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Preparing for 70-668: PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator

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In this third article in Scott Jamison's SharePoint 2010 certification series, he provides an overview of the PRO administrator exam, otherwise known as 70-668.

This third article in my SharePoint 2010 certification series provides an overview of the PRO administrator exam, otherwise known as 70-668. To give you an idea of where this exam fits in, let’s briefly discuss the four core SharePoint 2010 exams. The SharePoint 2010 exams are broken down into two primary categories: SharePoint administrator (for IT Professionals) and SharePoint developers. They are also categorizes by the first two stages of Microsoft Certification (TS and PRO). Table 1 summarizes the four exams:

Table 1


Admin/IT Pro

Developer

TS (hands-on focused)

70-667 TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring

70-573 TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development

PRO (design-focused)

70-668 PRO: SharePoint 2010 Administrator

70-576 PRO: Designing and Developing SharePoint 2010 Applications

The 70-668 administrator exam covers skills related to designing a SharePoint 2010 farm architecture. As such, much of the exam is conceptual rather than “hands-on.” This exam is geared towards architectural planning and design (rather than the configuration itself) and focuses on administrative rather than developer topics. The version of SharePoint 2010 is not licensing-specific; the exam will cover features in SharePoint Foundation, SharePoint Server Standard, and SharePoint Server Enterprise. The exam does not cover FAST for SharePoint design topics.

Exam Overview

So what topics does the exam cover? In general, this exam covers design and planning of a SharePoint 2010 farm deployment based on a set of business and technical requirements. The exam will test your ability to correctly analyze a given scenario and then use the best SharePoint feature(s) to accomplish a given goal. You’ll also have to create the best logical and physical design for the solution.

The exam is broken into four main topic areas:

  • Designing a SharePoint 2010 Farm Topology
  • Planning SharePoint 2010 Deployment
  • Defining a SharePoint 2010 Operations Strategy and Business Continuity
  • Planning for Search and Business Solutions

To pass this exam, you’ll want to have a combination of conceptual understanding and hands-on experience, with an emphasis on design. The following section covers the areas that I think are the most critical for passing the exam.

Designing a SharePoint 2010 Farm Topology

This category covers several topics related to the logical and physical design of SharePoint 2010. Topics in this category include items related to Active Directory, DNS, SQL Server, IIS, server design, and SharePoint servers (number and role). For this category, I recommend that you do the following to prepare (note the links to various articles that I strongly recommend you read):

  1. Download and read the Planning guide for server farms and environments for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 document. The information in this guide (and the corresponding materials referred to in the document) represent most of the information you’ll need to know for this exam.
  2. Become familiar with the SharePoint 2010 Planning Worksheets, and understand what each one is used for. The sheets themselves won’t be covered, but the planning principles behind them will be.
  3. Download all of the SharePoint 2010 Technical Diagrams available on TechNet and study them. Understand the recommendations that each one calls out.
  4. Next, build a multi-server SharePoint 2010 farm from scratch. Create service accounts using least-privilege principles. I highly recommend that you build your own Active Directory and DNS server. I recommend that you create three servers: two running SharePoint 2010 and one running SQL Server. Try scripting the installation, as you’ll need to understand some PowerShell for the exam. Make sure that the servers have different roles (make one a web front-end and the other an application server). Don’t run the service application wizard—this will do too much of the work for you.
  5. Set up DNS and create several fully qualified domain names (FQDNs), creating Alternate Access Mappings (AAM) for them.
  6. Become familiar with the Sharepoint 2010 Technical Diagrams on TechNet, especially the Topology diagrams, as illustrated in Figure 1.
  7. Figure 1 SharePoint 2010 Topology diagrams (Click Image to Enlarge)

Planning SharePoint 2010 Deployment

Once you have logical and physical architecture and design down cold, you’ll want to jump into upgrade and migration strategies, which is a big part of the deployment section. Here are a few preparation steps you should undertake:

