If you have already decided that storage certification is in your future, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Certifications in general have different meanings and importance for different jobs. If you are new to an industry, job or skill set with limited experience, a certification in a particular skill set can help you with more technically focused positions and vendor-specific technology. Ask your friends and co-workers to see what certifications they have or that they are considering pursuing for career and job growth. You may find out that certain vendor-specific skill sets and certifications are needed for a particular job, while others are not necessary. On the other hand, you may also discover that, while certification would be a plus, the focus on actual applied experience is more important.
Regardless of what type of certification or education you are looking for, make sure that it is relevant and applicable to the job tasks that you are going to be performing. This requires understanding what the certification addresses in terms of content, hands on experience, level and depth of detail. This involves determining if a certification and subsequent prep work is theory or applied, based on real-world examples or hands-on lab time where appropriate. For example, if you are looking for storage area network (SAN) certification to do troubleshooting and diagnostics, you would want to pursue a more hands-on and in-depth-focused storage training and certification. On the other hand, knowing how to use a protocol analyzer makes for good conversation in some circles, but it may be too in-depth for other job functions.
Besides general certificates of accomplishments from technical and vocational schools, community colleges and universities, certifications pertaining to storage are predominately available from vendors or industry trade associations. For example, the storage networking industry association (SNIA) education committee offers certifications and qualifications with test preparation and training available from different sources. While this is not an exhaustive list, some firms providing different depth of training and education that can help prepare you for storage-related certifications and skill set development include:
Industry related conferences, symposiums and seminars often have an optional skills development, training, education and certification program. While this is not an exhaustive list, some examples include:
Vendor specific storage certifications are available from most vendors directly, via a training partner or in conjunction with an industry organization. Examples include Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp., Hitachi Data Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, McData Corp., Microsoft, Network Appliance Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Symantec Corp. among others.
Another approach to certification is a qualification program, such as the SNIA qualified sales progression (SQSP) program focused on the subject matter applicable to storage presales or sales systems engineer position. This differs from many other certifications that tend to be more technical and in-depth that may not be applicable to a sales or marketing professional. For sales professionals who need more in-depth training, there are always additional certifications available to pursue.
Take time to understand what certifications are applicable for what you are looking to do, along with sources for obtaining required training and skill sets. Ask your self what benefit will certification provide to you and your job, and at what expense? Does the training provide you with hands on or real-world-applied experience that you can not get elsewhere? What is the experience and skill set of those providing training and certification? Certificates are great to hang on the wall or include in a resume. However, even better is to seek out and get some real-world-applied experience when you can.
My own certifications include a master's of science degree in software engineering, an undergraduate degree in computer science, along with many vendor and industry course/seminar attendance certificates accumulated in over 25 years of experience as an IT customer, vendor and analyst, as well as contributing material to the SNIA architect and SQSP exams of which my book "Resilient Storage Networks" (Elsevier) is SNIA endorsed reading and a study resource.
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About the author: Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst with the IT infrastructure analyst and consulting firm StorageIO. Greg is also the author and illustrator of "Resilient Storage Networks" (Elsevier) and has contributed material to "Storage" magazine and other TechTarget venues.