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Best IT Training and Certification Resources 2018

Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel
Managing Principal at The Hadley Consulting Group

Invest in yourself, to encourage others to invest in you.

Who’s Who in IT Certification Training

Getting ready to move on or up in your IT career, but can’t find the right opportunities? Maybe you should invest in yourself, to encourage others to invest in you, too. Taking advanced training classes and building your IT certification portfolio are two great ways to stand out from the rest of the IT crowd.

In this list of the dozen best IT training and certification resources, we looked at the market leaders. The companies included here offer technical and certification training that will help you separate yourself from the herd, while accelerating your career path into a better job, with better pay.

Most IT training companies offer instructor-led training (ILT) as well as online computer-based training (CBT) options. Look for companies that provide the specific courses and certification training you need to develop new or deeper skills and knowledge in your chosen IT niche. If you’re looking to move into a different IT specialty, training classes and certifications make a great first step toward developing different skill sets that may open new doors.

Oracle University: Back to School

The Oracle universe has expanded exponentially over the last decade to include a plethora of enterprise software and hardware solutions. Oracle University is the place to go for hundreds of Oracle-specific courses and dozens of certifications. This includes a slew of Oracle application software packages, Oracle database and data warehousing, Java programming, virtualization technology, ERP and supply chain management solutions, and much, much more.

Of course, Oracle University offers to teach you any way you choose to be taught: instructor-led classroom courses, on-demand courses, virtual classes or self-paced online training. Additionally, Oracle University offers more than 200 certifications within the Oracle ecosystem, including its database platforms, programming tools and languages, and all its major applications and platforms.

Microsoft Learning: An 800-lb Training Gorilla

Who knows better than Microsoft how to train and certify IT professionals on that company's technologies? Microsoft Learning is one of the largest training organizations on the planet, with courses and certifications delivered using a variety of methods, including online courseware and classroom training options through Microsoft Learning Partners. Many IT pros start by taking a course or two through the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA), which offers hundreds of courses that are free of charge and delivered by technology experts.

Considering the size of the Microsoft training market and high demand for Microsoft-focused training, IT pros have many options for learning Microsoft technologies and getting certified. Get started by perusing the Microsoft Learning website, or go directly to your favorite training and certification company. Nearly all major training companies cover Microsoft topics as part of their curriculum.

To ensure that you are getting the latest information required to master a subject or attain a certification, look for the Microsoft Certified Learning Partner logo. In particular, all-you-can-learn plans are a good way to acquire ongoing training. Find offerings like this from training companies such as Pluralsight, CBT Nuggets or QuickCert, where you get access to their entire training catalogs (stuffed with Microsoft and other topics) for a low monthly fee.

Project Management Institute: Projects’R’Us

IT is all about problem-solving to support business goals and requirements for an organization. Those of us with experience in IT have discovered over time that projects without planning, structure and management almost certainly fail at some point during the project cycle. There are just too many variables, dependencies and gotchas in modern IT processes for companies to take a "Wild West" approach to mission-critical IT projects and implementations.

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a well-established professional credential that demonstrates mastery of project management principles, practices and procedures. While the PMP is usually a prerequisite for project manager and program manager roles, there is significant value for other IT professionals who also earn the PMP credential. The PMP has been, is today and will remain something of a gold standard for project management certification.

If your organization plans, develops and delivers large-scale IT projects that serve critical business needs, you'll find value in learning how projects should be managed to ensure that they're successful. PMI also offers certifications for those charged with the task of managing programs and portfolios, as well as certifications in risk, scheduling and business analysis. Also look for academic PMI partners who offer PMI-sanctioned official curriculum courses in colleges and universities around the country.

The Cisco Learning Network: All Things Cisco

The Cisco Learning Network is THE one-stop shop for Cisco-related training and certification preparation. The company leverages its own corporate training resources with approved Cisco training partners around the world. This gives Cisco control over the training and certification preparation process without having to open a Cisco-owned training center in the back of every Starbucks on the planet.

As with other vendor-specific training, always look for the Cisco Certified Learning Partner logo when you search for local or online training options. Cisco offers more certification programs than you can shake a stick at, from the entry-level CCENT and CCT to the masters of the Cisco universe of certification, the CCIE, CCDE and CCAr. 

If networking is your game and your networks are based primarily on Cisco hardware, the Cisco Learning Network offers enough training and certification options to bring joy to your heart and a skip to your step — not to mention a lifetime of learning opportunities.

Red Hat: Go Straight to the (Open) Source

Red Hat is a premier vendor of Open Source Linux (and other) software. Its training and certification programs cover everything Red Hat, such as load balancing, security, systems management, cloud computing (including OpenStack and high availability), virtualization (including Docker and Kubernetes), JBoss Middleware and the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. Red Hat Training offers instructor-led and online training options, as well as on-site classes, remote instructor-led online (ILO) classes and self-paced online learning options.

Note that not all classes are offered via every training method. That said, training classes dealing with the core Red Hat server products and the popular add-on technologies are offered in whatever learning mode might appeal to you. Red Hat also offers online virtual labs that give students the ability to train in an online virtual environment with console access to various Red Hat products. Red Hat's virtual labs are an excellent way to get hands-on training on Red Hat products and software that might not be available within your IT organization.

InfoSec Institute: IT Security and Then Some

Because information security remains such a popular and potent evergreen industry arena, the InfoSec Institute is well positioned to provide in-depth instructor-led and self-paced mentored online training for IT security professionals.

The popularity of its training has prompted the InfoSec Institute to offer boot camps in non-infosec IT specialties as well, including the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) credentials and more.

