There is no question that the interest level for SharePoint right now is very high. The product has great penetration into the business application mix world wide. The downside to this in the current business climate is that there are an awful lot of people being put in charge of SharePoint farms that have limited understanding of what SharePoint is or how it works.
Below is a brief set of recommendations I would give to any System Administrators looking to really dig into SharePoint.
Where to start?
Get a book… There are some great books out there including the ones that are linked on the right side of this site. They do a great job of outlining the overall architecture of SharePoint and explain how the various layers and modules fit together. It is very important to understand the foundation.
If there is budget, then formal training is a great way to get a solid start. There are dozens of training providers, the top tier include: Critical Path Training, Mindsharp, and SharePoint Bootcamp.
Create a Sandbox
You need some place to dig in and interact with the system. For Power User training I will typically give the user a dedicated site collection on a non-production farm. For a Sys Admin though they really need to be able to go through the full setup and configuration and be allowed to experiment with farm wide changes. To do this they really need a dedicated environment. A one server farm is a good place to start, but it should be understood that with multi-server farms the security boundaries become a little more difficult. If it is a single server farm, I would not recommend doing a basic install because it changes the way the Personalization (MySites) and Shared Service Provider apps are configured.
Top Topics to concentrate on:
• View and understand “Servers in Farm” along with the server roles
• Understand the SharePoint databases and each database’s purpose
• Create and Extend an Application
• Create Site Collection
• Maintain Alternate Access Mappings
• Backup and Restore of Site Collections
• Patching Process with Configuration Wizard and PSConfig
• Deploying Solutions, Web Parts, and Templates
Participate in the Community
The SharePoint community is very strong. There are a number of great SharePoint user groups around the globe, as well as other community events like the SharePoint Saturday events and other regional conferences. This is a great way to meet other professionals and pick up on best practices.
Read the SharePoint Forums
There are some great forum resources like the MSDN/TechNet Forums, Stackoverflow, and the SharePoint University Forums. Reading the forums will give you a good idea of the types of common problems other people have in their farms. Reading through the problem and the solutions is a good way to get a solid understanding of how everything fits together and can also help you prepare when similar issues occur on your systems.
There are two MCTS exams available to SharePoint Administrators. While a certification is no replacement for experience it can help validate you knowledge of the platform.
• Exam 70-631: TS: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Configuring
• Exam 70-630: TS: Office SharePoint Server 2007, Configuring