Vol. 21, #47 - November 21, 2016 - Issue #1107


Reader Feedback: Should IT pros be licensed? 

Editor's Corner

This week's newsletter is devoted to hearing what our readers have to say about whether the IT profession should be regulated and licensed in the way that the engineering profession is in most corners of the world. Because we received a huge volume of excellent comments from readers in response to our previous newsletter Issue #1105 Reader Feedback: Should IT pros be licensed? we've decided to split things up into two separate streams. Specifically, in this issue of WServerNews we'll share what our readers think about the pros/cons of requiring IT pros to be licensed in order to practice their profession. Then in the next issue of our newsletter we'll share what some of our readers think more generally about the values and future of different IT certifications. So if after reading this week's newsletter you have some thoughts you'd like to share with us on the second topic, please go ahead and send your comments to [email protected]

And of course we have some tips, tools and other stuff to keep you from getting bored from watching Task Manager all day as the CPU usage rises and falls, rises and falls, rises and...

As a professional engineer like Dilbert knows, you gotta be licensed if you want to practice engineering as a profession. But as this Dilbert comic strip illustrates, engineers aren't the only ones who need to be licensed:



Ask Our Readers - Slow network access times on Netapp filer with Windows 10 (new question)

Steffen from Germany sent us the following question which we hope a few of our readers may have some insight into:

We are evaluating W10 in the IT team. We are experiencing slow network access times on our Netapp Filer, while Win7 does good on same hardware. Locally we are using all flash drives for OS Disk. No spindles around anymore.

If anyone has any suggestions that they think might help Steffen you can send them to us at [email protected]

Ask Our Readers - Win10 resetting file associations (some comments)

Last week in Issue #1106 Waiting for Godot 2016 a reader named Roy told us he had been experiencing the following annoyance with Windows 10:

I sub-titled the subject line "Beyond Annoyance" because this is "Big Brother" at its worst.  Windows 10 continually resets file associations to its own programs no matter how many times I set them back to my original settings.  For example I have PDF files associated with Adobe Acrobat but Windows 10 keeps resetting the file association to the Edge Browser!  This is but one example.  There are many other file types that Windows 10 keeps forcibly resetting to its own programs.  I need a way to stop this heavy-handed approach that MS has instituted to forcibly point file associations to their software. P.S.  I googled the problem and tried the registry changes mentioned, but MS still changes my file associations.  Does anyone have a real fix for this MS insanity?

Several readers offered comments on Roy's problem as follows:

I have seen this, but this is a case of blaming Windows 10 for a program fault. Applications (before W10) started changing the upgrade process to remove/reinstall which is much cleaner, leaves less trash in the registry and less orphaned files, while reducing installation files (otherwise installer needs to count for countless different versions of files to "update"). So a lot of programs do not necessarily update, as much as migrate to new versions. In the process, they remove the file association (because the program is being uninstalled), and then they are supposed to set it back, but not all programs do. I have seen it a lot with Adobe Reader, not as much with Foxit Reader (but it still happens with Foxit reader), LibreOffice occasionally, and so on. Why you notice more in W10? Because the system is more secure and it is harder for programs to set your file associations. And this is not a problem. People have been complaining about bad programs taking over file associations for years. In the rush of patching programs sometimes something is not done right, and W10 will err in the safe side and not set association if it is not programmed right (I think Adobe Reader does not even try anymore and just opens a window that explains what you need to do, and then opens the Default Programs applet from control panel). --David, Director of Information Technologies for a company in Delaware, USA.
Personally haven't had the issue but I see Kaspersky have raised it in that AV will switch back to Defender. --Mark, Infrastructure Solution Specialist for a company in the UK

If any other readers have comments on this issue, email us at [email protected]

Ask Our Readers: WServerNews has almost 100,000 subscribers worldwide. That's a lot of expertise to tap into. Do you need help with some issue or need advice on something IT-related? Got a question you'd like us to toss out to our readers to try and answer? Email us at [email protected]

Now let's hear from a few of our readers about whether they think the IT profession should be regulated and IT pros licensed...

The view of a professional engineer

We'll start off with the following feedback we received from a reader named David from the USA who works in IT and is also himself a professional engineer:

As a licensed professional engineer working in IT, I think there is some merit to the idea of licensure of IT professionals. However, it would present certain challenges as compared to licensure of other professions. For instance, in order to become a licensed professional engineer I had to first take and pass a Fundamentals of Engineering exam; an 8 hour test that covered topics from throughout the engineering disciplines above and beyond my electrical engineering training. I had to solve basic thermodynamic problems, heat transfer problems, statics and dynamics problems, and ethics questions in addition to the circuits problems that were part of my electrical engineering curriculum. Upon successfully passing this exam and receiving a degree in engineering from an accredited engineering school the title of "Engineer in Training" was bestowed upon me. In order to become licensed to practice engineering, I had to intern under other licensed engineers for a period of 5 years and provide evidence of progressively increasing responsibilities. At this point I was allowed to sit for the Principles and Practice exam. This was another 8 hour test that was specific to my particular discipline. It consisted of two parts: a multiple choice portion in the morning with questions specific to my chosen area of emphasis and a similar essay type test. I could select questions from emphasis areas such as power, controls, etc. Successful completion of this exam allowed me to be licensed (within the state in which I completed licensing requirements) to practice engineering. I have to accumulate 24 hours of auditable professional development hours every 24 months.

