Top 7 storage certifications for IT pros

Demand for capable and talented storage technicians and engineers remains high in today's workplace, so what better way to showcase your skills than with a well-respected certification in that field? Check out our top picks from Brocade, Cisco, NetApp and many others.

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In-demand storage certifications

An IT storage professional, who is typically an engineer or an architect, plans and deploys all kinds of storage for small to large organizations, whether it's on-premises storage area networks (SANs) or network-attached storage (NAS) appliances, or cloud-based storage as a service (STaaS) solutions. This person must also be deeply knowledgeable about networking infrastructures and all of the connections that must be made to ensure high availability for stored data.

Folks with sharp skills and a love of all things storage should seriously consider adding a storage certification to their resumes. According to Glassdoor.com, storage engineers earn an average of just under $100,000 in the U.S., and senior storage engineers pull in $112,245. Some advertised salaries are nearly $150,000, all of which points to a darn good reason to pursue an IT storage certification.

Read on to learn about our top seven picks for storage certifications.

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Cisco Certified Network Professional Data Center (CCNP Data Center)

As is the case with most IT-related certifications, you can't go wrong with a Cisco certification. The CCNP Data Center is highly popular with employers looking for staff who can design, implement and maintain a data center with Cisco equipment and technologies.

The Cisco Learning Network offers lots of detailed information about the cert and its exams, as well as a forum for connecting with others who have achieved the credential or are on their way.

Requirements: Have a current Cisco CCNA Data Center certification or any Cisco CCIE certification as a prerequisite. Pass four exams (65 to 75 questions per exam). Exams 642-999 DCUCI and 642-997 DCUFI are required; pick either the Design track exams (642-998 DCUCD and 642-996 DCUFD) or the Troubleshooting track exams (642-035 DCUCT and 642-980 DCUFT) for a total of four exams.

Exam cost: $250 per exam; $1,000 total

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SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E)

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is a non-profit, membership-driven organization dedicated to providing standards and education/certification on IT storage technologies. It's been around since 1997 and is both well connected in the industry and highly respected therein.

The SNIA certification program offers the SNIA Certified Storage Engineer (SCSE), SNIA Certified Storage Architect (SCSA) and SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E) credentials. The SCSN-E is the pinnacle cert in this line-up, and identifies IT professionals who can design, deploy and manage a storage network in a multivendor environment.

This is a rigorous certification that can take years of experience and study to achieve. Those who persevere and earn the SCSN-E join an elite group of storage networking professionals at the top of their games.

Requirements: Pass three exams: SNIA Storage Network Foundations exam (S10-101) or substitute CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA certification, SNIA Storage Networking Management/Administration exam S10-201 or S10-210, and SNIA Architect - Assessment, Planning & Design exam S10-300 or S10-310. Must also complete two SNIA Certification Partner product credentials. Partners include Brocade, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP ASE, Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp. (See list at http://www.snia.org/education/certification/scsne.)

Exam costs: $200 per SNIA exam + the cost of partner product credentials (which vary): $600 plus.

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NetApp Certified Data Administrator (NCDA

NetApp is well known for software, systems and services that manage and maintain storage for mission-critical data. An NCDA credential recognizes skills in implementing, managing and supporting NetApp data storage high-availability controllers running the Data ONTAP operating system, along with further skills and knowledge in various related NetApp technologies.

This cert is ideal for a mid-level network/storage administrator who intends to stick with NetApp products over the long haul.

Requirements: Six to 12 months of experience working with NetApp data storage solutions recommended. Pass one exam (55 to 65 questions, 90 minutes): NS0-155: NetApp Certified 7-Mode Data Administrator or NS0-157: NetApp Certified Data Administrator, Clustered Data ONTAP.

Exam cost: $150

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Brocade Certified Network Engineer (BCNE)

The vendor-specific BCNE certification is geared toward individuals who install and maintain switching and routing equipment on networks running Brocade products. This credential requires moderate to deep knowledge of physical media, switching and routing concepts and design, virtual LANs (VLANs), access control list configuration, quality of service topics, plus network security, management and monitoring tools and technologies under the Brocade umbrella.

Brocade recommends this certification for network technicians, administrators or technical support reps who work on small to large business networks.

Requirements: Complete the ETH 101 Internetworking Fundamentals for Brocade course or have equivalent networking experience. Also complete the CNE 200 Brocade Certified Network Engineer Blended Learning Solution course. Pass one exam (60 questions, 90 minutes); exam 150-130 Brocade Certified Network Engineer.

Exam cost: $150

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EMC Storage Administrator Track (EMCSA)

EMC is a networking and storage behemoth with a fair number of certifications in its coffers. One thing EMC offers its EMC Storage Administrator candidates is plenty of variety! The certification program includes Associate, Specialist and Expert levels across 13 different EMC products or product families, such as Avamar, CLARiiON and VPLEX.

If you're interested in the EMCSA track, you must start at the Associate level. To move up the certification ladder, you would then acquire a Specialist certification in one of the products/families and eventually an Expert credential (which applies only to CLARiiON and Symmetrix).

Requirements: Pass the Information Storage and Management Version 3 exam (E05-001) exam or E20-005 Backup Recovery exam (where applicable), and then at least one exam for the EMC storage product of your choice. Each exam has 60 questions and lasts for up to 90 minutes.

Exam cost: $200 per exam

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HP Master ASE: Storage Solutions Architect V1

HP's certification program is called Expert One. It's one of the largest programs in IT and offers four storage-related certifications at the Master, Expert, Professional and Associate levels.

The Master ASE (Accredited Solutions Expert) is aimed at senior storage professionals in enterprise environments -- physical, virtual or cloud. A Master ASE manages teams of technicians and engineers who build complex or multi-site storage solutions based on HPE Converged Storage products. As a leader, the Master ASE must keep an eye on business requirements, as well as costs and risk throughout an implementation. Backup and recovery and data deduplication are also key knowledge points for this certification.

Requirements: Three to five years of relevant work experience and training recommended. Achieve the HP ASE - Storage Solutions Architect V1 certification. Pass the HP0-J67 Architecting Multi-site HP Storage Solutions exam (60 questions).

Exam cost: $200

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Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Qualified Professional Storage Administration

Hitachi Data Systems Corporation manufactures and sells flash storage products, networked storage solutions, blade platforms and converged infrastructure solutions, among other tools and technologies. Its HDS Storage Administration certification is available only at the Professional level (no Specialist or Expert credentials in the Storage category).

A Hitachi-certified storage administrator must be up to speed on configuring, managing and troubleshooting Hitachi Command Suite products. This may involve planning and designing storage schemes and connectivity, optimizing performance, backup and recovery, testing and a whole lot more.

It's a solid credential for Hitachi customers, employees and partners – basically, the audience that works in and around HDS technology every day, and a great value compared to the cost of other IT storage certifications.

Requirements: Pass the HAT-680 exam (35 questions, 60 minutes).

Exam cost: $100