I've been aware of Pluralsight for a couple of years and as I’m always looking for very cheap or free ways to learn I made a resolution to check out Pluralsight this year to see what the crack is. That task was made a whole load easier thanks to Paul Randal passing on a free 1 month pass as part of one of his recent blog posts. So I signed up, watched a couple of courses and to say that I’m damn impressed with the site is an understatement.
I read a lot of blogs and I’ve got FeedDemon setup with loads of RSS subscriptions where each day I sift through all the new posts and store the ones I want to read later in Pocket. But there is only so much that you can learn from blog posts. Blog posts by their very design are generally short and to the point and you could be reading about any topic from one minute to the next. I learnt loads of things from blogs over the years and I'm always using them as reference sources, but I wouldn’t exactly call it “training”.
So where can you go for free training that’s a bit more in depth that your average blog post? Well there are plenty of good webcasts that occur on fairly regular basis which you can watch live if you are able to or afterwards. Most last from a few minutes up to about an hour. There are also loads of videos from previous SQL events such as PASS and SQLBits which are free to watch and these are great ways of learning as well. Similarly Youtube has many videos of varying degrees of quality plus there are channels from some of the big names in the community with some of their previously recorded material. For something a little more advanced then there are a whole bunch of MCM readiness videos as well to while away the hours on Technet.
So what about Pluralsight as that isn’t exactly free? No, it isn’t, but the basic package is $29 per month which is crazily good value for money because here that amounts to just £0.60p per day… A mere 1/4 of the cost of a cup of that overpriced coffee that many of us grab on the way to work. Barely the cost of bag of crisps or a chocolate bar. Paying 60pence a day to Pluralsight gets you access to a growing library that has 100’s of courses covering a whole range of IT skills and has new content being added every few days. Unlike the free videos/webcasts that you find on the web, these training courses can last hours! For example, I’ve just finished watching Paul’s course on logging, recovery and transaction log which lasted over 7.5hrs and that isn’t unusual on there. most courses seem to be at around 2 or 3 hours long but there are some going past 10hrs!. there is one lasting 19hrs albeit one that is flagged as retired. If you are like me where you have to wear many hats i.e. dev/dba/infrastructure then this really is a one stop shop for your training needs.
Personally I think that negotiating a Pluralsight subscription with your employer as part of your individual training package should be a must now. Even if it means that’ll be the only training that you are granted, I’d still recommend a Pluralsight subscription over other forms of training such as classroom based/books etc as you’ll be hard pressed to get the same return for just £200 per year. If your employer won’t pay for it, then try and fund it yourself for a few months if you are serious about learning. If money is tight what about subscribing for a couple of months, learn like crazy in that time, turn off your subscription and then repeat again in a few months. With those new skills and knowledge, hopefully you can move on to a better employer that will invest in you.
My only grumble? The fact that to download exercise file content requires the more costly plus subscription ($49 per month). Assessments/certificates/offline viewing absolutely have no argument about them being premium features but I think having the ability to download the exercise files that accompany the courses should actually be a basic subscription feature. I don’t think the extra $20 per month justifies the ability to get the exercise files from the courses. Offline viewing is useful and assessments will appeal to some I’m sure, but I question the actual usefulness of the certificates. I can’t bring myself to pay the extra $20 per month unless I really need the ability to view offline. I would however consider paying a nominal amount extra per month, say $5 for the ability to download exercise files. Kinda like a middle subscription plan that sits between the basic + premium for about $35 per month. I do believe that would actually encourage a few basic subscribers to to upgrade off the basic subscription.
Oh, and one more feature I'd like to see - Paypal payments in addition to credit cards (to be fair it is listed as a feature request so hopefully we may see that one day)