Now, here's where I see the challenge in establishing something similar for IT Pros. First, there would have to be some sort of accreditation program for IT schools. Colleges and universities are already accredited as institutions of higher learning but there would need to be additional accreditation of the IT program by some accrediting body that, to my knowledge, does not yet exist. Next, the licensing process for engineers is administered by each state [of the USA]. In the case of Tennessee it is the State Board of Architecture and Engineering Examiners which is a board under the purview of the Department of Commerce and Insurance. This board, as it is in most states, follows the guidance of the National Society of Professional Engineers who work with the states to develop and maintain licensure criteria. This is analogous to how the medical profession with the AMA and the legal profession with the American Bar Association operate. But each state is different and you can only practice in the state in which you are licensed. There are reciprocity agreements between states that allow you to obtain a license without having to go through the whole process for each state. You do have to pay the requisite fees for licensure, however. That's where I see the challenge. First, the states would have to establish, through legislation, criteria for licensure of IT Pros as well as criteria under which the practice of Information Technology can and cannot be practiced. For instance, without a valid engineering license a person can't just go out and design the structure to a building or the electrical wiring or the foundation, for obvious reasons. There would then need to be some sort of advocacy group, if you will, to work to standardize the criteria with the states.

All of this is a pretty tall order and could result in a lot of confusion among both practitioners as well as the recipient of the services. The other professions have had decades to build their systems and because the state legislatures and political appointees have their hands in it, things don't always turn out as planned.

I told David in response that I thought he had some really excellent observations concerning the difficulties involved in actually implementing IT licensure. But then I said that given the increasing importance of IT not just for business but for government agencies of all levels, I wondered whether he thought there might be valid reasons for trying to begin a process for implementing IT licensure. David responded with:

I agree completely that the growing importance of IT increases the need for some sort of consistent licensure. The reasons for licensure in engineering, medicine, and law in the first place was primarily to protect the public. IT has become no different with its increasing impact on society. One of the things I can't get my head around is how to account for the differences between development and infrastructure and the further distinctions within those. Development is spread across multiple platforms, infrastructure spans network, server, storage (hyperconvergence solves some of this), and then there's Information Security that can span all of those. The longstanding tendencies towards the proprietary nature of IT adds another wrinkle. Covering all of these would be a tall order in any detail but it could be worked out.

I think the major shortcoming remains finding or forming some governing body or advocacy group that can remain impartial while working with governmental regulating bodies to promote and advance the issue. Industry working groups have proven to be capable of establishing standards but there are a lot of politics that comes into play. Coupling that with the requirement that state governments get involved adds yet another layer of politics that could kill the effort before it gets started. I think the first hurdle to be crossed is to inject as much vendor impartiality as possible. And that one may be so high that once it is passed the rest will be inconsequential.

I wonder whether Information Security might not be the most critical aspect of IT going forward, and perhaps any efforts towards regulating the IT profession should focus first (and perhaps also last) towards regulating the IT Security profession. Maybe that's all that's needed to keep the world from falling apart--or would it be better to wait for the world to fall apart first and then issue regulations in response to the catastrophe? More reader thoughts are welcome, email me at [email protected]


Some thoughts from another engineer

Des from Canada also has an engineering background and had something to say about the subject:

I can speak to this from both sides an IT Pro and a professional engineer. Engineers training stresses problem solving. Either building something or fixing something, engineers typically are required to review the situation and then set out on a path to yield the desired outcome by problem solving. However, such problem solving requires an understanding of fundamental engineering principles. In Canada the professional engineering designation denotes a number of things. The professional engineer received training from an accredited university /college or has written and passed technical exams, the engineer has written and passed exams on ethics and law, the professional engineer has worked under the supervision of a professional engineer for at least two years. One other significant part of the professional designation is the commitment to public safety and duty to protect the public. The above is expected to create a public trust of a professional engineer. Offering professional engineering services without being a member of the PEO (professional engineers of Ontario) will get you a call pretty quickly from the PEO board. I recall that sometime back Microsoft had to change its designation for just these reasons.
I think that an IT professional designation could do the same as that for professional engineers. Fundamentals, accredited institutions and the development of problem solving skills along with a commitment to serve the best interest of the public. I gave up on the certifications because they were vendor specific and how quickly they could become out of date. Moreover I don't think that the lack of certifications detracted from me being able to get the job done. With security being an ever increasing risk this might be the impetus to establish some general training criteria and code of ethics for IT professionals.

