Throughout my whole life, I've been passionate about tech and IT. Passionate as in I go out of my way to open a terminal and when I do, my eyes just light up, I get into the "zone". Between disassembling laptops and our Playstation when I was around 14, and now - I've realized that the way I learn is through doing.
I could watch a hundred hour Udemy course on a topic yet leave with no skills in it. I could go to a webinar, pay close attention to every bit of detail yet forget everything in the next hour. For me, I have to be active in the learning, and I believe this applies to a lot of people as well. Being active means writing down notes & thoughts, taking screenshots and organizing them after and putting those fresh skills to the test as soon as possible. Keep in mind however that both of the puzzle pieces are important here. When I'm first learning about a topic, watching courses and [YouTube] tutorials is the most effective way to start building a base for that piece of knowledge or skill. After there's a good base of what is going on, I immediately put it to action. This "action" could look like creating a
Dockerfile, spinning up a VPS and setting something up on it [just to see how it works], or writing that piece of code. I can certainly do this all by myself as - thanks to a lot of content creators - there is an abundant amount of tutorials and how-tos on free platforms like YouTube, or on blogs. This is great, but there's something that offers even greater power, which brings me to my next point.
☁️ The new A Cloud Guru
Through Forrest Brazeal and The Cloud Resume Challange, I was offered the opportunity to test-drive the new A Cloud Guru platform. Admittedly I have never used them before simply it just not being in my vision, however I did use other platforms such as the one mentioned above. In all honesty, I was a bit reluctant at first, seeing how great and modern their interface is because I thought
good_looking != useful, but oh was I wrong!
My favourite feature is hands down the sandboxes (called Playground). A sandbox is an account on any of the providers that is automatically set up for you for a short period of time. This is perfect because they offer a couple hours of mostly unrestricted access to a brand new account. You don't have to worry about extra costs (it's all included in the subscription) and forgetting to leave resources running (who hasn't been there). You get a login link, a username and password and away you go! There is no limit on how many sandboxes you can have in a month (I mean I'm sure you can't spin up a thousand every hour haha) so you're not limited in any way! There are of course small restrictions like regions and no access only to small instance sizes, but that's part of the upside. You are there to learn and these "guided" sandboxes are the utmost perfect way to try out services on a given cloud provider! I personally have been eyeing Azure for a while, and was very happy when I simply started a course on A Cloud Guru, was given the credentials to my Azure account and away I went! Setting up a blob storage on Azure from zero (no account) to up-and-running took me less than 10 minutes. No extra sign-up, no hassle, it just works - which I'm very happy about.
Another fun little feature is the Instant Terminal, which is just like a local terminal but you access it from your browser through the website. This is great because some of us are behind the company network, which usually disable outgoing traffic on port 22. This takes all the hassle and local networking problems away, and you can simply SSH into any of your learning servers that you just spun up on any of the providers, ready to use.
Long story short, there are a ton of hands-on labs for all kinds of things. You want to learn about IAM in AWS? There's a lab for that. Do you want to learn Terraform with GCP? There's a lab for that. Now of course these are all made by the professional instructors with great care and amazing quality. A lab is almost like a combination of a course and a playground (sandbox) coupled together for one partical topic, such as Terraform or IAM as I mentioned before.
Each lab is a different length depending on the difficulty and depth of the given objective. For the lab seen above, it is made up of three videos and two objecives. Some other labs I've done were made up of five "walkthrough" videos and six objectives. The only thing I can pick on here is that the sandbox for the lab (in my experience) is not connected to the objectives on the website. Meaning if I complete an objective in the cloud provider's sandbox account, the objectives on the A Cloud Guru website do not "recognize" this. Howver, I know this would be a very complicated feat to solve and it'd be really just an extra little feature - so I'm still very happy the way it works. Every lab also shows the level of difficulty (eg. Apprentice) and the length of time required to complete the lab.
If the two features from above still haven't satisfied your thirst for hunger, ACG offers Cloud Servers in the playground as well. These are esentially a VPS preconfigured for you, accessible straight from the dashboard with the same browser-terminal support. Honestly, this might be my favourite feature of them all. Before, I caught myself spinning up a VPS for every little thing I wanted to try or check out on other platforms. While this is still fairly easy to do, having a single platform I can learn on, execute real-life workloads and commands and still have the option to randomly spin up a full-blown VPS whenever I want to - for free - is just the icing on the cake. Each cloud server will also automatically shut down after four hours of inactivity, so there's no worrying about that either! You get the usual DNS name or IP address that you can reach the server at, a username + password combo - or you can just click "Open Terminal"😉
💭 My opinion on the new A Cloud Guru
It is a great platform. It has a great UI, tons of content to learn from covering almost all topics and all the cloud providers and even miscellaneous pieces of knowledge such as Git and Docker. It has tools for you to put your new skills to the test right away with the sandboxes and cloud servers, as well as a more "handholding" type of path with the labs. I am very happy with it overall and I think it is indeed the top platform and one-stop-shop for guided learning about everything cloud related.
🙃 Closing thoughts
Learning through doing is the most effective way in my humble opinion. This post was not sponsored in any way, I however did receive free access to the new A Cloud Guru because of my participation in The Cloud Resume Challenge. Everything I wrote here are my own thoughts and opinions, but the basic premise is this;
Seek out project ideas and execute on them. Work out the details, start building, troubleshoot and share your creation with the world. Get feedback and learn from the experience at every step of the way.
If you don't have the chance to access this amazing new platform but still want to have project ideas to do, (shameless plug) check out our repository from the #100DaysOfCloud community with a ton of them , rangin between all cloud providers, topics and skill levels.
Keep on learning, and keep on keepin' on✌🏻