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What courses can improve fundamental knowledge of infrastructure systems (Active Directory, LDAP, et

When looking to brush up on knowledge of systems such as Active Directory, Exchange, LDAP and more, there are many educational opportunities, but which offer the most benefit? In this IAM expert response, learn how to choose a course to learn what you need in the time you have.

In the past year, I've gotten an opportunity to work with identity management products, but my educational knowledge of infrastructure systems (Active Directory, Exchange, LDAP, etc.) is minimal. I would like to know what courses (master's, etc.) I might enroll in to improve my fundamental knowledge and be more effective in my job.

First, decide exactly what the focus and goal of the training will be. Is it to beef up knowledge of a particular product or infrastructure, or is it to improve understanding of identity management systems overall?

A master's degree in computer science, information systems or even information security would definitely be a worthwhile credential for the job market. But if simply learning about identity management systems and their infrastructure is the goal, it might be overkill.

There are plenty of options that fall in between, geared toward teaching the nuts and bolts of a particular product or system. Courses tend to fall into two categories: vendor-neutral and those offered by vendors specifically for training in their product.

For vendor-neutral training, classes range from one-day seminars, which give a high-level overview, to five-day "boot camps" complete with hands-on lab exercises enabling students to work with actual systems. If hands-on technical training is necessary, then go with the lab classes. If the goal is to learn something more theoretical about identity management systems and how they work, a seminar series might be sufficient.

As for vendor training, all of the major players in the identity management space offer outstanding training in the deployment, implementation and maintenance of their products. These include: Sun Microsystems Inc, Microsoft, Novell Inc., IBM, Oracle Corp. and Red Hat Inc. Courses tend to last from two days to a week, depending on the amount and type of material presented. Look carefully to see what the class offers. The material on identity management might be packaged as part of another class, such as a vendor-certification program for system administrators, rather than as a standalone offering.

Though not concentrating solely on identity management, some vendor-neutral certification programs, like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), have identity management as part of their curriculums. In this sense, the CISSP provides both a good understanding of what goes into identity management and a well-known and respected industry certification covering other areas of IT security. But the CISSP is a big commitment that ranges far beyond IAM, so be sure to assess if it's necessary first.

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