How to Study for Azure AZ-700

I recently studied for, took, and passed the AZ-700 exam. I was able to pass the exam by using the resources I listed below.

A Note on My Experience with the Exam

The exam was challenging. It felt much harder than AZ-104. The case study questions were the biggest challenge for me. While they weren’t difficult, they required me to keep track of a lot of information. It was one of the few times in recent exams that I used the markers and laminated graph paper they gave us for the exam.

Tim Warner’s AZ-700 Class on PluralSight

Here is where I started. Tim Warner’s course: Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions (AZ-700) is where the bulk of my training took place. I spent hours watching his videos and following along in my Azure lab. I took this route on this exam because it felt more structured around the objectives. This may not be the route you want to go because PluralSight does have a cost.

John Savill’s Technical Training on YouTube

John Savill’s training is free on his YouTube channel. This may be the best route for those who prefer not to pay for study materials. I focused mainly on the cram video. I did pick through some subjects in his playlist. I used his videos to help me with concepts that were harder for me to nail down, like load balancing.

Exam Ref AZ-700 Microsoft Azure Administrator

I bought and read through this copy of the exam reference guide. It was helpful for helping to break down concepts that I saw in videos I watched that I quite didn’t understand. I still appreciate having a book in my hand when I study, but people on a budget may be better served by just using the free learning path.

Playing Around in the Azure Environment

As I have done with all my past exams from AZ-104 to AZ-305, I played around in the environment to better understand what I was learning. I built VPN tunnels and even used Terraform to save money. I stood up multiple VNets to better understand pairing. This is a crucial part of pulling all that I was learning together.

Measureup Practice Test

Practice tests are really helpful for me to get a feel for the exam. It is important that I use practice tests that have questions that are close to the actual test but are NOT the actual test. The only test I found was the Measureup practice test. Unfortunately, it is expensive. I am aware that there is a test by Whizlabs, but I am not confident in recommending them.


These tools helped me study for and pass the exam. I hope that they help you along in your Azure certification journey.

Tips on Migrating Your Blog to AWS Lightsail

I’ve been running my blog on WordPress using Host Gator for almost 10 years. While I have never had problems with my hosting provider, I have wanted to explore options to migrate to either Azure or AWS. I recently read about how AWS Lightsail would be the most affordable and simple option. I then looked for documentation to help me with the migration and ran into a lot of conflicting information. Hopefully, the issues and solutions detailed below will help others wishing to migrate their WordPress blog to AWS Lightsail.

Getting Started

I spent a lot of time looking for documentation on how to migrate my WordPress site to Lightsail. I found two articles to be the most helpful starting points. Both of them have some overlap, but together they got me through the migration. The first: Migrate an existing WordPress blog to Amazon Lightsail, does a really good job of walking you through the steps of exporting your current WordPress site to your new Lightsail instance.

Note: There are other articles out there that advise using services or plugins that cost money. Do not use them. The abovementioned article walks you through migrating your data for free.

There are only three things that I would add to this documentation. The first is that I would recommend turning on automatic snapshotting during the creation of the instance.

Automatic Snapshotting

The second is that I would recommend patience when doing the data import. The XML file you download in the export phase is small and only details what data to pull from your existing site. So while uploading that file takes a few seconds, the actual data migration can take 10-20 minutes.

The third thing is that in this process some things will need to be redone or cleaned up. For example, in your new Lightsail instance, you will have to download the theme from your old site, reenter your site identity info, and clean up the sample pages and posts from your site.

Networking and Security

The second article: Quick start guide: WordPress on Amazon Lightsail, has a bit of overlap with the first but does a great job of addressing how to attach a static IP to your website (it is free but you will be given a dynamic IP initially), and mapping a domain name to your website. The article provides a link to another article that goes into more detail about the DNS process.

The last thing that I needed help with was the SSL certificate process. The nice thing about Lightsail is that the SSL certificate you receive from Let’s Encrypt is free. The thing that may discourage some is that it requires entering commands in the CLI to accomplish. But I think that this article uses clear and simple steps to get your SSL certificate installed.

The only thing that I ran into was that I ended up with a problem because my website showed up as being insecure because of mixed content. I fixed this by using the Really Simple SSL WordPress plugin. I used the free version and it cleared up my issue with a few clicks.


I went through quite a bit of trial and error to migrate my website to AWS Lightsail. It is a pretty easy process that can save you a few dollars but most importantly help you with gaining a few new skills.

Migrating VMs from vSphere to Azure using Veeam

Early last year I ran into an issue where we needed to move virtual machines from ESXi 5.5 to Azure. Although the support matrix said that both vSphere 5.5 and Windows 2003 were supported by the migration tool, we could successfully migrate the VM using the migration tool as I demonstrated in an earlier post.

