The Value of Storage Certification
Storage management has been with us since the early days of computing. During the past several years, storage professionals have emerged from the ranks of systems administrators. As information management moves from the processor to storage layers, new opportunities are being created beyond mere networking. The historical view of storage networking and management as the “black box behind the curtain” has been shattered.
For those IT professionals who are looking to enhance their value in the marketplace, certification in storage networking could be just the ticket. Storage networking is an integral part of any IT strategy, and industry associations and user groups dedicated to storage networking have been created in response. Established standards make it possible to create viable and recognized credentials. Vendors, resellers and end users understand the growing importance of storage networking and the need to have validated professionals in place.
For many companies, data is the most valuable asset. How data is managed, accessed, secured and backed up are just a few areas of expertise an IT professional needs to acquire in order to maximize and protect this asset. But what about disaster recovery? You have to ensure that data is protected and can be brought back on line in case something does happen. How can an employer know if the people have the expertise to manage their data and make sure it is secure?
There are many other factors to consider when putting together an IT infrastructure. Capacity planning and performance are two critical factors in storage networking. Does the CIO have qualified people to keep the business in business? Data management, which includes information lifecycle management (ILM), is also gaining momentum because systems can be overwhelmed if they are not planned and managed properly.
How about best practices for professional services, including assessing storage networking needs for your company and designing a plan to meet that need? Knowing how to leverage ITIL and ITSM principles into this assessment can help ensure success. Credentials for these skills can be most valuable.
Storage networking certifications can offer validations in such areas. When considering storage networking certifications, it is important to ensure that the credential brings value in the marketplace and addresses the role you perform or wish to perform. Possible roles include storage network administration and/or management, storage network implementation and professional services positions that include technical assessment along with planning and storage network design.
For those considering any specialized storage certification, foundational training and certification is a logical starting point. Foundational material should include basic storage technology, disk drive technology, SCSI, Fibre Channel, IP storage, network attached storage (NAS), virtualization, storage management, data management and continuity management. Completing the foundation-level material will help you decide which storage networking area and role to focus on.
Research all of the available storage networking certifications to help determine which will have the most value in the short and long term. If management dictates that you must get certified, but doesn’t indicate a preferred focus or method, then the path of least resistance might be the way to go. If management dictates that a credential is needed, but not necessarily a certification, an online qualification credential might be a viable alternative.
If a certification program has done a job-task analysis, the audience description should have enough detail to help you make a wise decision. Another key is to look at the exam objectives. Do they make sense? If the description and the test objectives don’t seem to line up, then it might be wise to back off.
Another relevant factor is whether or not the credential or test can be used in more than one program. That in itself is a time and money saver. The trend toward cross-pollination of credentials and exams is an opportunity to be leveraged.
What about recertification? How easy is it to keep a credential current? Is the program responsible for the certification going to keep to the program up-to-date?
Another way to do research is to ask your peers. There might be something new out there that better fits your career directions.
Storage networking is a field with tremendous growth potential, and there is a strong need for certifiably competent workers. As storage networking becomes more standardized, more storage networking certifications will become available and more valuable to the IT professional.
Peter Manijak is the education director of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and has more than 10 years of experience managing corporate training and certification programs on a worldwide basis. For more information, see www.snia.org.