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Ten Topics That You Need to Study for the 70-668 Exam

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With any Microsoft certification exam, there are certain topics that show up in multiple questions. There are also topics that are easy to overlook as you are studying for an exam because the topics might seem insignificant. In either case, it is difficult to pass a Microsoft certification exam without knowledge of such topics. This article discusses 10 different areas that you need to study in order to pass exam 70–668.

Although Microsoft’s site does a good job of outlining the objectives for the 70-668 SharePoint exam, it is a good idea to brush up on some specific topics within the overall exam objectives. This article is designed not as a comprehensive study guide, but rather as a tool for pointing out some of the more important exam objectives.

1. User Profiles and the User Profile Service

You can expect to see several questions related to the User Profile service. The User Profile Service is designed to store information about users in a central location that is accessible across the SharePoint deployment. User profile information is used for things like My Site, social tagging, and news feeds.

You should also make sure that you know how profile synchronization works. Profile synchronization essentially links a user’s profile to the user’s Active Directory account.

2. Indexing Strategies

Over time, SharePoint deployments can accumulate a lot of data. Users typically locate this data through queries. Query performance can be greatly improved by indexing the data that is being queried.

As much as indexing helps queries to be completed more quickly, indexing alone may not be enough. For example, there is a misconception that SharePoint 2010 limits you to storing 2000 items in a list. In actuality, this limitation doesn’t pertain to the list’s capacity, but rather to the total number of items that can be returned by a query before performance begins to be effected.

As such, Microsoft provides a feature called Query Throttling that can help keep performance from suffering when a user queries large lists. Query Throttling is used to prevent excessive numbers of query results from being returned. By default, SharePoint limits regular users to displaying 5,000 results, and the limit is raised to 20,000 results for administrators. Although you can change the throttling limits, there are other things that can be done as well. For example, you can limit the number of fields that can be included in a query.

3. Upgrading 32-Bit SharePoint Servers

Even though Microsoft has an official policy barring the use of trick questions on their exams, don’t be surprised if you see a question or two related to upgrading legacy servers that are running 32-bit operating systems (on either 32-bit or on 64-bit hardware).

What you need to know in order to get this question right is that even though SharePoint 2010 does support in-place upgrades of legacy SharePoint servers, it must run on a 64-bit operating system. Since there is no way to do an in place 32-bit to 64-bit Windows upgrade, you will have to perform a migration rather than an upgrade.

4. Recovery Planning (recovery point objective and recovery time objective)

When you take the 70-668 exam, you can expect to see some questions that deal with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) as they pertain to backup and recovery. There are three main concepts that you will need to be familiar with:

  • The Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the maximum amount of time that the organization can afford for the service to be unavailable. As such, the SLA mandates that the server be recovered within the stated RTO.
  • The Recovery Point Objective (RPO) relates to how much data can be recovered. In other words, how much time could potentially lapse between the most recent backup and a failure? If you backup a SharePoint server each night for example, then the RPO could be 23 hours.
  • Recovery Level Objective (RLO) refers to the granularity of the recovery. In other words, you have to plan for whether the organization wants to be able to restore an entire farm, or a single list. RLO can apply to other SharePoint objects such as web applications, libraries, site collections, or even a single item within a site.

5. Standalone SharePoint Server Deployments

Although the 70-668 exam focuses primarily on deployment planning for SharePoint in enterprise environments, don’t be surprised if you see a question or two related to single server deployments.

Make sure that you know how to perform a standalone deployment before taking the exam. You will need to know the prerequisites, as well as the fact that when you perform a standalone deployment, the SharePoint 2010 setup program will automatically install SQL Server Express to the local machine. You should also know that SharePoint 2010 can be installed to a Windows 7 machine (for development and testing purposes), but that doing so is officially unsupported by Microsoft.

6. Single Server Farms

Although it is important to know about standalone server deployments, it is equally important to understand that a standalone deployment is different from a single server deployment. Although both a standalone deployment and a single server deployment make use of one single SharePoint server, there are key differences between the two deployment types.

The most important of these differences is the fact that a standalone deployment is intended only for the smallest environments and can never be added on to. A single server farm, on the other hand, is a true SharePoint farm, and you can eventually bring additional SharePoint servers into the farm should you ever have the need.

You should also know that while a standalone deployment makes use of SQL Server Express, a single server farm on the other hand uses a full blown SQL Server installation (although SQL Server can be installed on the same machine as SharePoint).

7. 3 Tier Farm Planning

Larger SharePoint deployments are usually deployed in tiers. One of the most common designs (one you are sure to encounter on the exam) is called a three tier farm. As the name implies, this design makes use of three separate tiers.

The first tier is known as the web tier. The web tier contains web servers (with the query component). Inbound requests are load balanced and distributed among the servers in the web tier.

The second tier is the application tier. Servers in the application tier are not exposed directly to the Internet, but rather sit behind web tier servers. Application tier servers are simply SharePoint 2010 servers that act as application servers and run components such as SharePoint Central Administration, the Search Administration Component, and the Crawl Component.

The third and final tier is the database tier. The database tier is where your backend SQL Server database resides. The database server stores things like Central Administration content and configuration databases, farm content databases, search administration databases, crawl databases, and property databases.

8. Content Isolation

Being that so much of this exam focuses on large scale deployments, you should expect to see several questions dealing with sandboxing and other forms of content isolation. SharePoint 2010 provides several different forms of content isolation.

One example of isolating content is that within a server farm you can use multiple IIS application pools each with its own process identity as a way of providing process level isolation for sites and service applications.

You will also need to know how to deploy services in partitioned mode. Doing so allows you to share the service application, while isolating the data in a way that prevents it from being accessible to anyone other than the users who need it.

9. Capacity Planning

Since much of the 70-668 exam revolves around architectural design, make sure that you are familiar with SharePoint 2010 capacity planning. Incidentally, some people have reported seeing questions asking about the maximum number of service applications that can be hosted in a single farm. According to Microsoft, there is no limit.

As you study the various capacity planning issues, it is important to keep in mind that SharePoint capacity planning involves much more than simply estimating how much traffic your web servers and application servers can handle. SharePoint servers are tied to a backend SQL Server database, and it is absolutely critical to any SharePoint deployment to ensure that the database server can handle the required disk IO.

10. Adding Additional Capacity

In larger deployments, it is sometimes necessary to add additional SharePoint servers as a way of increasing a farm’s capacity. Although adding servers to a farm isn’t exactly rocket science, you do need to be familiar with the requirements for doing so. Some of the more important requirements include:

  • Determine what tier the new server will function in (web tier, application tier, database tier).
  • Make sure that you have the proper permissions. You will need to be a member of the Farm Administrator SharePoint group and the server’s local Administrators group.
  • Make sure that you know where the database server is, which SQL Server instance SharePoint needs to be connected to, and the password for doing so.
  • Ensure that you know where the SharePoint binaries are installed on the other servers in the farm so that the new server can be deployed in a consistent manner.
  • Determine which services and applications will need to be present on the new server.
  • Determine whether or not any load balancing solutions will need to be reconfigured to make them aware of the new server.
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