How Difficult is the AZ-800?
The AZ-800 is a cloud certification geared toward Windows administration experts. It is required to earn Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification. Both the AZ-800 and AZ-801 are required to earn this cert. The test is also referred to as the Administering Windows Server Hybrid Core Infrastructure Exam. At the time of this writing, it is a newer exam released back in December of 2021.
The average exam taker should have extensive experience working with Windows Server Operating systems — so at least a couple of years of on-the-job training at a minimum. Let's walk through what exactly is on the exam.
What is on the AZ-800 Exam?
The AZ-800 focuses on configuring and managing a Windows Server on-premise, hybrid, and IaaS platform workloads. Because familiarity with IaaS and hybrid is crucial, you must have an understanding of the Azure Console and all the services required to facilitate Windows administration.
Typically, you will need to have expertise in identity & access management, networking, virtual machine creation, and storage. It is also important to know Windows Admin Center, PowerShell, Azure Arc, and IaaS VM administration. It's worth noting that this is not an "Azure exam" per se. It is focused primarily on Windows administration. However, Azure is now part and parcel of the Microsoft ecosystem, so it is critical to have a good understanding of cloud architecture.
The following is a breakdown of the exam's core components. There will be a brief list of examples to illustrate what these bullet points entail. However, as a caveat, all of the examples provided may or may not be on the exam.
1. Deploy and manage Active Directory Domain Services in on-premise and cloud environment. (30-35%)
This is referring to actions like deploying AD DS domain controllers, configuring group policies, and troubleshooting flexible single master operations (FSMO) roles. It also covers Azure services such as Azure AD Connect, Azure AD Connect Synchronization, and Azure AD DS.
2. Manage Windows Servers and workloads in a hybrid environment. (10-15%)
These actions include running remote commands via PowerShell and creating runbooks to automate various tasks on a particular virtual machine.
3. Manage virtual machines and containers. (15-20%)
This is all about creating virtual machines in the cloud. In this section, you'll need to understand proper VM memory utilization, implementing high availability solutions, and configuring remote containers.
4. Implement and manage an on-premises and hybrid networking infrastructure. (15-20%)
You will be expected to integrate a Windows Server DNS with Azure DNS private zones — as well as create and manage zones and records, amongst other things.
5. Manage storage and file services (15-20%)
In this section, you will be tested on the ability to create sync groups, cloud endpoints, configure SMB directly, and a host of other challenges.
How Long is the Exam?
All of the particulars are subject to change, but the AZ-800 exam costs $165, takes about 85 minutes, and consists of somewhere between 45 and 60 questions.
Another thing to remember is that the difficulty level of the questions can be a mixed bag. You may run into some easy questions, but there will be plenty of difficult ones as well. Microsoft asks fair questions, so don't expect any gotchas on the exam.
How to Prepare for the AZ-800 Exam
Hands down, the best way to “prepare" for this exam is to have on-the-job training. Nothing beats having experience administering Windows servers in the cloud when it comes to taking the AZ-800 exam. In fact, it is recommended that you have 2-3 years of experience before taking the exam. If you are here and brand new to Azure, there are plenty of better certificates to cut your teeth on — such as the AZ-200 or AZ-104. The AZ-800 exam is not for beginners.
Speaking of the AZ-104, that is a great certification to get before the AZ-800. The AZ-104 focuses solely on Azure administration. There is some overlap between the two, particularly in the areas of governance and compliance, Azure storage, Azure virtual machines, and networking.
So you have the experience and have decided to take the AZ-104. Now, it's time to delve into the guts of the AZ-800 exam and see what to study first. As luck would have it, Microsoft provides a thorough jumbo-sized study guide to prepare for the exam. By the end of this study guide, there is no reason to think you won't pass the exam.
Finally, while it may seem old-fashioned, nothing beats flash cards. Everything you learn in a professional training course should end up on a flash card. Also, while going through a book or study guide, think of questions that may be asked on the exam. Write them down on one side, and the answer on the other. The same goes for virtually anything else that may pop up on the exam — vocabulary, the purpose of an Azure service, et cetera.
Is the AZ-800 Exam Easy?
While the difficulty of an exam is understandably subjective, I would go out on a limb and say this is a pretty hard exam. After all, there are five separate topics, spanning on-premise, cloud, and hybrid Windows administration. Even a seasoned administrator would have a hard time remembering absolutely everything covered on the AZ-800 exam.
However, any and every exam becomes far easier once you have enough training and experience. For example, many people classify running a marathon as "hard". But is it hard if you train correctly every day for a year? The answer is clearly no. The same goes for the AZ-800 exam.
How Difficult is the AZ-800 Exam?
Regardless of how difficult the exam is, assume it is the hardest exam in the world. Prepare as if there is only a 1% chance of passing. The best way to do this has been outlined in this post.
There are dozens of resources that teach the ins and outs of Windows Server administration. If learning Windows Server is related to your day-to-day work, check with your manager to see if your company will pay for any training and even the AZ-800 exam. Lastly, make flashcards and go over them every day. If you follow all these steps, combined with the requisite experience, then you should increase your odds of passing the exam!