Windows NT is a mature and stable OS suitable for most enterprise environments, but its versatility and complexity can challenge the wisdom of even the most experienced NT user. Given the breadth of features and functions in NT--and in the entire BackOffice suite--from time to time, you'll find that you need access to fully trained personnel to deal with support issues or project implementation details. Unfortunately, fully trained NT personnel don't fall out of trees or come shooting up out of the ground.

Where do you find such specialists? Or should you get training and do it yourself? Where do you look for training and support? Should you rely on outside support or invest in training your staff? If you contract with an outside company for internal support, how do you know whether they're any good? What level of training and support is right for you? Is training as a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) worthwhile?

This issue of Windows NT Magazine explores these questions and helps you navigate the maze of training and support options. Make no mistake: Training and support are important resources in the market--they often form that thin barrier that separates successful NT implementations from disastrous ones.

Microsoft has attempted to add consistency to the training and support arenas through its MCP programs. Although obtaining a Microsoft certification is no guarantee of personal or project success, it represents a significant achievement. Getting certified is not just getting a rubber stamp--to obtain the most sought-after certification, Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), you must pass six challenging exams. And you can't buy a certification even if you have enough money.

Do you need one or more MCSEs on staff? Should you require that your consultants be Microsoft certified? What level of certification should you expect (or demand) from third-party support organizations? These questions don't have any easy answers; you must look at each question in light of your budget, the complexity of your NT implementation, and the degree of warmth you feel when you see the MCSE initials. Many highly competent NT people aren't Microsoft certified--certification hasn't become a force majeure in the market. However, people with the MCSE title have shown they have the stamina and determination to excel in the NT arena. And that's a factor worthy of consideration.