  1. Be sure to read the TechNet article on SharePoint 2010 authentication. Understand the trade-offs between Windows classic, Windows Claims, and SAML Claims. And know that you need to use Claims if you want Forms-Based Authentication (FBA).
  2. Configure Kerberos on your primary Web Application and claims- and forms-based authentication on your second Web Application.
  3. Read the TechNet article titled Determine Upgrade Approach, which will get you familiar with the most common upgrade methods and planning items.
  4. Build a single-server SharePoint 2007 environment using a virtual environment (for example, Hyper-V, VMWare, or Virtual Box), then upgrade it by:
    1. running a PreUpgradeCheck report and reviewing its contents;
    2. performing three types of upgrades: in place, database attach, and visual;
    3. in addition, upgrading the SSP and check that the user profiles made it over successfully.

Defining a SharePoint 2010 Operations Strategy and Business Continuity

Now that you’ve got a solid test environment working (and you understand all that goes into planning and designing a SharePoint environment), you’ll need to understand what goes into keeping SharePoint 2010 up and running. This section primarily focuses on uptime (do you need five nines?) and recovery (do we have sufficient backups?). Be sure to do the following:

  1. Review the Plan to protect content by using recycle bins and versioning article, which covers recycle bin planning. Note that SharePoint 2010 SP1 adds site-level recycle bin recovery, but the exam has NOT been updated for SP1.
  2. Also review the article Plan for backup and recovery, which helps you get familiar with RPO (recovery point objective, which is how much data you can afford to lose), RTO (recovery time objective, which is how fast you need the system back), and RLO (recovery level objective, which is the granularity of your recovered data—in SharePoint, that’s a whole farm, a site, a list, or a single document). And since it’s a Microsoft product, Data Protection Manager is covered in the exam.
  3. Availability is also covered in the exam; the Plan for availability article provides sufficient coverage of this topic.
  4. Review the difference between hot, warm, and cold standby options, which is covered in the Plan for disaster recovery article on TechNet.
  5. Finally, study the high availability topology options whitepaper for SharePoint 2010, as much of the information on the exam will be related to this topic.

Planning for Search and Business Solutions

The fourth type of content on the exam focuses primarily on three of the most-used Service Applications: search, user profile, and managed metadata. We’ll cover the best sources of information for those three applications here.

  1. Search Service Application
  2. I’d recommend that you put the most time into the search section, as this will be covered the most on the exam. TechNet has an entire Search Resource center that provides topologies and scaling options. Jason Apergis also has a good blog series on Search in SharePoint 2010.

  3. User Profile Service Application (UPA)
  4. Your best options for learning about planning for the UPA are twofold. First, download and read the Planning and Deploying SharePoint Server 2010 User Profiles for My Site Web Sites white paper, which provides an overview of the planning you should do. Then read Spencer Harbar’s excellent blog post on configuring the UPA. These two resources together will provide everything you need to know about User Profiles and the Social Computing features of SharePoint that are covered in the exam.

  5. Managed Metadata Service
  6. The only resource you’ll need for this exam regarding the MMS is the Managed Metadata Service overview on TechNet. It’s a good read.

Other Preparation Materials

In addition to the self-led tasks and online resources I’ve mentioned here, you should also read Essential SharePoint 2010 (full disclosure: I’m one of the co-authors) and, if you can, the the official Microsoft training course, 10231A—Designing a Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Infrastructure. I highly recommend this course, as it maps to the exam directly and is one of the better ‘official’ Microsoft courses I’ve seen for SharePoint 2010.

Taking the Exam

This exam is very wordy. Each question is pretty short, but the scenario that prefaces and sets up the question is lengthy. You’ll want to jot down key items from the use case provided.

Your best bet, as with any certification exam, is to answer the ones you’re sure of and ‘mark’ the ones you’re not. Remember—there could be more than one answer that will work; you should choose the “best” answer for the scenario in question. In this exam, there are subtle differences between a good answer and the best answer.

Summary

The SharePoint 2010 certifications are an invaluable part of an overall training and certification plan. The 70-668 should be an easy pass if you’ve got experience designing large-scale solutions using SharePoint 2010. Just be sure to get some hands-on work using both the SharePoint 2010 Central Administration UI and PowerShell scripts.

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