What we ended up doing instead was using Veeam to migrate the VM to Azure. I had heard of this from a Veeam rep at a conference a few years prior, but until that point, I never had a use case for that information. Below I will demonstrate how to migrate a VM from vSphere 7 to Microsoft Azure using the Veeam restore feature. In this example, I’m using a Server 2022 VM, but it will work similarly for any Windows VM.


  • An existing Azure subscription
  • Azure Storage Account
  • A backup of the VM you would like to migrate (with RDP enabled)
  • An existing network security group with an inbound rule allowing RDP

Step 1: Ready the Veeam Environment

The first thing we will need to do is ready the Veeam environment. The way we do this is a little counterintuitive. We will start by clicking Restore in the home ribbon in Veeam.

Then we will choose “Restore from Backup”.

Next, we will choose “Entire VM Restore”.

Then select “Restore to Public Cloud”

Finally, click on “Restore to Microsoft Azure”

Now that you have navigated through the menus above, you will be presented with a menu asking you to perform the initial configuration. Click “Yes”.

The initial configuration screen is of no consequence. Just click “Next”

The next screen is where you will choose the deployment type. The choices are between the Gov, China, and Global Azure accounts. The default is fine. Click “Next”.

The next screen will allow you to add new Azure credentials or use an existing one. If you choose to add new credentials, which I have chosen to do here, you will likely see the error message displayed below. Veeam uses Azure PowerShell to connect to Azure and the wizard will prompt you to install Azure PowerShell. This is an easy process because the link given will help you install Azure PowerShell in a few clicks.

Note: The language in the screen below is a bit imprecise. “Create a new account” does not actually create a new account. It simply configures existing Azure credentials and saves them to Veeam.

With the installation finished you are now prompted to enter your Azure credentials.

Step 2: Perform the Restore

The wizard will ask you to add a VM to be restored. I have chosen to restore from a backup as you see below.

Note: Your VM should have RDP and DHCP enabled. If not, you will not be able to connect to the machine once it is restored.

Next, you will choose the region where the VM will be restored to. Remember that this region must be the same as your storage account.

Now, you must choose the VM size and the storage account. This is a good opportunity to resize the VM if it was previously too large.

Next, you’re given the opportunity to place the VM in an existing resource group or to create a new resource group.

Now, you’re able to choose the network and network security group.

Note: I chose to assign a public IP for testing purposes. But normally, you would have either an express route or a VPN from on-prem.

The last item to configure is whether or not to scan the restored VM for malware prior to recovery. I chose not to do this because my VM is a fresh install of Server 2022.

Finally, the restoration will start and you will be able to watch the progress similar to the screen below.

Step 3: Verifying the VM Restoration

Once your VM has completed its restoration process, you’ll want to make sure that you can connect to it. First, you will need to navigate to the resource in Azure, click “Connect” and download the RDP file.

You should be able to open the RDP file and connect directly to the VM.


Using Veeam restore to migrate VMs to the cloud can be a great alternative to using the Azure Migration tool.

How I studied for the AZ-305 Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions Exam

I recently took and passed the AZ-305 exam. I wanted to share some of the resources I used so that they may help someone else take and pass this exam. I took the AZ-104 exam four months before and felt there was a natural progression, but the AZ-305 was much more difficult.

Free Microsoft Resources

There are three resources from Microsoft that I found helpful in studying for this exam. First is the Microsoft Learn portal. It has tons of modules to browse through, especially if you only need help with certain concepts. Second, there is the lab material on GitHub. Third, is the study guide, which gives you an outline of what topics you should fully understand in order to pass the exam.

John Savill’s Technical Training on YouTube

Just as I did in studying for the AZ-104 exam, I relied heavily on John Savill’s videos on YouTube. Specifically, the AZ-305 playlist and the AZ-305 study cram video. These videos were crucial for me to better understand what I had read.

Playing Around in the Azure Environment

Just like with my AZ-104 exam preparation, I cannot overstate how important it is to actually play around in Azure. Create a VM. Create a resource group. Peer a network. All of these things were very important for me to understand how the different services interact.

Using the Official Practice Test from MeasureUp

Once I felt that I had mastered all the concepts, I turned to the official practice test from MeasureUp to ensure that I had a feel for what type of questions would be asked. This helped me bring everything I learned together.


These are the tools that I found invaluable in helping me learn the material needed to pass this exam. I hope that they can be of service to you as well.

How To Study For Azure AZ-104

When I took the Azure AZ-104 exam in August, I was able to pass confidently because I used the following resources. I hope that if you’re studying for the exam, you find the same resources helpful.