I agree with Des that security may be the "killer app" as far as getting some sort of licensing or regulating happening, at least for certain portions of the IT profession. How to make that happen however is difficult.

The view of a professional educator

Next let's hear some thoughts from an educator named John from the USA who used to be an Assistant Professor at a university and transitioned into the role of head honcho for IT support for his institution:

I work as the head IT person in a ~180 workstation environment with a mix of pcs and macs for a division at a university. I have a PhD in Geography and used to be an assistant professor. I got into IT because 1) it paid better than teaching, at least at the time; 2) because I took a programing course as an elective in the 1970s when punch cards and mainframes were the name of the game and got involved with pc's when the IBM XT came out while I was doing research on mountain streams and rivers, I picked up a bit of skill which seemed to be more than any of my colleagues in any work situation which meant I was doing all the IT stuff anyway; 3) I enjoyed the work because when I got frustrated with the hardware I could focus on the people interfacing with the hardware, and when I got frustrated with the people, I could focus on the hardware.

Because I have been involved in the education system most of my adult life, I understand the professions, more or less, that are based on college degrees. Engineers get licensed after a bachelor's degree. Lawyers and MDs have to go to graduate school for another year or two or more. In addition to providing an official transcript showing their degrees from accredited academic institutions, they have to pass a national or state exam. This rather diffuse process precludes control by any single commercial entity. Furthermore, the long apprenticeship (4 or 6 years) assures a certain sophisticated level of knowledge. Furthermore, both engineering and medicine involve life and death decisions and both have existed for centuries. If you are interested, there is a whole literature on the existence of professions, and you could start with Andrew Abbott's The System of Professions, and look at MIchel Foucault for a different perspective on the power of professions.

I oppose the idea of licensing because from my perspective: 1) the field is too broad -- technology is everywhere; 2) the paths individuals have taken to get to their current positions is too diverse, in part because the positions are so diverse because the field is so diverse because technology is somehow related to almost everything we do; 3) the knowledge base is changing too rapidly for there to be standardized test.

I responded to John by suggesting that IT is rapidly becoming a life-and-death matter as it sinks its teeth deep into government, the public sector, the financial sector, the medical sector, and so on. I told him that perhaps ten years from now if the Internet should collapse, some countries may fall into chaos because of the resulting breakdown in communications, banking, and supply chains for life's essentials. John responded to my comments as follows:

I suspect you could make a similar argument for auto mechanics in terms of supporting life, but I don't see a push to professionalize that line of work. The trouble is creating a profession that doesn't have an academic legitimacy leaves it open to commercial exploitation. If enough successful IT people can come together and decide on a program of study, be it 4 years or 6 years or whatever, that is needed to become a professional IT person and can sell the idea to enough accredited universities and colleges to offer degrees, and then convince either the federal government or the state governments to license people, then maybe it will happen, but I still don't see a solution to the board exam questions when the knowledge needed is changing so quickly. It's been a long time since I read Abbotts's book, but if you are interested in establishing a profession, and it sounds like you are, I recommend it because you will have a much better understanding of what works and what doesn't. I'm retiring in December, just shy of my 71st birthday, so this is a battle for my successors.

I clarified to John that I wasn't myself advocating that IT become a "profession" like engineering but was merely trying to see both sides of the issue. I also mentioned that I was approaching the long end of the stick myself too. John replied:

I'm not sure I see anything in between a profession that is certified in some manner at the state or federal level and what we have now which is a mishmash of vender managed certificates that are pretty meaningless. You've probably worked with people who had impressive certificates who couldn't solve real problems, even relatively simple ones. There is a certain degree of intuition needed in this field, as well as understanding how things work.

That brings up the issue of how meaningful vendor certifications are like those from Microsoft and others. Other readers weighed in more directly on this topic so we're devoting our next issue of WServerNews to digging into this topic in more depth. You can also send us your thoughts on this to [email protected]

Other views on the issue

Many other readers expressed their thoughts to us on this matter. What we're including here is just a short selection of feedback we felt was thoughtful, helpful or simply interesting:

