a broad range of IT skills no matter the vendor, and at a vendor-neutral provider, administrators must also be familiar with a variety of software and hardware providers.
Tests are also expensive if your employer isn’t footing the bill—they can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Some believe a certification is therefore a way to buy a leg up, rather than truly learning. By focusing on a specific certification, you are tailoring your knowledge to that test rather than real-world situations.
Certifications also tend to be a short-lived standard, especially in the fast moving world of cloud computing. Vendors will often revise certifications from year to year, requiring you to retake the test to remain current.
Ultimately the value of a cloud certification will have to be determined on an individual basis. They can make a great launching point to start learning and refining your cloud knowledge, and some of the more advanced vendor tests can certainly help you gain expertise on their related platforms. But you’ll have to decide if the certification is worth more than spending that time on real-world experience. Clouds may be fluffy, but they can still put you through a school of hard knocks, and hands-on failures (and successes) are likely to be much more memorable.