Microsoft provided training

When it comes to finding information or learning more about the SQL Server and it’s features, the professional community around the product is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. I personally have a score of SQL Server blogs in my bookmarks, I visit SQL Server forums and follow a bunch of world-class experts in Twitter. Basically, there’s a wealth of information out there and unlike many other things in this world, it’s completely free.

While I personally enjoy it, self-study is not for everyone. And there are certain benefits in a classroom style courses, such as the opportunity to take some distance to your work and to concentrate on the subject at hand. Unfortunately, at least here in Finland, these learning opportunities are bit limited. There’s the Finnish PASS chapter (PASS Helsinki) that arranges meetings few times a year and recently it’s also been possible to join these meetings online, which is great for people living further away (like me). Then there’s a number of companies that offer formal training, but their courses are often limited to basic courses.

And then there is the Microsoft itself, in fact, I just recently registered into one of the Microsoft Workshops and it inspired this quick post. Microsoft offers all sorts of training, some of it is free and some of it isn’t. I’m going to concentrate on the latter category as the services there are probably little less known than the TechNet resources and webcasts.

Microsoft Workshops

I work for a company that is a Microsoft Premier Customer and this grants us access to wide variety of Microsoft workshops, I just received the latest workshop catalog today and it looked sweet indeed! Personally I’ve attended several Microsoft workshops, including advanced troubleshooting (that made debugging memory dumps fun!), Vital Signs (there was so much I didn’t know about PerfMon back then) and a number of clustering and SQL Server workshops. Trainers in these workshops are Premier Field Engineers and they tend to be pretty smart people, capable of answering questions outside the course material. And in the rare few cases they haven’t been able to give an answer straight away, they have had one usually in the following morning, often straight from the developers themselves.

If you’re a Premier Customer, I whole-heartedly recommend that you check out the Microsoft workshop offering, they’re definitely worth the invested time and money.

Risk Assessment Programs

There’s also another source of training from Microsoft Premier Services that I’d like to endorse. The Risk Assessment Programs, or RAPs, for short. While RAP is not purely a training session, there’s a lot of knowledge transfer involved. The topics discussed in RAPs range from configuration best practices to SQL code, database structures, disaster recovery, update procedures and the even skills of the people maintaining the target environment.

RAPs are indeed very thorough and you likely end up with more knowledge about SQL Server in general and about your SQL Server instance(s). During the RAP you’ll also get a couple of reports and lists, highlighting not only the issues but also the things you’re doing well. We’ve done several SQL Server RAPs (and one for the Windows Clusters) in the past and this gives us a plenty of historical data to evaluate against, so it’s another baseline to see if our changes have had the desired impact.

Cluster Server Disaster Recovery Service

This is something we’ve not yet done, but it’s planned for the end of this summer. It’s a nearly week-long engagement where we’ll be doing horrible, horrible things to a Windows Cluster until it breaks, likely more than once. And then we’ll fix it! At the end of the engagement, we’ll have documentation and procedures to recover Windows Cluster from number of disasters.

I’m actually quite excited about this one and I’ll be definitely blogging about it, once we’re done with the engagement. So expect to hear more about this after July.

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