Virtual Village: One-Stop Shopping for Community

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All IT professionals can feel at home in the Virtual Village—Certification Magazine’s connection to its job-role-focused online communities—whether their offices are in the Bay Area, New Delhi, Berlin or any point in between. That’s because in each of our municipal modules, we bring to the fore the hottest, most interesting and important issues within 14 different IT disciplines. This month, we’ll round up some of the top themes in our communities, on subjects ranging from server suites to peeved end users.

Before beginning our monthly tour of the Virtual Village, though, we’d like to encourage readers to head down to see the new design and components of CertMag.com if they haven’t already. In particular, have a look at our community-driven discussion boards at www.certmag.com/forums. Your contributions to these threads just might end up in this column.

Career Development
Offshore outsourcing. Although it’s not considered the threat to employment opportunities it once was, it still can send a shiver down the backs of IT professionals in developed countries in North America and Europe. According to Brian Kramer, program director of IBM Learning Solutions, this phenomenon has begun to adversely impact Indian workers, as that country is running out of qualified IT professionals to meet the rising demands of international firms. As companies wage a global war for talent, it’s best to arm yourself with the right skills and education to compete. In this month’s Career Development feature, we’ll be taking a look at the ways IT pros can stay one step ahead of outsourcing. Check it out at www.certmag.com/careers.

CRM & E-Commerce
Design is an underrated yet vital quality in the e-commerce field. In fact, Prosoft Learning just revamped its CIW certification to include—among other things—more emphasis on the artistic side of Web development. In the CRM & E-Commerce forum, we asked what role design plays in online business. According to Ken Shafer, Certification Magazine’s director of e-media, it’s “huge.” “Besides ease-of-use and how intuitive the e-commerce app is altogether, a good design fosters a sense of trust,” he said. “Gaining the trust of first-time customers is the only way they’re ever going to be repeat customers. If you give them a shoddy-looking or poorly designed storefront, they’ll look elsewhere. Right?” You can respond to Ken’s comments or offer your own opinions on this and other topics in the CertMag.com discussion boards at www.certmag.com/forums.

Database
Although Fortune 500 companies get most of the press, the small- to medium-sized business (SMB) market is considerably large, and it needs database solutions just as the corporate giants do. In this month’s Database feature, technical trainer, consultant and frequent CertMag contributor Brad Causey offers an explanation of how database management practitioners can work with the SMB set. He maintains that database implementation strategies should entail careful selection of solutions from a single vendor like Sun, Microsoft or EMC. Also, Causey emphasizes extensive planning around skills, products and maintenance. Read the whole article at www.certmag.com/database.

Development & Design
When Bob Marley sang, “In this great future, you can’t forget your past,” he presumably wasn’t addressing IT designers specifically. Nonetheless, this is good advice for professionals developing new applications that will run in integrated environments. Some of the older technology out there is still getting the job done in many organizations, and figuring out how to run newer solutions alongside these can present a challenge. In the November article for the Development and Design community, we discuss the value of knowing a legacy language like C++ in an integrated world. Read about it at www.certmag.com/development.

Help Desk & Support
Help desk professionals have the often-thankless job of sitting through thorny conversations with difficult end users, whose feelings can range from slight frustration to fiery rage. The Help Desk & Support community feature this month outlines how professionals can keep a cool head while customers’ emotions boil over. One basic suggestion would be not to take the caller’s verbal digs personally, keeping in mind that old saw about sticks and stones. For other recommendations, go to www.certmag.com/helpdesk.

Open-Source
Some believe the open-source community modus operandi will come to dominate the information technology industry, while others consider it to be a kind of quirky gang on IT’s fringe that will never be fully mainstream. (Ironically, some open-source proponents fall into the second camp. They’re outsiders and they like it that way!) Still, no one could deny that open-source has made significant strides on the desktop in terms of both capabilities and number of users, and not just with the Linux operating system. In this month’s Open-Source community feature, we examine the progress of freeware like the KDE project and what the future might bring. Go to www.certmag.com/opensource to find out more.

Project Management
IT projects can break down for a variety of reasons. Perhaps initiatives lack the capital for proper execution, or maybe the tasks aren’t well aligned to the intended goals. Whatever the case, failure often boils down to one root cause: insufficient preparation. Thus, the planning stage of a project, when the phases, resources, workflow and goals are mapped out, is crucial. This month, CertMag.com contributor David Garrett delves into the essentials of a good project plan, which include limiting the scope and objectives of the project, and putting these into concise, clearly defined statements. For the rest, go to www.certmag.com/projectmanagement.

Security
Last year, the federal government received an overall grade of “D” on the House Government Reform Committee’s information security report card, with key departments like Homeland Security flunking the evaluation. However, measures are being taken to bring the public sector up to speed. An example of this is the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Directive 8570.1, which requires information assurance technicians and managers to be trained and certified to a DOD baseline requirement. This and other examples of government demand for certified information security professionals are detailed in this month’s Security feature, which is posted at www.certmag.com/security.

Storage
As enterprises’ information storage needs change, new strategies come to the fore. One such approach is the SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) 2.5 specification, which helps alleviate space and financial constraints on existing SAN solutions as storage demands grow. This month, Brian Solis, founder of technology-focused marketing firm FutureWorks, explains the SATA 2.5 specification and the central issues involved with its implementation and operation, including information life-cycle management (ILM) and tiered-storage architecture, data center needs, and rearranging information and applications. Get more on this topic at www.certmag.com/storage.

Systems & Networks
Server clustering, or the logical and physical connection between multiple independent computers under a single host within a network, has received quite a bit of attention of late. More and more organizations are following this methodology to augment availab

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