Preparing for the AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification Exam

What and Why

The cloud. How could something so light and fluffy be so complicated? I’m sure some meteorologist or nephologist will say “of course clouds are complicated” and I welcome that education but I’m more interested in the clouds built of silicon and wire – the cloud technology that seems to be everywhere.

In looking at job postings around the area, I see requests for cloud computing everywhere and it makes sense. Supporting a brick and mortar data center is expensive and challenging and really it’s a commodity, not necessarily an investment that a company needs to make anymore. Security in (and of) the cloud is increasing and economies of scale allow for the cost of combined, multi-purpose data centers to drop. Consolidating data center needs seems to be a no brainer leaving my memories of being an intern, crawling around Lucent server rooms, wearing a sweatshirt in the summertime because it was just that cold, a thing of the past.

So I decided to educate myself on cloud technology, specifically on Amazon Web Services.

Getting Started

AWS provides a significant amount of online training for free and you can sign up for a 12 month free account to AWS services which is more than enough to get started. Amazon recommends having about 6 months of AWS experience before sitting for the Cloud Practitioner exam but I’m going to see if I can pass it in under a month. I started about a week ago, going through the AWS Cloud Practitioner training sequence (about 8 hours of videos) and one Cloud Practitioner preparation live training session. Training sessions are posted on the online training link.

The videos are well done – good audio and video. The instructors are polished in their presentations and kept my attention for their duration. There is one 100-minute module. I think this should be broken up into separate modules and organized a bit better but that’s my opinion. Just get some coffee, take a break or two, and dig in. You can break up the time by stopping the videos and then going into the AWS Management Console and poking around the different pages. This was helpful for me as I like to be more hands-on with my learning.

The live Cloud Practitioner preparation training session was a nice opportunity to ask some lingering questions but it will not get you ready for the exam. I liked how there were a few instructors on the line: one doing the talking and at least one managing the chat room and serving as backup for the main instructor. I thought this was well done and a sign that Amazon takes their training seriously.

The last module of the online training is a sample test consisting of 30-ish questions. I took it immediately after completing the last video and scored a 77%. Not bad I thought but I can do much better with some studying and practice.

After I completed the video course and the live preparation session, I signed up for my exam and put down the $100.

Next Steps

Now that I am done with the online training, I am spending the next few weeks working to setup a sample test for myself in AWS using the free account I have. I will explain my sample in a minute and hopefully you will follow my blog as I work on it over the next few weeks. I am doing this in bits and pieces in the early morning before I start work.

My methodology is such that I state a what and a why. I then work across and down to identify each layer of work and the questions I have about it. I’ve found this approach to work well for me as of late, where I can move through a topic while noting the questions I have along the way. This has allowed me to dive deeper in when (and if) needed on topics later while still getting through material. Okay, well this worked for me in my grad school studies so far. We will see if it continues.

Sample

What: I would like to have a simple web page accessible by anyone on the Internet hosted in the Amazon cloud with at least one CloudWatch alert sent to my email with every page view so that I can understand basic cloud infrastructure.

Why: This simple setup will allow me to experiment with the VPC, EC2 and EBS instances, look at the Internet Gateway and cloud networking, and how to work with the monitoring services available to AWS users.

I will add a picture for this when I create a new page on my website. I hope that my journey will help others explore this exciting technology.

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