How to become AWS Certified from scratch!

Overview

Everyone wants to be certified but what certification is valuable in the IT industry? This answer depends on you, so what is your main role in IT and how do you want to proceed with your further career growth.

Nowadays, in 2019, Cloud Computing technologies are having a huge influence on the IT economy and based on future predictions, in the near future, all applications and services will be hosted in the cloud. Dozens of applications migrate to cloud-based architecture because of the provided security, network latency, scalability, complex user management system and etc. Meanwhile, one of the innovative technology, serverless, is available only in a cloud. Hence, Cloud Computing engineers are becoming in high demand and certifications in that sphere becoming top must-have certificates of the IT industry.

Currently, the biggest share in the cloud industry has AWS (Amazon Web Services) since Amazon was the first who started to popularize “cloud computing” expression by releasing its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) product in 2006. There are several other large clouds such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud and etc. Now, these clouds are obtaining popularity from engineers or business managers by their wide variety of services and cost.

The Growth of Cloud Market Share in 2018–2019

AWS Certification

AWS Certification helps engineers to setup trustworthiness and reliance by confirming their cloud computing experiences with an industry-recognized credential and methods distinguish qualified specialists to lead cloud enterprises by using AWS.

Inasmuch as AWS is the leading Cloud enterprise system, AWS certificates have significant demand in the marketplace. A plethora of engineers is striving to be certified AWS engineers. Having a certificate makes you feel confident when you want to change your job or to have a career extension. AWS provides multiple certification choices that suit you or your employer demand.

Available AWS Certifications in 2019

The costs of the certifications are different and very cheap with comparing other certification costs. As a consequence, it allows engineers from poor countries to have the ability to pass AWS certification and expand their career perspectives.

  • Practitioner Level — 100$
  • Associate Level — 150$
  • Professional Level — 300$
  • Specialty Level — 300$

Frankly speaking, the AWS certification examination is not the hardest thing I have done. The primary difficulty of this certification is the amount of information that you need to absorb in order to assuredly pass the examination. Each AWS Certification dealing with a particular domain (a field in AWS) and the domain realization is dealt with a bunch of services so for instance, if you want to pass AWS Solution Architect Associate certification it is not required to know all services only proportion of service knowledge is required. All domains have their primary and secondary services, hence you need to know some services in depth with all important features and having a basic notion about secondary services.

All AWS certifications are based on AWS white-papers, accordingly, it is required to learn them, although you do not need to learn them by heart. Besides, AWS white-papers provide very useful information about AWS projects and services.


Overview of AWS SAA certification

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate certification is for engineers who want to become a solution architect in AWS. This examination ensues an examinee’s skill to adequately show knowledge of how to architect and implement a secure, fault-tolerant, scalable application on the AWS platform.

If you look at the AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate certification page, on Candidate overview section, there is a huge recommendation for candidates. You do not need to be afraid, you can pass that examination even without having perfect knowledge of that bullet points. As far as I am concerned, as a background, a candidate should know at least basic software architecting knowledge. Therefore, in my opinion, this examination is for engineers from Intermediate to Senior level, I would not recommend Junior Engineers to pass the exam since it will be a bit tough for them.

The examination is available in English, Japanese, Korean, and Simplified Chinese languages, so if you do not know one of these languages you should consider first to improve your language since it will have enormous influence on certification result. The exam duration is 130 minute, I can 100% surely say that current duration is enough. For instance, for me, the examination took about 75 minutes.

Current certification is based on the following domains (about official domain information you can have a look official blueprint of the certification)

  • Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures — 34%
  • Domain 2: Define Performant Architectures — 24%
  • Domain 3: Specify Secure Applications and Architectures — 26%
  • Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures — 10%
  • Domain 5: Define Operationally Excellent Architectures — 6%

Domain 1 Design Resilient Architectures

  • Choose reliable/resilient storage (AWS S3 is the most important to know in order to accomplish this subdomain.)
  • Determine how to design decoupling mechanisms using AWS services. — (For decoupling AWS provides a bunch of services but the essentials are AWS SNS, SQS, SWF)
  • Determine how to design a multi-tier architecture solution. (In multi-tier architecture is important to know AWS EC2, Lambda Functions and superficially understand AWS ECS)
  • Determine how to design high availability and/or fault tolerant architectures (Understand which services by default are highly available for instance S3 by default is hosted in multiple AZ and therefore it is available. For Fault tolerance you should understand principles of AWS ELB since in examination were a lot of questions pertaining to ELB)

