IT pros with one foot on premises and another foot in the Microsoft cloud now have a certification tailor-made for them to prove their Windows Server expertise in both environments.
Administrators who manage Windows Server systems who want to demonstrate their understanding of Microsoft's server OS will want to investigate the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification. A Microsoft certification is an asset for IT professionals to prove their skills to prospective employers or to satisfy requirements or initiatives at their current organization. In addition to real-world experience, a Microsoft certification gives IT pros a way to establish their skills and experience. As such, Microsoft certifications are widely regarded as being a worthwhile investment.
The evolution of Microsoft certifications
The Microsoft certification program has existed for decades, but it has evolved significantly in the last few years. Throughout most of its history, Microsoft certifications were tied to specific Microsoft products. At one time, for example, Microsoft's most basic certification was the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification, which typically demonstrated competency with a single Microsoft product such as Windows.
Other certifications were intended to document a solid understanding of products that were in some way related to one another. For example, in the 1990s Microsoft offered a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification that required candidates to pass a series of six exams. One of the exams focused on general networking, but the other five were product-related. Over time, Microsoft phased out the MCSE certification, although it later returned in a new form, and created other multi-exam certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certifications.
More recently, Microsoft has aligned its certification programs toward job functions rather than products. Microsoft now gears its certification programs toward different technical roles, including developers, administrators, data scientists and DevOps engineers. With this approach, candidates focus on the skills they need for their job -- or a job they want -- instead of learning how every product feature works even if there is no chance they will ever use that functionality in their line of work.
Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification requirements
As indicated by the hybrid designation, candidates for the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification will be expected to deploy and manage cloud services used in the data center and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) workloads that use Azure for different cloud-based jobs, such as storage or load balancing.
Candidates will have to pass two tests to obtain this certification that proves their aptitude in several areas related to the setup and administration of Windows Server, both on premises and in the cloud:
- AZ-800: Administering Windows Server Hybrid Core Infrastructure
- AZ-801: Configuring Windows Server Hybrid Advanced Services
The AZ-800 test concentrates on the fundamentals of Windows administration: virtualization, storage, networking and Active Directory.
The AZ-801 test covers more advanced topics that relate to disaster recovery, high availability, migration, monitoring, security and troubleshooting.
Each exam covers the on-premises aspects that administrators of Windows Server typically deal with, such as domain controller deployment and management in the data center, and hybrid configurations that can alleviate certain difficulties. For example, an enterprise might have a situation where an application is hosted both in Azure and on premises; the administrator will need to know how to replicate the domain controller in the Microsoft cloud to reduce any latency problems.
How to prepare for the AZ-800 and AZ-801 exams
While it is possible to read a book and pass a certification exam without real-world knowledge of a product, the exams will be easier if you practice the various skills in a lab environment without a significant financial investment.
You can evaluate Windows Server 2022 from the Microsoft Evaluation Center for 180 days for free. Microsoft also offers a free 12-month trial of Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
One of the more important steps to prepare for any Microsoft certification exam is to get familiar with the exam skills outline. The AZ-800 and AZ-801 exam pages on Microsoft's site have links to the exam skills outline, which is a list of the areas to become proficient in for the exam. You won't necessarily get a question for every skill on the list, but you should expect to see most of the items on the exam.
Studying is another essential part to prepare for any certification exam. Microsoft offers free online learning resources for many of its certification exams, but they tend to lack depth. To be fully prepared for the exam, you will most likely need additional study resources. There are also other study aids freely available online, on sites such as YouTube.
For paid study resources, there are several options, but there may not be much for AZ-800 and AZ-801 because they were made generally available in December. Paid study resources include instructor-led training, video-based courseware, books and practice exams.
Microsoft has strict rules regarding the types of study resources to prepare for its exams. The company will invalidate a certification if it finds the test-taker used any resource with actual exam questions, such as so-called "brain dump" sites or practice exams from questionable sources.
Understand the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification process
After you have prepared for the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification exams, the next step is to register for the tests. The exams are usually given at an authorized testing center and require candidates to present a government-issued ID. Once you have passed both required exams, Microsoft will award the certification and attach it to your profile in Microsoft's certification dashboard.
There is a fee to take a Microsoft certification exam. This fee varies by country, but in the United States the fee is typically $165 per exam. Occasionally Microsoft will discount exams as a part of a promotional offer. For example, Microsoft issued free certification vouchers and also offered discounted exams at its Ignite conference.
What is the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification renewal process?
Microsoft role-based certifications, such as the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification, are valid for one year from the date the final required exam was completed.
To keep the certification active, you will have to complete a renewal assessment prior to the expiration date. There is no cost for a renewal exam, which is the only accepted method to keep the certification current. You cannot renew a certification by passing the latest version of an exam that was required for the initial certification.