The Linux Professional Institute (LPI) provides accredited certification for IT professionals who want to master Linux. Its LPIC-1: System Administrator course is the first step to proving you can administer Linux systems.
While technically you can go to the LPI website to purchase learning materials and register for the exam, Firebrand Training offers a way to become a certified administrator in less than a week through its 'accelerated learning' program.
Firebrand is distinctive in that unlike other Linux training courses, you pay to stay at an exam centre for an intense six-day period, at the end of which you will take the examination. Learning is classroom-based with a dedicated instructor. Your accommodation, meals, tuition, study materials and certificates are included in the fee for the course which is currently £4,650 including VAT (around AU$8,000).
The Firebrand website also points out that traditional study days are 9:00 to 17:00 with a ‘nice long break for lunch’, whereas Firebrand training days are 12 hours long, maximising your time with the instructor.
Firebrand also emphasises this by showing a promotional video explaining the disadvantages of an employer paying for a less expensive course, as a Firebrand trainee will be back at their desk in a matter of days.
For those readers willing to give up their nice long lunch breaks, assuming you're within travelling distance of an exam centre, you'll either need to cover the large course fee out of your own pocket or persuade your employer to stump up the readies. The website itself lists when training sessions are available and you can book online in advance.
If your employer does agree to cover the cost of an intensive LPI (Level 1) course, Firebrand claims they'll be joining the ranks of big-name companies such as Barclays, IBM and Vodafone. This seems to be more than name-dropping as Firebrand has won a number of awards for its courses.
Businesses who register with Firebrand also receive a certain number of free training days and discounted rates for their employees using 'Firebrand Passport', although it's not clear from the website whether this applies specifically to the LPI (Level 1) course.
Firebrand clearly has great confidence in its courses as shown by a 'Certification Guarantee'. This promises trainees that if they don't pass exams the first time, they can resit them for free, provided they’re willing to pay the extra accommodation costs. This is in contrast to taking an exam directly with the LPI, which requires the payment of a fee (currently around $155 – about £120, AU$210) to register for a resit each time.
The website also promises that course instructors have industry experience, although you'll have to take their word for it as unlike other courses reviewed by TechRadar, this organisation doesn’t list any names or qualifications.
Firebrand also doesn't mention the LPI Essentials course, available via Linux Academy. This is designed as basic training in the fundamentals of Linux, for those who have little or no experience. Firebrand in fact specifically states that there are no prerequisites to undertake LPC-1 training but there is a free practice test for those who don't feel confident.
Although the Firebrand website doesn't specify the exact LPC-1 syllabus, you can find details of this on the LPI website. The course itself is divided into three parts: the first covers system architecture, which in plain English means you'll learn how to detect and configure computer hardware.
This involves using various command line utilities such as 'lsusb' to list connected devices, as well as detailing where to find information about hardware such as examining the '/dev' folder.
The second section examines the Linux boot process. Trainees are given an overview of the boot loader and system kernel, in addition to a summary of the boot process overall. This section of the training also touches on using the system log to check boot events, which is extraordinarily useful for error checking. Firebrand also promises to cover backing up and restoration of data.
The final section of the course is the most complex, focusing on changing the default runlevel or boot target. This includes booting into the console rather than the graphical desktop as well as examining how to properly terminate processes.
The LPIC-1 course itself will give any employee a knowledge of the fundamentals of system administration and also open new doors to learning through the more advanced LPIC-2 (Certified Linux Engineer) and LPIC-3 (Linux Enterprise Professional) qualifications, which you can also obtain through Firebrand.
The question you need to ask yourself is whether you wish to obtain this certification through Firebrand training. If you feel you’d benefit from an intense learning environment with a real instructor, the choice is clear.
The cost of having a dedicated learning centre where trainees come to sleep, eat and learn 12 hours a day from a paid instructor is understandably higher than simply watching training videos online. However, Firebrand courses are so much more expensive compared to the cost of buying the study materials yourself (around $300 – about £235, AU$400) and sitting the LPIC-1 exam (around $155 – about £120, AU$210), that you can save thousands by learning in your own time.
Firebrand does, however, seem to offer more on its course than the syllabus outlined on the LPI website. For instance, the organisation claims you'll also learn to install and configure workstations, then connect them to a LAN, or the internet. As mentioned above, there's no additional fee to resit the exam if you fail to pass the first time. The large course fees can also be discounted via 'Firebrand Passport' as we've previously discussed.
The level of support from Firebrand is also excellent. Aside from allowing you to learn with a dedicated instructor, any queries sent to the website are answered promptly – in our experience within 24 hours.
Ultimately whether or not Firebrand training is right for you is a decision to make based on your learning style and what your employer is willing to pay for.