Exam Ref AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator

I actually bought and read the physical copy of the exam reference guide from Microsoft. I took it with me everywhere for about a month. Anytime I had to wait for anything, I started reading the book. This helped me build a framework for understanding the various concept the exam covers.

Playing Around in the Azure Environment

I cannot overstate how important it is to actually play around in Azure. Create a VM. Create a resource group. Peer a network. All of these things were very important for me to understand how the different services interact.

John Savill’s Technical Training on YouTube

John Savill’s AZ-104 playlist and study cram video were very instrumental in helping me pull all the concepts together. It is amazing that all his content is available on YouTube for free.

Using Tutorials Dojo Practice Exams

The Tutorials Dojo practice exams helped me bring all the concepts together. The questions were similar in concept to what was in the exam, but crucially, they were not brain dumps. The reason I like practice exams is that I learn to think a little more critically about scenarios that I may experience in real life.


These tools helped me study for and pass the exam. I hope that they help you along in your Azure certification journey.

Common Issues Using Azure Migrate

I have been running a VMware home lab with an old Dell PowerEdge R720 with ESXi 7.0.2 installed. I have been running Azure for backups and Key Vault to protect secrets, but now I want to migrate one of my vSphere on-prem VMs. Through this process, I ran into a few issues and “gotchas” that may affect other users. Below is my list of potential issues you may face and how to resolve them.

A Note About Whether or Not to Use the Migration Appliance

I started out choosing to use the migration appliance. I downloaded the OVA and installed it in my lab environment. This initially turned out to be a huge hog of resources without any real benefit for my small lab environment. For that reason, when my project would not allow me to add the migration tool and I had to create a new project, I decided to go with the PowerShell script install on an existing server. If you decide to do the same, remember that you must use a Windows Server OS.

Issue 1: Azure Migration Project Tool Will Not Add to Your Dashboard

This was a random issue. Your Azure Migrate project has access to the free assessment tool and the free migration tool. A functioning project should look like the image below.

A functioning project with the migration tool added

But the first interaction of my project would not allow me to add that tool. I searched the message boards and could not find a solution to my problem. So, I did the next best thing and started a new project.

Issue 2: The x86 version of VC++ Redist 2019 may cause the gateway service to fail

This issue is specific to using the PowerShell version instead of the virtual appliance. This was a problem for me because I had both the x86 and x64 versions of VC++ Redist 2019 installed on my Server VM as shown below.

I searched for the problem on the internet and found this post in Microsoft’s forum. The advice given was to uninstall both versions, but in my case, that just caused another issue. The solution that worked best for me was to only uninstall the x86 version. Once done, the installation was completed successfully.

Issue 3: Insufficient Cores Available in the Subscription (During the migration prechecks)

I worked my way through all the other issues and then ran into this one.

I had enough cores available in the normal compute SKUs, so this one confused me a bit. The issue, in this case, is that I did an assessment, and used the assessment settings to determine the compute SKU I was going to use but did not properly modify the settings in my assessment. Once I removed reserved instances from my assessment and recalculated the assessment, I got a normal compute SKU and was able to complete my migration successfully.


While the Azure Migrate tool may not be as easy to use as some of the paid tools, it can be very useful if you are cost-constrained.

How to Create an Azure Key Vault to Store Secrets

In my earlier post, I demonstrated how to back up my Windows 11 PC’s files using Azure Backup. Now, I am going to review how to create an Azure Key Vault to store that passphrase more safely and securely.


  • An existing Azure subscription
  • A passphrase to save

Step 1: Create the Azure Key Vault

To create a key vault, you must log in to the Azure portal and search for “key vault”. Once done, you will see the above screen. Click “Create Key Vault” to continue.

In the above screen, you are asked to choose a resource group or create one. Again, in this case, I chose to create a new resource group. Then you are asked to create a unique key vault name and choose a region, and pricing tier. I chose the East US region and the standard pricing tier. There is no need to use the premium tier in this case. Once your choices are made, click “Review + Create” to create the key vault.

Step 2: Add Secret to Vault

Once the key vault has been deployed, click “Secrets” from the menu on the left side of the screen.

Now you can add the recovery services vault secret (or any secret for that matter) to the Key Vault. Be sure to label it something that makes sense and click “Create”

Finally, you should be able to see your secret in the recovery services vault.


This is a really simple way to start working with Azure Key Vault. Now you have your secret saved in a location that is not easily compromised or exposed to failure as your home PC.

How to Backup a Windows 11 PC with Azure Backup

Over the past few months, I have built a new PC, a home lab, and an Azure environment. Over the next few weeks, I will work to better integrate all three. One of the first steps in this process is setting up Azure Backup for my Windows 11 PC.


