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Storage certifications: Don't bother unless you're forced to

Find out why most storage vendor certification programs don't do much to actually train VARs and systems integrators to do the job they need to do: install and implement a vendor's products.

In a recent article on, Brien M. Posey considers the value in receiving certifications from backup software suppliers. Brian is far more diplomatic than me when he concludes with, "It is therefore important to consider whether the benefit that you will receive from a particular certification is enough to offset the cost and effort expended in obtaining that certification."

Let me be perfectly and untactfully clear: Vendor certifications have absolutely ZERO value to the storage channel except when you have to be certified to sell the product. And I'll go further than that to say that the large majority of vendor training sessions, regardless of the certification, also have absolutely zero value to the channel. My recommendation for when you have to be certified to sell the product? Do the bare minimum.

Channel Spin analysis
Advice for end users and solution providers

There are a variety of reasons for this. First, most vendor training given to storage VARs and systems integrators is, at best, simply a rehash of a systems administration class. But unless you are going to be running the customer's environment daily, you don't need an operational class. You need a "get in, get out, nobody gets hurt" class. When implementing a SAN or installing backup software, something will go wrong. You or your engineers need to be prepared to deal with it.

Side note: If you're a salesperson, one of the best things you can do to help your storage engineers is tell your customers that something will go wrong but that they shouldn't panic. Tell them that your engineers have worked through those situations in the past and they will be able to fix it when a problem crops up in their installation. It sounds counterintuitive, but every time I've seen this articulated to a customer, they not only are receptive to it but they appreciate the honesty.

Back to the engineers. The best ones -- at least judging by those I've worked with -- went to training just to get the very basics on the subject they were learning, if they went at all. They would rather be left alone in a lab to figure it out. These guys actually like to read the manuals. (I know, they're a dying breed.) In fact, they often complain about not having printed, bound manuals anymore.

I agree with the theory that if storage suppliers wanted educated engineers and not revenue, they would just send the VAR the hardware or software needed and then provide a series of objectives for the engineer to walk through. For proof, screenshots could be sent as each objective is completed.

Customers care if the engineer can get the solution they just bought implemented. But I can count on one hand the number of times a customer asked if an engineer was certified. Customers also have an uncanny ability to sniff out engineers that are not fully up to speed on what they are doing. Training and certification programs usually deliver that exactly that kind of engineer -- those that know enough to be dangerous. Experience, on the other hand, delivers a confident engineer that can respond to unexpected bumps during installation.

The situation is similar when it comes to customer training and is one of the reasons I think storage VARs and systems integrators should offer their own, less formal but hands-on training. Teach the customer how to use their system in their environment, and teach them how to gather information before they call support.

Here is Brien Posey's story on storage vendor certifications:

Are data backup vendor certifications valuable for backup administrators?

Are data backup vendor certifications valuable for backup administrators?

I don't want to name names, but a couple of weeks ago I received an email promotion from one of the major data backup software vendors. The message was aimed at trying to entice me into taking a certification exam that the vendor was offering. This got me thinking about whether or not vendor certifications are really worth having.

I think that the only logical way to decide whether or not a vendor certification is worth having is to compare the certification's benefits to the amount of time, effort and expense that went into obtaining the certification.

Some examples of products/vendors that you can be certified in include Microsoft's System Center Data Protection Manager, CommVault Systems and Symantec Corp. The vendors will usually tell you what the exam objectives are on their Web sites. You can assess your readiness by taking practice exams. You can get additional preparation by attending classes, reading certification study guides or taking an online learning course.

Read the rest of Brien Posey's story about storage vendor certifications.

About the author

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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