Looking for an outlet to direct your energy? Spend some time cultivating your inner nerd & earn some Microsoft certs!

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If you’ve been in the IT industry for a bit, you’ve likely interacted with MS365, if only for managing email for clients and you’ve certainly heard of OneDrive, Sharepoint and…Yammer?

If you’re not in IT – that’s okay!  Many people in Sales and Management, Business Owners and other Stakeholders can take (and even pass!) a Microsoft certification exam. No, really!

So…what is ‘MS365’ anyhow?  In a nutshell, it’s a suite of solutions geared toward collaboration, creativity and problem solving, while going all in on Security, Identity and Information Protection.  Huh?  What?  Okay, okay…it’s a vast collection of tools, such as email, file syncing and security, that can be leveraged to make your team successful (and secure) no matter where they are or what their mission is.

Clear as mud?  Still confused?  Worry not!  Microsoft has designed a high level, foundational exam designed to give you the basics of what MS365 is all about.  The MS-900:  Microsoft 365 Fundamentals.

The MS-900 covers a range of topics:

Understand cloud concepts (15-20%)

This means knowing what Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) means, the basic features of each and which use case they’re generally best for.

Understand core Microsoft 365 services and concepts (30-35%)

This covers knowing the basics of Exchange Online, Sharepoint, Onedrive, Teams, Windows 10 Enterprise and the various other solutions within MS365.

Understand security, compliance, privacy, and trust in Microsoft 365 (25-30%)

Am I safe?  Is my data secure?  I need to be HIPPAA compliant, what does Microsoft do to ensure this?  Reading about Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), the Compliance and Trust Centers, Information Protection and other such Security and Privacy related MS365 features will shed light on those answers.

Understand Microsoft 365 pricing and support (25-30%)

How do you get help if you run into issues?  When can I expect a response?  What if my email goes down?  You’ll know those answers after some reading.

You can expect between 40-60 questions covering these areas and you’ll have 90 minutes to answer them all.

The good news is you don’t need to be a computer science major to understand and grasp the content here.  Again, it’s designed as a high-level overview for (mostly) non-technical brains.

The challenge then?  As typical with Microsoft, who has a penchant for finding the wordiest way to explain things, there is a boat load of content to read, digest and comprehend, again, while not difficult or necessarily all that technical, the volume can be daunting for some.

The good news is that Microsoft provides all the resources you need to study for and pass the exam.  You can find them on the Microsoft Docs site which is generally fantastic, albeit cumbersome at times due to the sheer amount of information, but they do a good job of organizing it for the most part.

There are other resources as well, such as Udemy and Pluralsite, both offer paid training to help guide you along the way.

Now, here’s the deal.  Studying for the exam is relatively the easy part.  The real challenge is the test itself.  Taking an exam written by Microsoft is both an art and a craft.  The craft is the knowledge you’ll gain reading through the material.  The art is understanding what it is exactly Microsoft is asking.  You may have heard and it’s certainly true, that Microsoft is notorious for writing…shall we say, carefully constructed questions?

In my experience, there are one or two keys words that can change the context of the question and make a big difference in the correct answer.  Words and phrases like ‘you’re looking to deploy…’ or ‘you’re at a company and a group of developers…’ the questions will tell you, if you’re paying attention, which lens to look at the question through.  If you can master deciphering Microsoftanese, then you’re well on your way!

I can hear some of your eyes rolling from here.  “Come on man!  It’s a Foundational cert!  I am the 365 Wizard!!!”

Okay, Dumbledor, have at it then.

Look, I’ve been in IT now for 7 years.  I spent the first 6 working Help Desk, up to Help Desk Management and Systems Administrator for an MSP.  We supported around 100 clients, almost all of whom used MS365 one way or another.  I was in the portal every day for 6 years.  I set up accounts, groups, reset passwords, set forwards, created custom connectors, performed message tracing, configured spam filtering, obtained and applied licensing, set up libraries and managed permissions in Sharepoint – among many other tasks.

Now, I don’t say this to profess or exclaim to be some sort of know-it-all, quite the opposite, but I figured I had enough experience that I could read through the Microsoft Docs resources, take a practice test and be fine.  I.  Was.  Wrong.

I failed my first attempt at the MS-900.

None of what I was doing on the day-to-day was on the exam.

I did not fail my second, because I better understood how to read the questions after going through the exam the first time and the content that was being covered.

But you?  You’ll be fine!  Check out the official Microsoft Docs site, spend an hour or 2 per day on digesting the content and in no time you’ll be ready to sit for the MS-900 and obtain your Microsoft 365 Foundational Certification!

Shawn Collins

Author

Shawn has spent the last 7 years in IT and is the Cloud Services Manager at Cloudforce. He holds MS-900, AZ-900, and ITIL 4 Foundation certifications. Ever since he was a kid messing around with the old 8088's, he knew there was a future in technology. From the cacophony of a dial-up connection to eagerly anticipating that "You've got mail" to administering accounts through MS365; DOS to Windows 95 to Windows 10; Server 2003 to Server 2019; HTML and FrontPage to Word Press and Wix; and floppy disks to Cloud storage. He has touched, seen and used a large variety of hardware and software over the years...and has barely scratched the surface.

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