3 key focuses for a successful Windows admin career

Microsoft-centric IT pros can remain in the thick of the jobs action by digging deep into these three areas

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What constitutes relevance? In your current IT position, it can be easy to become complacent, thinking that your skills are ubiquitous. What you don’t want, however, is to wake up one day, needing to find a new place of employment, only to realize you are a decade out of date.

Microsoft-centered IT pros should get current on three technologies to your ensure relevancy both today and tomorrow. What comes beyond that is a constant moving target, but typically it’s easy to take the next step if you aren’t already 10 behind.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI): Virtualization of server-side infrastructure has been an essential skill for about a decade. But one aspect of it that has lagged is VDI: the ability to provide server-based client-OS instances to users over zero- and thin-client connections. There are a lot of providers in this space, and knowing how they interact is key to getting what you need from your VDI product portfolio. In particular, eliminating network bottlenecks and storage lag will put you in a position to go beyond IT admin and perhaps move into the role of solutions architect.

Cloud-based infrastructure: Using Microsoft Azure as an example, it’s essential to look into infrastructure in the cloud -- even if only for lab/dev/test at the moment. Longer term, there is a good chance that the reality of IT as a utility is upon us and server rooms on-premises will soon be a thing of the past.

It’s a continuously evolving technology area, so if you haven’t worked with an Azure portal I recommend you spin up a one-month free trial to get started. The features available go beyond infrastructure as a service and VMs in the cloud. There is a sprawling set of capabilities now, like Azure Active Directory, that you can dive into.

Office 365 know-how: Spinning up an Office 365 portal is incredibly easy to do. Experimenting with the features for the Web versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync is not going to overwhelm you. However, to be more than an “overview admin” who scans the latest tools but never dives deeply, learn about the following subjects: email migration strategies, hybrid Exchange on-premises/cloud design and deployment, and a cohesive use of Office 365 features.

Whatever your career focus, avoid slipping too behind on the technology track, even if your job doesn’t keep you on the cutting edge.