AZ-103 vs AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate Changes Explained

By Aarav Goel 29-Jul-2022
AZ-103 vs AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate Changes Explained

If you’ve trained for a Microsoft Azure certification before, you know that exams and certifications change frequently. Microsoft offers a wide range of certification programs that are subject to change from time to time, based on technology advancements and market demand. In September 2020, Microsoft retired the popular AZ-103 certification. This was the certification program you had to complete and clear to earn the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification, one of Azure’s top-paying certifications ever. In November 2020, Microsoft replaced this now-retired program with the AZ-104 certification program. This is supposed to provide the same certification to candidates, but with a few changes. 

If you are interested in attempting this certification program, you will also be interested in knowing the differences between AZ-103 vs AZ-104. 

Microsoft Azure’s Role-based Certifications:

It seems appalling that a certification program keeps changing. It feels like the company is unsure of itself to keep changing. But if you think about it, this is a good thing. Microsoft is one of the leading IT companies in the world and understands the changing demands and needs of the market. With more businesses rapidly migrating to the cloud, cloud computing skills and expertise are rising in demand. The certification programs keep changing to keep up with the evolving market needs. 

AZ-103 vs AZ-104: What Has Changed?

The MS Azure Administrator Associate certification that was recently retired paid more attention to resource creation and configuration. Meanwhile, the AZ-104 shifts the focus to a more in-depth learning experience. It does teach candidates about resource creation and configuration, but additionally, it also teaches them how to manage the resources effectively. 

Consider this example. One of the more complex tasks an Azure Administrator performs is application insight implementation within web applications. This job requires the skills of modifying app code and implementing instrumentation for usable telemetric data collection. This is then visualised and queried using advanced analytics tools that Application Insights provides, along with several third-party tools. However, understanding Microsoft Azure services and solutions inside out is mandatory with the shift towards extensive resource management. You can understand this shift better when you review the AZ-104 exam guide and syllabus. Alternatively, you can visit Microsoft’s official website for more information.

Changes in Exam Prerequisites:

One more key area of change between the two exams is the type of prerequisites that are demanded for AZ-103 vs AZ-104. Officially, there are no prerequisites given for either of these examinations. If you’re wondering why we are still talking about them, here’s why. An official prerequisite means you cannot apply for certification without meeting those criteria. This could mean a specific period of work experience, prior certification etc. But for the AZ-103 and the AZ-104 certifications, there are certain recommended requirements. As an aspiring candidate for the Azure Administrator certification, it’ll be easier for you to clear the exam if you have certain existing knowledge areas and hands-on experience. When the AZ-103 exam was replaced by the AZ-104, there was a shift in the focus areas of the certification training. This means you will now need to focus on slightly different skills for higher chances of success. 

The recommended requirements for the AZ-104 certification are:

  • Six months of real-world experience where you administered Azure workloads
  • Proficiency in core MS Azure service
  • Comprehensive understanding of security, workloads and governance in Azure
  • Experience using PowerShell, Azure Portal, CLI (Command Line Interface) and ARM templates. 
  • Fluency in domains like cloud infrastructure, networking, storage structures, operating systems and virtualisation.

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Differences in the Domains Covered - AZ-103 vs AZ-104:

The changes in the two certifications can be seen through the domains each exam covers. In the exam for the AZ-103 certification, the topics covered were:

  • Storage implementation and management
  • Azure resource and subscription management
  • VM (Virtual Machine) management and deployment
  • Visual network management and configuration
  • Identity management

The topics change a bit in the AZ-104 certification course:

  • Azure identity and governance management
  • Storage management and implementation
  • Computing resource management and deployment
  • Azure resource backup and monitoring
  • Virtual network management and configuration

When you look at all the domains that each Azure Administrator Associate exam covers, you can spot several differences and similarities between the two. Certain domains are the same, such as virtual network management and configuration and storage management and implementation. Meanwhile, the new AZ-104 Azure Administrator Associate certification exam pays more attention to computing resource management and deployment instead of virtual network management and deployment.

The prerequisites are a key factor demonstrating the differences between AZ-103 and AZ-104. Let’s take a look at some other factors that show parallels between them and the differences too.

AZ-103 vs AZ-104 - Key Differences:

By now you know that the new AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator certification training program has switched its primary focus from resources and subscriptions to governance and identities. Here are some for areas to look for differences between the AZ-104 and its predecessor:

Attention towards Data Management in Azure Storage:
The AZ-103 certification course used to deal with areas like configuration and creation of storage accounts within the domain. Its replacement covers this topic and also covers storage account management. The previous version of the Azure Administrator certification only covered topics like exporting and importing Azure data. Meanwhile, the Azure Administrator Associate certification covers data management in Microsoft Azure storage. 

You May Also Like: AZ-204 Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure – Is it worth it

Special Domain for Recovery and Backup:
The new Microsoft Azure Administrator certification AZ-104 has a dedicated domain for recovery and backup. Instead of covering Azure backup in Azure storage management and implementation, it has a new module dedicated to backup and monitoring Azure resources. This new module covers subtopics involving the usage of Microsoft Azure Monitor to monitor resources and implement recovery and backup.

Focus on Compute Resources:
Experienced Azure certification candidates will know the difference in the domains of the Azure Administration certification marks a shift to compute resources from VMs (virtual machines). The new AZ-104 Azure Administrator certification exam training dedicates a new domain towards management and deployment of Compute resources in Microsoft Azure. When you go through the course curriculum, you will find several subtopics covering the configuration and creation of web applications and containers within the domain that the AZ-104 covers.

From what you’ve read above, you can tell that the new AZ-104 Azure Administrator Associate certification is here with several challenges as well as opportunities. As an aspiring candidate, you will have to develop your expertise in several new domains to qualify for the Azure certification exam for the role of Azure Administrator. What will give you an edge over the competition is a comprehensive set of resources, study material and credible guidance and mentorship. 

For this reason, you should understand the differences and similarities between the new and old versions of various Azure certifications. This will help you focus on the right tools and domains as you prepare. Additionally, being aware of these differences will help you understand if the course still falls within your interest area and skillset. If a course changes too much, it might not reach you to the goal you originally intended. This will help you make a more informed decision. 

If the AZ-104 certification exam falls within your area of interest and expertise, take the first step and enrol in a certification training course today.

Aarav Goel

Aarav Goel has top education industry knowledge with 4 years of experience. Being a passionate blogger also does blogging on the technology niche.

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