Practical Online Courses for a Secretary Turned IT Person
April 3, 2014 11:26 AM   Subscribe

What online courses are immediately applicable to IT knowledge for a medium-small "knowledge" company?

After 10 years as a software-savvy secretary, I've wormed my way into a IT assistant position and am stoked! I know little about IT, except the general way hardware interfaces with software and networks and end-user experience, and have an avid interest in information structure, interfaces and equipment. Fortunately, for my company -- that's impressive.

Up to now, I've taken a hands-on, tinker when I have free time, "learn as I go" approach, doing my own research online (free resources) but now my employer is willing to sink some money into educating me.

We're a company of 60 employees, are a consulting firm, with about five offices. We...

run Windows
have Exchange Servers
deploy laptops to various users
use desktop computers to serve software to people remotely
use VMWare
have a "terminal server" through which people can access email and software out-of-office
deal with HIPAA protected information that we need to ensure is secure

We use an off-site IT Service that troubleshoots problems over the phone and "remotes in" to our computers to fix them or set them up. I'm sure management would like to see us cut down on our bills to this company, especially since I don't think our employees like having to contact a call-center when they have computer problems (even though the company does quite a good job), but I don't think help-desk troubleshooting is my first order of business.

I think I should probably learn about:

Microsoft Exchange Server
server administration
database management
network infrastructure
network security

For a few months now, I've worked under a COO that seems to know less than I do about computers/software/equipment in general, but she's relied upon the IT Service to advise her generally.

The COO is now in the process stepping back from a managerial role and I've been told we're looking for a CIO but, I think, to the degree that I can show IT competence, we might hold off on deciding much we want to spend on another executive.

I see online that colleges/universities offer IT courses, but I don't know how practical (i.e., immediately applicable) they are, and they don't seem that easy to sign up for.

Traveling is a concern, since I have no car. A one-day course somewhere is better than an ongoing one, but I think an online course would be best for me given that I work full time and am not a car owner.

What should I learn first?

Please ask any questions about my situation or our systems that would pertain to any advice you'd give. I might be missing information that would better help in answering my question.

Thanks so much!
posted by alice_curiouse to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Pluralsight is excellent. Although the majority of their courses are programming based they do have some sys admin stuff.
posted by oh pollo! at 11:42 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Slightly biased as a security pro, but I would love it if more IT generalists invested in some security knowledge. SANS' Security Essentials would be fantastic, and is available online.
posted by bfranklin at 11:59 AM on April 3, 2014

I've used CBTNuggets videos as part of my studies to get my CCNA and also to get a good overall grasp of Amazon Web Services.

It's not exactly cheap at $99/month but I think it's well worth it. Also, they seem to be a bit more admin-oriented than Pluralsight.
posted by Gev at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2014

Perhaps you'd find something pertinent in the many and varied IT courses on the coursera platform. These are free MOOCs from major universities.

Stanford University has a databases course archived there. And it look like there are some of security-related courses, like one from Maryland on "Usable security" coming up.

Very easy to sign up for!
posted by bertran at 2:43 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

If your job is going to pay for it, go through an MCSE bootcamp.
posted by empath at 2:25 AM on April 4, 2014

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