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Thursday, December 8, 2016

How IT pros can prepare themselves for 2017

Being an IT pro means regularly acquiring new skills and certifications to keep up with a rapidly evolving industry. The pace of change in the technology sector has seemed to accelerate over the past decade with the introduction of commercial cloud computing, smartphones, tablets, wearables and the Internet of Things. This means that many in the industry must constantly look ahead and consider what they can do to improve their skill sets.

With 2017 around the corner, what should IT personnel focus on? There are a few areas that deserve more attention in the new year, including:

Collaboration applications

The meteoric rise of the chat app Slack, which in early 2016 had a multi-billion dollar estimated valuation, has underscored the numerous collaboration opportunities opened up by cloud-based services and mobile devices. On the surface, Slack - like competitors such as Atlassian HipChat - is not all that different from many 1990s-era services such as Internet Relay Chat. But its numerous integrations with other apps as well as its seamless cross-platform design have made it more popular among businesses than any of its predecessors.

"Obtaining an Office 365 certification is an important step in mastering collaboration tools."

Large firms such as Microsoft have taken notice and rolled out their own alternatives. Microsoft Teams is now included in Office 365 as a free add-on, with numerous features for tracking project completion and communicating with stakeholders. Obtaining an Office 365 certification is an important step in mastering collaboration tools like Teams, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, in addition to the better-known productivity suite of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Database technologies

There has been a major debate in recent years about whether SQL or NoSQL databases are ideal for large-scale workloads. NoSQL made many inroads in the early 21st century as major web services became more prominent. But SQL has made a comeback thanks to solutions that offer the extensive scalability that enterprises now expect from databases. There has also been a push for SQL compatibility among NoSQL databases.

In the current environment, technical certification in an application such as Microsoft SQL Server can be especially useful for acquiring the knowledge and expertise you need to improve your career prospects. SQL Server is tightly integrated with other applications such as Power BI. Those two programs, for example, can be used in concert to run reports with Reporting Services sending data to a Power BI dashboard. SQL Server 2016 also now includes more advanced capabilities for being run on-premises, in the cloud or as a hybrid deployment.

Database tech is again a hot topic for 2017.Database tech is again a hot topic for 2017.

Public cloud platforms

A lot of what we have talked about so far, from chat apps to SQL Server deployments, is fundamentally dependent on cloud infrastructure. Organizations of all types have invested heavily in cloud technologies in recent years, including software applications, development platforms and on-demand infrastructure. Any preparations for 2017 must include giving some level of attention to deepening expertise in cloud tech. Microsoft Azure is one of the best-known public cloud platforms, along with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform.

Azure is available in a wide range of deployment options, including as Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service. It supports web apps (through the Azure App Services Web Apps component), SQL Server (via either the PaaS-based Azure SQL Database or the IaaS-oriented SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines) and many other apps and services. Becoming certified in Azure will teach you the ins and outs of customizing Microsoft's cloud for the particular requirements of your organization.

The Internet of Things

The IoT is a vast new network of connected devices, but at its heart, it is still powered by older technologies such as cloud computing and IP networking. Becoming an IT pro well-versed in the IoT's possibilities and limitations requires casting a broad net, with appropriate training in areas such as cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity and IoT applications. 

At a New Horizons Computer Center, you can get the certifications that will advance your career. We offer training in Office 365, Azure and many other technical areas - explore your options today.

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