This week, I re-discovered Microsoft's TechNet Virtual Labs
. These are fully-functional labs set up with Microsoft technologies to help you learn something new or brush up your skills in a safe environment. The labs cover a wide range of Microsoft products - Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center, Forefront Identity Manager, Visual Studio, and more. I checked out two labs in particular this week: Exploring AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances in SQL Server 2014
and Exploring AlwaysOn Availability Groups in SQL Server 2014
. Both come with multiple servers set up with a Windows Server Failover Cluster. From there, it was up to me to create the SQL Server Failover Cluster Instance, or the Availability Group. The labs walked me through set-up, connecting in various ways, proving the high availability worked, and how to perform a failover. In addition to following the provided steps in the labs, I could poke around and play with other features. I wouldn't want to fail over a production FCI in the middle of a work day, but I can do it here without worrying about interrupting the business. There were only two drawbacks that I saw. First, the WSFC were already set up, so that couldn't be learned in these labs. I think it's important to know how to set this up. (But there's a lab for that
!) Second, I can't save my progress when I exit. If I want to work on it another day, I have to start over. I'd still highly recommend you check out the Virtual Labs. You can learn the latest Microsoft technologies through hands-on labs, in the comfort of your office chair, for free
. What's not to love?!