Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take the Veeam Certified Engineer video-on-demand course, which was actually a better delivery mechanism that I had expected. After I completed the course, I did a bunch of studying to sit the VMCE exam, but I failed 🙁 The good news is that it made passing the exam all that much better when I did re-sit it.
Failing did offer have some benefits, though. First off, I was able to get a taste for the exam, specifically the wording. The best way I can describe it is to say that it is written for technical correctness, not for ease of reading. The questions can be fairly hard to interpret at times, and this is a common piece of feedback that I have heard from other test takers.
Another benefit is that it exposed some weak areas that I had. I thought I knew Veeam fairly well (and I only failed by %1), but I also didn’t want to ‘just pass’. Going through the exam gave me a very good idea of what type of questions to expect, such as knowing specific version numbers, limitations, and how features work.
WHAT TO STUDY
I’m not going to go into specifics as there is a very strict NDA about sharing information about the content of the exam (and the fact that brain dumps really do devalue the certification, and to some effect the industry). But I wanted to share some study tips that I used.
Grab the course description – There is no blueprint for the exam specifically, but there is a course description that covers the various areas. If you have taken the VMCE course, then you should have an accompanying workbook that follows this outline. Know it inside and out.
Know the product – What I mean by this is to take a look at each feature and understand what it does. What is its purpose? What mechanisms does it use to do that (snapshots, VSS, etc.)? What happens at the transport level? How about at the repository?
Don’t forget Veeam ONE– Another common trait that I see is folks tanking the Veeam ONE portion of the exam. Veeam ONE is an interesting tool in that a lot of folks know of it, but that is about it. I was definitely guilty of this. Veeam ONE is an impressive monitoring tool, but because it isn’t part of Veeam Backup & Recovery, it tends to get missed. Make sure you know how to use Veeam ONE (the different views) and what its use cases are. A 30-day evaluation license is available along with the Veeam B&R trial, but if you are a vExpert or Microsoft MVP, you can grab a free NFR license (see below).
Practice Exams – Luckily there are quite a few practice exams out there; some of them are written by Veeam folks in a non-official capacity. Specifically, if you find that you can pass Rasmus’ exam, then you should be set … that one is brutal for a practice exam. Some other exams are:
Study Guide / Best Practices / Product Guide – Mike Preston (part of the Veeam Vanguard) has been working on an excellent VMCE study guide. It isn’t done as of this moment, but you can find it on his blog.Another great resource that is constantly updated is the Veeam Best Practices Guide. Also be sure to go through the Veeam Product Guides – there is a lot of nuanced information in there.
Blogs / Reddit / Veeam Forums – A lot of the Veeam Vanguards have blogs, where we post about Veeam (among other things). I suggest checking them out – it may not be VMCE specific, but there might be some good tips in there that translate into better understanding the product. There is also a subreddit dedicated to Veeam – this might be a good spot for clarification on questions. Lastly, don’t forget the official Veeam forums. There are lots of questions with answers in there – a great place to learn more about the product.
User Groups – Be sure to check out Veeam’s user group page to see if there is anything in your area. If there isn’t, I highly encourage you to think about starting one. Running a Veeam User Group has been very rewarding for me, but even more than that, I have learned so much from it. If I decide to present something, then I spend a lot of time making sure I know the topic. Similarly, talking with peers has been great to give me insight into how the product works for different folks.
Free NFR Key – if you are a VMware vExpert or Microsoft MVP you can grab a Not For Resale (NFR) license from Veeam Availability Suite for use in your home lab. This is huge in that you aren’t limited to a 30-day trial, and you get full access to all features.
HPE StoreOnce VSA – HPE has a free 1TB StoreOnce VSA virtual appliance available to download. So, why would you need it? The StoreOnce VSA can be added as a virtual tape library (VTL). This is a cheap (i.e. free) way to add a tape library to Veeam and become familiar with how to use tape. A lot of us don’t have extra tape drives lying around, so this is perfect.
DURING THE EXAM
As I mentioned earlier, be sure to read the questions carefully to make sure you understand what is actually being requested. You should also have a pad and pen to work with – sketch stuff out if you need to. Flag questions that you aren’t sure of and come back to them – if you find yourself in a good groove nailing questions, don’t let a harder one get in your way.
Be sure to take your time. I never found that I was short on time, which was nice because I knew that if I skipped a few questions first time around, then I would have ample time at the end to take care of them.
With enough studying and using the resources above, hopefully, you’ll be able to pass the exam. It can be a little intimidating, especially if you are a smaller customer since you won’t have access to all the technologies you are being tested on.
Passing the VMCE was very rewarding for me, as well as humbling. As I mentioned, I did not pass the first time around, and I thought I knew the product fairly well. It was almost a bit of gift in the sense that failing showed me there were new things to learn about it. Since I have passed, there have been many instances where I have used knowledge gained from it in my day to day operations. Hopefully the same hold true for others.