InfoSec Institute covers vendor-specific certification programs as well, including Cisco, Microsoft, EC-Council, ISACA and VMware, just to name a few. Under the Career Paths heading, their training offerings are grouped into tracks around common IT subject matters — for example, computer forensics, security pro, and IT audit tracks. The InfoSec Institute also offers an intriguing boot camp and training topic labeled 8570.1, which speaks to certification requirements for those who work in and around information security for the U.S. government, U.S. Department of Defense or related contracting companies.

IBM Skills Gateway: Watson, Come Here!

Since 2017, IBM Authorized Training has rebranded itself as the IBM Skills Gateway. The company’s training arm still offers a huge portfolio of training options in areas like cloud computing, analytics, security, systems, mobile and even IBM's Watson platform. IT professionals can take on-demand training courses or attend live technical training events that take place all over the world. In addition to professional certifications, IBM also offers a badge program that allows IT pros to display their badges in email signatures, social networking and professional sites, and, most importantly, to prospective employers who can easily use those badges to verify credentials.

You can find the appropriate training by product or job role, but for those who aren't sure where to start, the IBM Skills Gateway offers Learning Journeys and Training Paths. These specially curated collections of learning content are designed to help you acquire skills in a specific area like cloud computing, security and mobile administration or development. Simply click through to the appropriate Learning Journey to find course links, related articles and additional resources, or select a Training Path to learn about IBM product and training resources related to the specific technology. There’s a vast amount of material to be explored here, so don’t be surprised if you climb in, then find yourself down the rabbit hole.

Skillsoft: Training Options, Large And Small

Skillsoft is a global training company that offers a dizzying array of instructor-led, online training and self-paced online learning. Skillsoft will also develop and deliver personalized training content for companies worldwide. The company even offers a training development platform for organizations that want to develop their own training materials while utilizing a proven course development framework.

In addition to such heavy-duty tools and services, Skillsoft caters to the training and certification market for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) using self-paced online training modules. Skillsoft offers mobile education platforms to put training and certification curricula directly in the hands of IT professionals whenever and wherever they might wish to use them. The company also offers access to a Learning Management System (LMS) for organizations too small to host their own, or it can integrate with major third-party LMSs in situations where a client already has its own LMS. When it comes to ultimate customization for IT (and other) employee training, Skillsoft has it covered.

Digital Intelligence: Computer Forensics, For Real

Digital Intelligence occupies a small but vital niche in the IT training and certification market: computer hardware and software forensics. It offers a number of instructor-led and online training courses on computer forensics, including DFF, FTK, EnCase/DFFEN, JTAG, NUIX, Cellebrite and a Digital Archive Boot Camp.

If you've never heard of those technologies, you are probably not a target customer for this super-specialized training. But if your company has ever needed to "unformat" a hard drive, recover a lost password or explore an encrypted drive, Digital Intelligence is the perfect place to start your knowledge acquisition in computer forensics. For security nerds in search of new worlds to conquer, digital forensics is an excellent choice, too.

InfoPro Learning: A Partner for Training Development

InfoPro Learning is a global training company that seeks to partner or consult with enterprise-level organizations on customized learning and development (L&D, in the company's terminology) solutions. InfoPro also offers a learning management platform for companies that want to develop their own course materials using an established course development framework.

InfoPro Learning has offices in the U.S., Europe and India. They will work with your company to develop and deliver customized training courses in all aspects of IT. InfoPro also has an established training consultancy for large companies struggling to keep up with new developments in online and virtual training methodologies. While not a destination for people looking to take a single class, InfoPro Learning offers a strategic learning solution for large companies with specific training needs. It aims primarily at entire training programs across the range of enterprise operations and functions.

Global Knowledge: The IKEA of Global Training

Global Knowledge offers an amazing array of IT training courses along with certification prep classes in every conceivable way that you might want to learn them. The company supports more than a dozen specific training programs with certification training classes and big-picture training tracks such as cloud computing, networking, virtualization and big data.

In total, Global Knowledge lists more than 1,500 class offerings via instructor-led, online, self-paced and on-site delivery. The company is a vendor-approved training partner for Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Citrix, CompTIA, VMware, Red Hat and Amazon Web Services (AWS) technologies and certifications, and partners with more than 30 companies to provide excellence in learning solutions. If you have ever registered for a training class that fell through due to insufficient enrollment, you'll be glad to know that Global Knowledge claims to have the largest schedule of guaranteed dates in the industry. This means that if you register for a guaranteed class, you are guaranteed that the class will be taught at the time and place you chose.

Fast Lane: Spanning the Globe

Fast Lane offers instructor-led classroom and online training classes (including innovative options such as Night School and the Flex Classroom), with representation from virtually all major vendor-specific certification programs. Fast Lane's global reach is impressive, with training classes and certifications offered by Fast Lane subsidiaries in the North and South Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

With an option for on-site classes delivered by Fast Lane instructors at customer sites, Fast Lane is a perfect option to provide enterprise-level training for major global corporations. Fast Lane caters to enterprise market segment by concentrating its offerings on the most popular training classes and certifications, including CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, ITIL, NetApp and Juniper. It also covers Cloudera, Red Hat, Riverbed, Brocade, Veritas, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Symantec and IBM topics and certifications.

Fast Lane even offers training on a multi-vendor converged infrastructure platform called FlexPod, which combines hardware and software from industry-leading players. This offering combines components from NetApp, Cisco and VMware into a single cohesive program that focuses on the challenges and opportunities inherent in virtualized environments. Other combinations are also available.

Image Credit: RossHelen / Getty Images
Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.