The Complexity of a Web Site Solution
Tackling the Site Server exam requires an understanding of IIS, Exchange, and SQL Server, too. How ready are you to call yourself a Web expert?
- By Blair Kovacs
We can surely expect an explosion of
online shops and services to hit in the coming year. No
wonder many of us have been eagerly awaiting the arrival
of exam 70-056—Implementing and Supporting Web Sites Using
Microsoft Site Server 3.0. You may agree with me that
now is, indeed, a good time to dig deeper into the certification
trenches of Internet technologies like Site Server 3.0,
Microsoft’s Web solution and pre-cursor to Active Directory
This was my first beta exam, so it
was a great challenge for me to remain focused through
four hours of single choice, multiple choice, “choose
two,” and “choose all that apply” questions. Luckily,
I only had a few of the dreaded scenario-type questions.
Of course, being a beta, this exam wasn’t adaptive, but
it may very well become so after it becomes live.
As always, your starting point to tackling
any Microsoft exam should be the Microsoft Training and
Certification Web site. Check the preparation guide and
exam course matrix. These offer an excellent representation
of what you can expect on the exam broken down into its
individual components which include: Personalization and
Management, Search, publishing, content management, content
deployment, Content Analyzer, Report Writer, and Knowledge
Manager. Singly, these are complex enough. Collectively
however, Site Server’s features—in addition to their interrelation
with IIS, SQL Server, and Exchange (if you plan to index
public folders)—can prove to be quite difficult, and the
exam reflects this. You can find easier electives that
will help you achieve your certification goals. However,
this golden chalice is well worth the effort and counts
as an elective credit towards the premium MCSE and MCSE+Internet
The fact that Microsoft offered five
free exam vouchers if you passed the beta exam could be
an indication of its efforts to steer support professionals
towards the forefront of Internet technologies. Expertise
and experience with products like Site Server 3.0 are
sure to be in growing demand.
Rating: "You must fully comprehend
all of the individual components that
comprise Site Server 3.0 and show proficiency
in several key Microsoft products like
SQL Server and Exchange."
Implementing and Supporting Web Sites
Using Microsoft Site Server 3.0
Number of questions:
161 on beta; fewer on actual exam.
4 hours for beta; expect around 90 minutes
for live exam.
Live as of August 1999.
Who should take
it? This exam counts as an elective
for MCSE and MCSE+Internet.
prepare you? Course 1125—Implementing
Microsoft Site Server 3.0.
With hands-on preparation, tackling
each component separately seems to be the best way to
learn the intricacies of Site Server 3.0. If you plan
to prepare for this exam by reading a few study guides,
I wish you the best of luck. The simple act of installation
alone can been a nightmarish adventure (more on this in
a moment). Your best line of defense in preparing for
this exam is working with the product as much as you can
either at a local training facility or by downloading
an evaluation version from Microsoft and putting it through
its paces in a testing lab environment.
Since, as I mentioned, each component
almost warrants its own study, I’ll highlight some preparation
suggestions and exam highlights for each.
In the Beginning
The exam expects you to know the proper installation
order for Site Server 3.0. No easy task. It would be a
“Pinocchio-ism” to say that anyone could have a Site Server
install up and running within a few hours. Your nose would
reach timber-length proportions were you caught muttering,
“Service packs? We don’t need no service packs!” However,
the exam doesn’t expect you to know where or when the
Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) 2.0 Service Pack
2 fits into the equation, nor whether you need to change
the default net library to TCP/IP as per Knowledge Base
article Q19… But you should understand the installation
order of major components like SQL 6.5, Site Server 3.0,
Site Server Service Pack 2, and Windows NT Service Pack
4. Hands-on experience will make a big difference here;
so line up your CDs and start installing.
Tip: Not really a requirement
for the exam, it’s still good to know the complete installation
order; this is nicely documented at www.microsoft.com/siteserver/site/Support/default.htm.
Searching for Certification Success
A lot of the beta exam involved questions
regarding Search Server and/or Catalog Build Server in
some form or another. Site Server 3.0 offers the ability
to catalog several different sources of data, called Web,
file, and Exchange public folder “crawls.” Adding to its
complexity, Search also provides the ability to apply
site rules, NTFS file permissions, and NT and Exchange
Account permissions, and to perform Incremental or full
builds. Mix in Knowledge Manager with its Search, Index,
or ODBC content sources. All are areas you should be comfortable
with. Search is a powerful feature well worth the extra
effort of study—in the process, you’ll uncover great strengths
of the product.
The best way to prepare for Search
questions is to create several search engines using different
“crawls.” I suggest adjusting the range of access granted
to your catalogued data by manipulating NTFS file permissions
and monitoring your results in the Gatherer logs. Try
searching for items that you know shouldn’t be indexed,
like “confidential” or “private,” to verify that you’ve
applied the proper restrictions. This will help you gain
the understanding needed to succeed on this section of
Better still—set up an Exchange Server installation to
practice with. You’ll be that much closer to success.
You may find that you’re tested on Exchange security and
optimization in relation to accessing public folders.
Tip: Read the following
article to round out your knowledge of Exchange: “Integrating
Microsoft Site Server Search with Microsoft Exchange.”
You’ll find it at www.microsoft.com/siteserver/site/DeployAdmin/
An area of strength for Site Server
3.0 is the analysis components that provide outstanding
reporting functionality right out of the box. Custom Import
allows you to import vital data generated from other Site
Server components, like user information from your membership
database, advertising data, or Web site content data.
