A little less than a month ago Patrick from Red-Track online marketing contacted me and wanted to know if I'd be interested in reviewing a TrainSignal training DVD, specifically one about Exchange 2010.
If you want the final word on the quality of the training head straight to the final paragraph, otherwise strap in; This is a long post.
I'll have to be honest, I had never heard of TrainSignal until that point, and I was wondering if it was a bit of a scam. However, several days later a set of DVDs arrive via UPS. What I received was a set of 3 DVDs, in a standard DVD case, and a little shipping note. Having not actually ordered them themself I don't know if I should've got a little “this is your training” letter, or if thats just it. I would say that a little note would have been nice, especially pointing out the interesting bits about DVD 3. To me this DVD would be the one that would most interest a lot of the busier, and perhaps younger, generation. It has pre-converted versions of all the training videos, for iPods/iPhones, and it also has audio-only versions. The README on DVD 1 and 2 didn't mention this at all, and it would've been nice.
In terms of the actual content of DVD 1 and 2, you get a DVD with a bunch of folders, one of which is a codec directory, a bunch of lesson directories, a notes directory that has a nice set of PDFs you can print to take notes on (very useful for a class environment) and another about the lab setup, along with the obligatory Windows autorun, and a small README. There are a few other files and folders, but you probably won't care too much about them.
The README itself says that the DVDs require Windows and Internet Explorer, however you can just dive into the directories and open up the AVI files using your favourite video player. In my case I watched some of the videos on my desktop, under Windows using IE, and then I switched to using VLC under OS X and later Ubuntu. If you're a “power user” understanding this won't be an issue for you, however on the off chance that a less experienced user receives these and has a non-Windows desktop it may've been nice to detail as such.
The actual content of the training videos is very professional, as you should expect. You have a voice over from J. Peter Bruzzese, and a video that has slides and screen capture, which is all clearly explained. The video starts off with an introduction and an explanation as to what you should expect from the series, and even better does tell you that if you've got experience with Exchange 2007 that you can just jump about a bit. I thought that was a nice touch. It could be argued that it's a bit redundant, however it's a nice nod to those who know the previous version nicely.
The videos will take you through the configuration, how to build a similar lab setup, and outlines a real world scenario. It's this scenario that the rest of the videos are based around. To me I think thats a very important thing to have done. A number of the other training videos I've had to sit through have been very abstract, and forced. It prevents you from really connecting with the content, and you don't always learn.
Having setup 2 production Exchange 2010 organisations in the last year, one of which is using what many will consider an “advanced feature” (Database Availability Groups), and another that was running from the Beta, I found the pace to be very slow and I actually watched all of the videos at an accelerated rate. By the end I had managed to ramp upto 2.2x speed, only dipping slower to listen in on the bits that I've not yet used or I was concerned may've been lacking. I'm not suggesting that you do this, but if you do know Exchange 2010 I'd suggest that you select the videos you want to watch carefully.
However, it's I have no doubt that it's extremely accessible if you're completely new to Exchange, or if you're coming to it from Exchange 2003 or prior.
The videos end with an outline of the Exchange 2010 certification exam. My concern with that would be that some may rely on that a little too much. It would've been nice to hear a statement outlining that you should really check to see if there have been any ammendments, or so forth.
The only other concerns that I've got are that it is pre-service pack 1, it brings up remote file servers (which I thought had been dropped from Exchange 2010, despite being left in the GUI), and I found the video on Database Availability Group to be a little lacking.
Now, in Peter's defence I've only recently setup DAG, and it is very much a feature that you should do research into before deploying. But it would've been nice to see a mention about running multiple networks, and more DAG customisation. In constrast the other “advanced” section on Unified Messaging was detailed enough to bring you upto date on what you need to know, common issues, and what you may need from your phone guys.
Ultimately J. Peter Bruzzese is a knowledgable, well spoken instructor. The training is good quality, although you certainly want to ensure that you know what you're buying. If you have been working with Exchange 2010 in production for some time, and have been playing with it during beta, you may want to look elsewhere. This is definitely training for those with little to no experience of Exchange since 2003, or prior, or none at all. However, if you have other staff who have little experience with Exchange 2010 then I heartily recommend TrainSignal's Exchange 2010 training. You won't be disappointed.