  • An existing Azure subscription
  • A Windows PC

Step 1: Create a Recovery Services Vault in the Azure Portal

Login to your azure portal and search for the “Recovery Services Vault”. If you do not have a recovery services vault, you will create one here.

From there you are taken through a wizard to create the Recovery Services Vault. Here you will need to either choose an existing resource group or create a new one. I decided to create a new one because all my resource groups contain related items that can be deleted together. Additionally, you are asked to choose a unique name for the Recovery Services Vault. Once these two things are done, you can click “Review + Create”, and in a few moments, the Recovery Services Vault will be created.

Once your Recovery Services Vault has been created, you can click on the resource and see a menu on the left side. From that menu, you will click Backup. Then you have two choices to make: “Where is the workload running?” and “What do you want to backup?” In my setup, I chose “On-Premises” and “Files and Folders”. Note that it is currently not possible to back up the system state for Windows 11 machines.

Once you click the “Prepare Infrastructure” button, you’ll be brought to the above screen. At this point, is important that you both download the Azure Recovery Services Agent and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the vault credentials. In this example, I am saving the vault credentials to my desktop, but they can and should be saved to Azure Key Vault.

Step 2: Install the Azure Recovery Services Agent

You’ll first need to download the Azure recovery services agent from the previous screen.

The install screen for the Azure recovery services agent should look like the one above.

The Installation will need .Net Framework 4.5 and Windows Powershell. You will need to install these items to proceed with the installation.

As shown in the above screen, this is where you will use the saved vault credentials from the earlier step.

Next, you will be asked to enter a passphrase and a location to save it. You can use your own passphrase generator, but I found it easier to use the passphrase generator provided here. You may also save the passphrase on your local machine as I did here. Once done, click Finish to complete the installation.

Step 3: Configure Your Backup Settings

Now that the installation has finished, you will be able to schedule your first backup.

Open the Azure Backup client on your PC and click “Schedule Backup” on the right side of the screen.

From the screen, as shown above, you will choose which drives you will backup.

You also have the option to exclude some folders and files.

You can specify the times of the backup up to three times a day.

Here you can choose the retention schedule. Initially, I was given what I believed was too many restore points, I adjusted mine accordingly as you can see above.

This is one of the final screens. You are given the choice to send the data online or offline by sending the disks directly to Azure. I chose to send my data online. After this screen, you will click next a few more times and then you are ready to start your first backup at the scheduled time.

Once my download has started, I can verify it is working from the Azure Backup App.

I can also go to my Recovery Services Vault, click the Backup Dashboard, and verify that the job is running.


While there are other ways to backup a PC, this is one of the better ways to get started working with Azure backups and Site Recovery.

DaaS: Staying Connected, Anywhere, Anytime

Photo by Caspar Camille Rubin on Unsplash

The pandemic has brought its share of challenges. One of the greatest challenges has been how to give workers the connectivity and access necessary to do their jobs when working from home. This has been especially true for organizations that previously had few to no remote workers. In a previous article, we talked about on-prem VDI and how it has matured over the years. Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) is the latest stage of VDI maturity.

What is DaaS?

Traditional VDI is best defined as a technology in which one desktop, running in its own virtual machine, can be provisioned to a user on a one-to-one basis. This uses the same technology used to virtualize a server virtual machine (ESXi, XenServer, AHV, etc.) to virtualize a desktop operating system for an end user. Then, users can interact with the desktop using either a thin client or an HTML5 browser. The difference is that DaaS is in a public cloud while traditional VDI is on-premises in a private cloud.

What are the advantages of DaaS?


Manageability is DaaS’ greatest strength versus physical desktops and even traditional VDI. With physical desktops, IT staff must manage on-premises hardware; this implies everything from firmware updates to component failure. Even with on-premises VDI, the physical host servers must be managed and maintained. With DaaS, there is no hardware on-prem. There are no support calls for a drive failure or to troubleshoot a misconfiguration on a top of the rack switch. This frees IT staff to work on other tasks.


With no hardware on-prem and everything in the public cloud, organizations can quickly and easily spin up hundreds or thousands of virtual desktops to users around the world. This contrasts with traditional on-prem VDI in which an organization can quickly use all available capacity, waiting weeks or even months until new hardware can be installed. Moreover, organizations with a seasonal workforce (or project-based teams) will only consume as many resources as they need at that time. There are no unused resources, which is in stark contrast to what happens in many organizations today.


