Rent a server for the MCSA/E

Hello, gents.

I was wondering if I can rent a server to prepare me for those exams. I should invest massively on a server, but I want to wait until I move into my new place. At the same time I did not want to be idle and get me ahead with work.

I was looking for a sort of cloud solution where I can install servers and build the necessary labs for the MCSA/E.

Kind Regards.


  • poolmanjimpoolmanjim Member Posts: 285 ■■■□□□□□□□
    First, there is at least one free option out there for you: Technet Virtual Labs. I will be forthcoming and say that they are not the best labs out there and certainly have their shortfalls. However, they are free and do cover some of the exam content.

    Next, I will point out that Boson, for example, does offer labs along with some of their practice tests. They aren't awfully expensive but do cost a little bit. You could buy them for one exam and then save to get some actual hardware for the next one.
    $229 USD

    Kit for Microsoft 70-410 | Boson

    Lastly, I will suggest Azure itself. This is probably the most annoying option as it will require you to cycle and power down VMs that you aren't using otherwise you'll spend a fortune for your lab time. To give you some idea I speced out 5 VMs (3 A0 and 2 A1) and ballparked 90 hours a month (3 hours a day) lab time. It would run $21.60 a month. If you have a MSDN sub. That is less than half the subscription for the basic tier.

    Here's an Azure calculator.
    2019 Goals: Security+
    2020 Goals: 70-744, Azure
    Completed: MCSA 2012 (01/2016), MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure (07/2017), MCSA 2017 (09/2017)
    Future Goals: CISSP, CCENT
  • DojiscalperDojiscalper Member Posts: 266 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I picked up an old server from ebay that had enough specs to run plenty of VM's. Cost me about $300.
  • GSXR750K2GSXR750K2 Member Posts: 323 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Before I started ordering parts for my heavily armed workstation I looked at some Dell R710 servers on Amazon. You can get a dual quad-core or dual hex-core with varying storage (in either 2.5" and 3.5" models) and RAM capacities ranging from $500-$750. Depending on how little you want to spend some of the single proc R710's can get down into the $3xx range, and I believe as of a particular firmware version you can run off the shelf drives, so no expensive Dell drives when things die. I was considering running 8 SSDs in the 2.5" chassis.

    May be worth a look to get into owning an alright box for fairly cheap.


    Not 100% of the rules on posting links to selling sites, but here's one at $700 with two X5650 hex cores, 48 GB RAM, iDRAC Enterprise, and 8 146 GB SAS drives...
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Member Posts: 1,722
    Apart from the labs mentioned, you can get a lot done with a decent laptop or desktop. To cover 90% of MCSA Server, you only need 3 VMs, and for most of that you can get away with only one or two running. It's doable with 4 cores and 16GB of RAM. I think you can install everything you need in under 100GB. So if you already have that on your laptop/desktop or just need a cheap upgrade of RAM/Storage, then that could be enough to get you started.

    Azure or even AWS are also really good options since cloud is now pretty much standard practice, and getting that extra knowledge to deploy cloud instances is really useful in a practical sense. Also, a cloud lab is available to you wherever you have internet access, so you can easily access it to do some study from work, or if you want to test some concept at work before deploying: you will quickly find extra uses for the infrastructure.
    2017 Goals - Something Cisco, Something Linux, Agile PM
  • blargoeblargoe Member Posts: 4,174 ■■■■■■■■■□
    +1 on Azure or AWS.
    IT guy since 12/00

    Recent: 11/2019 - RHCSA (RHEL 7); 2/2019 - Updated VCP to 6.5 (just a few days before VMware discontinued the re-cert policy...)
    Working on: RHCE/Ansible
    Future: Probably continued Red Hat Immersion, Possibly VCAP Design, or maybe a completely different path. Depends on job demands...
  • EagerDinosaurEagerDinosaur Member Posts: 114
    I don't know the requirements for the Windows MSCA/E exams, but on AWS the smallest EC2 instances running Windows 2012 R2 cost about $0.02 per hour, so it should be possible to run 3 of them continously for a month for about $40. It might cost less than that, because one of them would be covered by the "free-tier" offer that runs for 12 months after you open an account. You might have to watch out for "AMI snapshots" being created when you start EC2 instances, because those can incur storage changes.

    I'm concentrating on learning AWS at present, but hopefully Azure offers similar pricing, and might be a better match, given how Microsoft love slipping Azure questions into some of their exams.
  • poolmanjimpoolmanjim Member Posts: 285 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Azure is a hair more expensive than AWS on most things from what I've seen. I know I've gotten at least a dozen emails informing me that the Azure pricing is dropping. I think the stuff I speced out in my post ended up being around $0.02 an hour or so on average.

    Another benefit of Azure over AWS in some cases is Microsoft will eventually start asking Azure questions be it in the 70-412 or some of the MCSE exams (I also think the 74-409 mentions Azure a little, but don't quote me on it). A little exposure to Azure will certainly help with some of that.
    2019 Goals: Security+
    2020 Goals: 70-744, Azure
    Completed: MCSA 2012 (01/2016), MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure (07/2017), MCSA 2017 (09/2017)
    Future Goals: CISSP, CCENT
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