Usage Import provides the ability to import Web server
log files of various flavors. The Content Analyzer takes
full advantage of Site Server’s tight integration with
IIS and does a respectable job of generating more data
about your Web sites than you ever needed—or perhaps ever
wanted to know.
Possibly the most powerful analysis
component is Report Writer. You can use this tool to create
custom reports, graphs, and HTML reports, or you can choose
from a catalog of pre-defined reports. In your preparation
efforts, create a few reports with Content Analyzer and
become familiar with all the different views available.
Import your analyzed sites using Custom import. Apply
some whois or ipaddress lookups on your imported user
data and see the different results you can achieve. The
exam not only expects a good understanding of all four
analysis components and what each can do, but also of
how to use them in tandem to create truly customized reports.
Deploying and Managing Content
One of the coolest features of Site
Server 3.0—and a Webmaster and Web administrator’s dream—is
the staged propagation of content from a testing to a
production environment, otherwise known as Content Deployment.
The exam tests your knowledge of this feature with several
multiple-choice, single-answer questions. This was the
only topic where I encountered a question that presented
a graphic image of a configuration screenshot. In this
type of question, you’re expected to place the crosshairs
on the option or checkbox that provides the best solution.
Content Deployment also generates several
HTML reports that help you track the status and results
of content propagation. As you practice creating deployment
projects and routes, familiarize yourself with these reports
and what information is available in which report. Understand
rollbacks and their restrictions and the difference between
destination and end-point servers, and make sure you’re
comfortable with projects and routes that run across multiple
Unfortunately, the Site Server 3.0
exam isn’t immune to “scenario” questions; for these,
as you recall, you’re given a situation, along with the
applied actions, and you have to choose what solutions
have been achieved. The area of Content Management seemed
prone to this type of questioning.
Content Management is an exciting feature
that uses the HTTP posting acceptor (ActiveX technology).
Experiment with this feature on a few of the sample sites
that come with Site Server 3.0. Spend some time creating
new content types and editing and approving content.
Make sure to bone up on the site vocabulary.
Also familiarize yourself with Microsoft FrontPage, even
if you prefer Visual Interdev 6.0 as your editing tool
of choice. Understand how to tag content from within the
Getting To Know You—P&M
At the heart of Site Server lies Personalization and
Management, so you can expect the exam to test your knowledge
of the subject.
Tip: O.K. Here’s my attempt
at a free Wrox t-shirt: The best way to prepare for the
Personalization and Membership section for the Site Server
3.0 exam is by reading Site Server 3.0 Personalization
& Management by Robert Howard, Wrox Press. Although
presented more as a reference guide for programmers, I
have yet to come across a publication that explains the
fundamentals of the membership directory and personalization
in such depth.
Understand the hierarchy involved within the Membership
directory; you should be comfortable with o=organization,
ou=organizational_units, and cn=common_name objects. Here’s
where your knowledge of how Site Server interacts with
other Microsoft products will come in handy. The Membership
Directory requires an ODBC database to host user attributes
and various other data. So brush up on Microsoft SQL 6.5
database and log devices, the common ports used by SQL
and membership directories for communication. This is
another area where hands-on configuration and installation
will pay off in your understanding of the subject.
Tip: One final note on Personalization
and Membership: Even though most of us would prefer to
use the Microsoft Management Console, practice creating
membership directory instances with the PMadmin command
line utility and its various switches.
|Several publications, Web
sites, and newsgroups on the topic of
Site Server 3.0 can help you prepare for
the exam. Also, check out that long forgotten
love story called e-Manual. Site Server
3.0 and its demo version ship with some
of the most comprehensive on-line documentation
I’ve ever seen. Everything you need to
know is there and will help you get started.
The list of resources I include below
will also help guide you through the Site
Server 3.0 maze—and, I hope, towards certification
- Beginning Site Server by
Stagner and Kanderziske. Available
September 1999 from Wrox Press, ISBN
- Microsoft Site Server 3.0 Bible
by Brad Harris. IDG Books Worldwide,
ISBN 0-76453-193-X, $49.99.
- Official Microsoft Site Server
2.0 Enterprise Edition Toolkit
by Farhad Amirfaiz. Microsoft Press,
ISBN 1-57231-622-5, $79.99.
- Site Server 3.0 Personalization
and Membership by Robert Howard.
Wrox Press, ISBN 1-86100-194-0, $49.99.
- Special Edition Using Microsoft
Site Server by Wadman, Velez,
and Peront. Que Education & Training,ISBN
Expect the Site Server 3.0 exam to
provide a true challenge. To master the product and succeed
on the exam, you must fully comprehend all of the individual
components that comprise Site Server 3.0. This product
also dictates proficiency in several key Microsoft products
like Internet Information Server, Microsoft SQL Server
6.5, and Exchange Server, most of which are required to
run Site Server 3.0.
I know—I’m starting to sound like a
broken record: Hands-on! Hands-on! However, I do strongly
recommend that you work with this product for a least
six months to understand its intricacies. If you can’t
manage to get your hands on a working practice environment,
find a Certified Technical Education Center and take one
of their courses. My last bit of advice: Tackle this exam
only if you have experience with or plan to support a
Site Server 3.0 environment. Good luck!