Hi Mitch, I think the problem would be defining "IT Profession" in a vendor-neutral way. The Professional Engineer exam is based on general principles rather than expertise with any particular product. The same goes for medical licensing. There are exams for different specialties, but these are vendor-neutral as well. Even airline pilots licenses are vendor neutral, although pilots must be qualified in particular equipment once the license is obtained. As Mark Minasi points out the IT profession is partitioned into vendor-specific communities. This is the way the profession is taught and practiced these days. In my college days the computer science curriculum was an amalgam of electrical engineering and abstract mathematics. One learned a specific programming language or operating system as almost a side line, as tools necessary to do the lab classes. I suppose a vendor-neutral body of knowledge based on a lot of theoretical computer science stuff could be devised, but I doubt many practitioners would be interested in dealing with that. --George from Brooklyn, New York USA
This is the freedom loving Libertarian streak in me talking. Please no mandated licensing! I am all for independent organizations offering voluntary certification and auditing to be used as a standard we can share with customers as a key differentiator from our competition, but mandatory state/federal licensing just causes unnecessary barriers to entry, and is often used as a bludgeon by larger organizations to stamp out the competition from the little guy. Would it be beneficial to me as a IT professional of 23 years to keep from losing clients to the kid down the street advertising services on Craigslist at 1/10th my price? Sure. However, three of the five clients I have lost in that manner returned in less than a year and our relationship is even deeper than before. They have been great as testimonials and in giving referrals. The other two are out of business. Related? Unsure... correlation isn't always causation. My other concern is the false sense of security that can come from one of those licenses. I hired a licensed electrician once that almost killed himself sticking a screwdriver into a fuse box (no lie). We live in a world now where you cannot hide. If you have been around long enough I can find information about your or your company from dozens of sources. --David from Texas, USA
Isn't much of the professional licensing (at least in the US) handled at the state level? How would that work for companies that are not only across many states, but also the globe? And how would you license the huge number of IT pros not in the US? I suspect that it would drive business out of places that end up with onerous licensing laws (because legislators certainly have their finger on the pulse of technology...) and punish folks just based upon where they live. Businesses are driven by cost, and IT pros in the US have been getting intense pressure for years from the myriad of low cost countries in (and getting in to) IT. It's one more reason for companies to take their money elsewhere. --Kais from Pennsylvania, USA
I feel that in order for this to work effectively we need to consider this a two way street. I have seen employers hiring the wrong people for the wrong job. If IT pros are licensed there are no controls on the employers side to make sure the right players are in the right positions, so with out controls this won't work. Costs for the IT pro and the employer will go up astronomically. When a clear line can be drawn between function and position and level and clear job titles and description are defined, then and only then can this be addressed in a logical fashion. I have seen business leave the pool of employable citizens to search other location for costs sake, this licensing will only make this happen again in a more dramatic fashion. Let me relate this in another fashion. How many ASE certified technical mechanics are there out there. (Rhetorical) With that many out there, large regulated car dealer ships are using the ASE manual to govern their cost to the consumer on repairs justifying their pricing, while you and I know the ASE manual is out dates and doesn't cover all makes and models. With that said to change a fan belt on a Nissan cost more then on a Honda simply by design. Are the cost justified to be the same, no... because it is easier on a Honda then a Nissan and takes less time. But the Dealerships don't care they are in it for money, not honesty for the time it took. Some times regulations make it more costly to do business. --Eric from Florida, USA
NO!! Subjecting IT practitioners to GOVERNMENT licensure is to subject every IT professional to the whimsical and expensive controls of whatever bureaucracy controls the turf at the time. Look at the extreme, bankrupting and insane requirements faced by licensed beauticians. Aside from the typical "protect and grandfather" me issue to boost existing practitioners, I cannot oppose strongly enough the flawed idea of allowing government access to this field of endeavor!!!!! --Bill

Finally, Quentin from the UK sent us this email:

I'm writing in response to your question about licensing IT professionals. Here in the UK, the British Computer Society offers several levels of chartering:


Of particular interest might be the Professional Registration for IT Technicians (RITTech):


Keep up the good work.

Do any of our UK readers have some personal experience with RITTech? Email us your comments: [email protected]


Send us your feedback

Got feedback about anything in this issue of WServerNews? Email us at [email protected]

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Last week's factoid and question was this:

In 1552, Henry Pert died after shooting himself in the face with his own bow and arrow. Are there any crazier accounts from history of unintentional self-inflicted fatal wounds like this?

Wayne from Western Australia came up with what we thought was the simplest answer to this question:

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If you're interested you can find the Darwin Awards online here:


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EDITOR'S NOTE: There are various sources for the above story so we're not sure which is the original post, but here's one on the America Civil War Forum:


Now let's move on to this week's factoid:

Fact: The greater wax moth can hear sounds that are more high-pitched than any known animal can make

Question: What's the highest-pitched sound that a human being has been confirmed to have heard? Email us your answer: [email protected]

Until next week,
Mitch Tulloch

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Events Calendar

North America

Microsoft Ignite Australia on February 14-17, 2017 at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre, Broadbeach, QLD


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PLANNING A CONFERENCE OR OTHER EVENT you'd like to tell our 100,000 subscribers about? Contact [email protected]

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WServerNews - Editors

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit and has been author or series editor for almost fifty books mostly published by Microsoft Press. Mitch is also a ten-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his  outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com.

Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also manages research and marketing for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.