Recently, we’ve done a couple of features on the core tools and skills needed by IT professionals who support and manage Macs and iOS devices in business environments. Knowing what those tools and skills you need is a step in the direction to becoming a killer Mac tech or multi-platform sysadmin, but to really succeed, you need to acquire those skills and learn how to use the appropriate tools.
There are a range of training options available with price points ranging from free online resources to professional IT training companies and Apple-authorized training centers. Which options (or mix of options) are best for you will vary depending on your learning style, the skills and experience that you already possess, and your budget.
In this feature, we’re going to focus on some of the best low-cost (and no-cost) options out there.
If you have access to (and budget for) professional training centers that teach Apple, Microsoft, and other IT vendor-certified programs, it’s certainly worth taking advantage of those opportunities – particularly if they offer industry certifications and/or job placement services.
Similarly, there are some excellent books on the market including the Apple Training Series books from Peachpit that form the backbone of some Apple certification classes. If you want to incorporate major technology books as part of your own self-study program, you may want to consider signing up for Safari Books Online. That program makes a wide range of technology training and reference titles from the major technology publishers available as a low-cost rental service similar to a library.
Apple Developer Program videos and library (cost $99/year for Mac or iOS program) – Membership in Apple’s developer programs comes with a wealth of videos from past WWDC events along with some introductory videos for Mac and iOS development. Apple also serves up a range of developer documentation. While most of this material is oriented around building apps, there is some useful content for techs and systems administrators to explore. One caveat to the developer program library is that it contains recent and archive information meaning that you should take note of the date and OS version when browsing it. That said, even some of the archive entries provide helpful background.
Apple education online seminars (free) – Apple has always been a strong supporter of IT in the education sector. The company offers a regular series of one-hour online events covering various Mac and iOS topics. Although geared towards schools and colleges, several topics can be applied to business environments and can be a useful resource for any Mac/iOS IT professional. Registration is required to join live events or view archived ones (you can register even if you’re not affiliated with a school or college).
Apple education IT tutorials (free) – Another option from Apple’s education site is Apple’s education IT resources page. It includes a range of excellent introductory tutorials for Apple enterprise technologies including iOS and Mac deployment, management, enterprise systems integration, and OS X Server. It also offers some links to white papers and best practices guides (some of which are education-specific while others are more general).
Apple’s Lion Server Documentation (free) – If you’re working with Lion Server, you’ll want to grab the guides on this page (if you haven’t already). They include a guide to Unix under Lion, Apple’s Xsan administration guide, and the full Lion Server documentation – including the advanced administration tools and underlying concepts. Even if you’re not going to be working with Lion Server, the admin guide can be a solid reference for several Apple IT concepts like directory services and Mac/iOS client management.
Lynda.com ($25/month and up depending on membership level) – Lynda.com is an excellent all-round video training site. It contains a range of content. It does include a lot of technology basics for home users, but don’t be turned off by that. The site also has some real gems when it comes to IT topics, particularly Apple-related IT. The site has a couple of comprehensive OS X Server tutorials (Snow Leopard and Lion versions) that are well worth the cost of admission. There are also tutorials on common workplace Mac technologies like Final Cut Pro Adobe CS6 apps. The site even has an iOS app for learning on the go.
Penn State MacAdmins Conference Archive (free) – The annual Penn State MacAdmins Conference is a great event for learning about the concepts and tools required to successfully manage Macs in education or business environments. Contents from the last two conferences are available online and include videos and slide decks. While not all sessions are available, those that are pack a lot of great information.
European MacSysadmin’s Conference Archive (free) – Much like the Penn State MacAdmins Conference, the annual European MacSysadmin’s Conference is a great place to learn about the tools that you can use to manage Macs and iOS devices in an enterprise or business environment. The conference has a more general feel to it than some of the education-specific resources on our list and some of the top Apple IT consultants in the world present every year. If you can’t make it to Sweden each fall, however, videos (in various device-optimized formats) and slide decks are freely available along with scripts and other resources referenced during the sessions.
iTunes U (free) – Apple’s iTunes U is a great reference source for many professionals. The iPad-oriented relaunch of the site in January added a wealth of value by letting institutions deliver the complete course experience (reading, projects, and so forth) rather than just lectures. Stanford immediately launched its iOS development class on iTunes U – an amazing resource in itself. Beyond iOS development, however, there are a number of technology and IT courses on iTunes U (though many are still in the older lecture-only form). This makes iTunes U an invaluable all-round IT resource.
Krypted.com (free) – Krypted.com is the website of Apple IT consultant and author Charles Edge. The site, which has been up and running for several years, includes a range of well-organized posts covering all manner of Mac and iOS IT topics as well as some of Edge’s personal interests. It’s a useful reference source particularly if you’re looking for a very specific piece of information or niche tool. Edge also offers a range of introductory video tutorials on OS X Server and related topics (it’s a bit easier to browse those on his YouTube channel rather than his site).
Xsanity (free) – Xsanity is dedicated to providing information and a forum for IT professionals working with Apple’s Xsan SAN file system and Final Cut Server.
AFP548.com (free) – AFP548 is a long-running Mac enterprise site. While it does include some useful posts and articles, its most useful feature is its active and dedicated forum – which is a great place to turn for advice or help solving a specific problem.