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Microsoft’s free virtual labs

If you have spent any time looking around my site, you will notice that I love study materials and in particular I love free ones. I even have a page devoted to study materials most of which are free.

Now Microsoft has dozens of virtual labs available on TechNet. That’s cool enough but did I mention they are free?!? I’ve talked about them before. A while back I mentioned a page by Zilckh who points out these labs and what types are available. (I’ll be adding a more direct link as well)

Over the last couple of weeks these labs have come up in conversation several times both on twitter and at my office. After all of that, I thought I would point them out, and of course if I’m going to point them out, I should probably give one a shot right?

So I decided to do the Upgrading to SQL Server 2012 from SQL 2005/2008 lab – this being a ongoing project at work. Now over the years, I’ve been involved in upgrades from 2000 to 2005 and 2005 to 2008 so I didn’t expect to see anything unfamiliar but I wanted to see how the labs themselves worked. I did run into some difficulty getting it started but mostly because of some security issues that I got taken care of pretty easily.

Once the lab started to load it brought up two separate windows.

  • The first was a manual for the lab. The manual had a general discussion on methods of doing the upgrade then walked you through testing the old server using the upgrade wizard and actually upgrading a couple of databases including making a couple of mistakes.
  • The other window was the lab itself. It had “links” to 3 different “machines”. One held the 2005 instance, another the 2012 instance, and to be honest I never needed the 3rd so I’m not sure what it was for.

The interface worked quite well and appeared to be full versions of SQL Server. At least when I made an unplanned mistake it reacted exactly like I would have expected it to. All in all it was a very positive experience and one I highly recommend. I look forward to trying out some of the others including the new SQL 2014 labs.

Filed under: Documentation, Microsoft SQL Server, SQLServerPedia Syndication Tagged: Documentation, microsoft sql server


My name is Kenneth Fisher and I am Senior DBA for a large (multi-national) insurance company. I have been working with databases for over 20 years starting with Clarion and Foxpro. I’ve been working with SQL Server for 12 years but have only really started “studying” the subject for the last 3. I don’t have any real "specialities" but I enjoy trouble shooting and teaching. Thus far I’ve earned by MCITP Database Administrator 2008, MCTS Database Administrator 2005, and MCTS Database Developer 2008. I’m currently studying for my MCITP Database Developer 2008 and should start in on the 2012 exams next year. My blog is at www.sqlstudies.com.


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