When using a properly configured DaaS solution, an organization can ensure that data never leaves their environment. Moreover, there are settings that only allow connections from trusted IP addresses. Furthermore, DaaS allows for the automation of patching the desktop operating system (OS), which is often the greatest security vulnerability most organizations face.

What use cases are best suited for DaaS?

DaaS is suited for all the same use cases as traditional VDI. In three specific use cases, DaaS is far and away the superior choice:

  • Disaster Recovery – This is a perfect application for DaaS. Desktop images can be stored in the public cloud and virtual desktops only need to be spun up during a DR event. This is both resource and cost effective.
  • Remote and Contract Employees – Employees who have a short-term contract or who are remote and rarely, if ever, come into the office are great candidates for DaaS. This keeps the organization from procuring long-term resources unnecessarily.
  • Test and Dev – Many organizations struggle to provision adequate test and development environments. DaaS allows them to do so without having to use old or out of date gear.


DaaS is the evolution of traditional on-prem VDI. This pandemic has proven that organizations need tools that allow them to nimbly navigate the current landscape. DaaS’ manageability, scalability, and security features make it an excellent choice to assist organizations in navigating this evolving landscape.

Hybrid Cloud Considerations

The Problem

Cloud and Pixels

The cloud continues to be a hot topic in 2019. Public cloud initiatives have been at the forefront of enterprise digital transformation for the past few years. As we discussed last month, the cloud is not a complete solution for most modern enterprises. Although the public cloud is great for its agility, scalable workloads, and reliability, many enterprise customers are hampered by the “Three C’s” of cost, connectivity, and complexity. In addition, they face pressure from other business units to be more agile, which often takes matters into their own hands and creates the problem of shadow IT. This becomes even more of an issue when using a multi-cloud strategy. So, what is the solution? The solution is to combine the current on-premises private cloud with the public cloud to create a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud refers to using both on-premises infrastructure in combination with public cloud infrastructure. This allows enterprises to combine the best of both worlds: scalability and reliability for web-tier and disaster recovery workloads found in the public cloud, with the fixed cost and connectivity for ERP workloads found in the private cloud.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

The DIY Approach

This approach is not for the faint of heart. It is typically the most complicated way to create a hybrid cloud. It requires deep knowledge and understanding of not only on-premises enterprise and cloud architecture, but also how to integrate them properly. This requires a new set of tools and skills, such as learning cloud storage; networking; instance types; and, most importantly, how to manage costs. Businesses with sufficient technical resources can overcome these barriers and create a robust hybrid cloud solution. Unfortunately, this is the first approach for many businesses. Oftentimes they end up becoming overwhelmed and ultimately end up drastically reducing their presence in the public cloud, which discourages them from beginning any new public cloud projects.

The Single Hypervisor Approach

The single hypervisor approach is one that Azure Stack and VMware Cloud on AWS exemplify. These solutions remove a lot of the complexity found in the DIY approach. Due to the tight integration between the hypervisor and management stack, very few new skills are needed. An administrator that can manage vSphere in the private cloud has little to learn to be able to manage VMware Cloud on AWS. The same is true for Azure Stack and Windows Admin Center. The issues that remain are the costs and lock-in. Both of these solutions have financial costs that are often far above the DIY approach, putting them out of reach of many smaller enterprises. Additionally, each of these solutions effectively locks the enterprise into a particular vendor’s ecosystem or creates knowledge silos within the organization. This ends up negating a lot of the agility that brought enterprises to the public cloud in the first place.

The Enterprise Multi-Cloud Strategy

The enterprise multi-cloud approach is the natural evolution of hybrid cloud. It allows enterprises to take advantage of the benefits in each of the three major cloud providers’ (AWS, Azure, and GCP) offerings, while also being able to easily move workloads between cloud providers and the private cloud and while also managing costs. This is exemplified by Nutanix and its products Xi Beam and Calm. These solutions give enterprises the insight and tools they need to optimize and automate their public cloud workloads. Centralized financial governance is one of the most important components of the multi-cloud strategy. Xi Beam not only centralizes financial governance but also allows for the remediation of under and over-utilized public cloud resources. Additionally, Xi Beam offers compliance governance with automated audit checks, which removes another layer of complexity to the multi-cloud strategy. Another important component of the multi-cloud strategy is automation. Calm gives enterprises the ability to quickly provision applications and allow for self-service resource consumption for other business units, enabling the agility of the cloud for which the public cloud is well known, as well as mitigating shadow IT.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Hybrid cloud is the enterprise infrastructure model of the foreseeable future. The control, flexibility, and ease have made the pure public cloud model unattractive and the pure private cloud model obsolete. It is important for each enterprise to evaluate its needs and technical resources to decide which hybrid cloud models best suits them.

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