Domain 2 Define Performant Architectures

  • Choose performant storage and databases. (The important services which you need to know are SQL database services such as AWS RDS and AWS Aurora, Aurora is one part of RDS but there are some questions about only Aurora since it is AWS product. NoSQL databases DynamoDB for storing session data. In addition, you need to understand AWS EBS, EFS, and their major nuances)
  • United StatesApply caching to improve performance. (For caching solution you need to have basic knowledge about AWS Elasticache and AWS CloudFront)
  • Design solutions for elasticity and scalability. (AWS Autoscaling Group with AWS CloudWatch events provides perfect elasticity and scalability, so there are very important to know. There are a lot of questions regarding AWS Autoscaling Group and AWS CloudWatch)

Domain 3: Specify Secure Applications and Architectures

  • Determine how to secure application tiers. (Important part of securing part is to know how VPC works and create your own VPC secure environment)
  • Determine how to secure data (Understand the main features of VPC private subnet. As best practice shows all database tiers should be located in VPC private subnet)
  • Define the networking infrastructure for a single VPC application. (Understand all network features of VPC Peering, VPC Endpoints, VPC VPN connections, AWS Direct Connects Gateway and etc.)

Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures

  • Determine how to design cost-optimized storage (In order to complete this subdomain you should get a clear understanding of AWS S3 storage types and how their costs are different. Storage types are AWS S3 Standard, Infrequent Access, Infrequent Access One-Zone, and AWS Glacier)
  • Determine how to design cost-optimized compute (AWS EBS volume types are essential for the AWS SAA exam. You should learn EBS volume types their advantages and costs. EBS volume types are Provisioned IOPS SSD, General Purpose SSD, Throughput Optimized HDD, Cold HDD)

Domain 5: Define Operationally Excellent Architectures

  • Choose design features in solutions that enable operational excellence (The mandatory services are AWS CloudWatch for monitoring AWS services, AWS CloudTrail for monitoring AWS users activity and AWS IAM for creating and operating users)

Third party training platforms that will help to pass the certification

In the official website, AWS recommends taking Architecting on AWS training which cost is over 2000$ and the training duration is 3 days. I reckon the cost is insane for that training. For that reason, cloud engineers created a project where a candidate can easily learn all main aspects of the certification at a very low cost (if we compare with official one). There are several platforms which provide high-quality video courses with practice tests.

From my point of view, these platforms are providing the best certification preparation courses and practice tests at a low cost. Nevertheless, if you are not a fan of video courses (it only for bookworms), I would recommend reading an official AWS SAA certification guide book but unfortunately, you should not rely on that book since it is a bit outdated. Overall, the most significant thing in preparation is that the candidate has to read some services FAQs.

My path as AWS Solution Architect Associate

  • Firstly, I started to learn A Cloud Guru AWS SAA course
  • After finishing the course sections, I read FAQ about current section services
  • While studying, I look at an official AWS SAA certification guide book. There was very useful information, although, the information might be wrong since it was outdated (I would be very excited if AWS release a new version of that book).
  • When the course was over, I needed some practice tests in order to sharpen my AWS knowledge and hence, I bought Whizlabs practice tests and started to practice with them.
  • With every test, I felt that my score was increasing. In average, I got 80% right answers and I realized that I am ready to pass the examination.
  • I scheduled the examination and pass it from the first attempt

Summary

Taking all the aforementioned statements into consideration in order to pass the AWS SAA certification I suggest that the candidate should pass A Cloud Guru AWS Solution Architect Associate course, read FAQs of the following services

Nonetheless, If you feel you have enough knowledge about the service you can skip it, but it would be better to read them all, you may suddenly skip some important aspect of the service.

Afterward, you can go and buy Whizlabs practice tests and try to pass them. If during passing practice tests you still feel unprepared you can revise FAQs and read an official AWS SAA certification guide book. I assume, doing all this staff will allow you to successfully pass the exam.

The aforementioned guide based on my experience, so if I could pass the examination, you can pass it too.

Thank you guys and I hope you will pass the exam and this article somehow help you.