Looking for a career change in the new year? There’s no better time to consider a career in cybersecurity: U.S. businesses and government agencies are spending billions of dollars each year to protect their data and assets from malicious attacks, with Forbes reporting that $170 billion will be spent worldwide by 2020.
With the demand for qualified security professionals soaring, certification is a logical way for you to verify your skills and knowledge, and to get your resume noticed. Here are five certifications that can help launch your cybersecurity career.
Of the certifications featured in this article, the MTA Security Fundamentals is the most “entry-level” one of the bunch. Aimed at high school and early college students, as well as those in the workforce who are looking to change careers, the MTA Security Fundamentals recognizes knowledge of core security principles as well as the basics of operating system, network and software security. To achieve certification, you must pass a single exam, which costs $127.
To Improve your chances of achieving the MTA Security Fundamentals certification, Microsoft recommends that you have some hands-on experience with Windows Server, Windows-based networking, firewalls and other common security products.
Folks in the security industry know ISACA for such long-running certificates as its Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and similar certifications, all of which grant intermediate to advanced credentials. The CSX Cybersecurity Fundamentals Certificate is relatively new to the ISACA certification program and was designed to fill the entry-level niche. Geared toward latest post-secondary graduates and those seeking career changes, this certificate covers five cybersecurity-related domains: concepts; architecture principles; network, system, application and data security; incident response; and security of evolving technology.
The single test costs $150, and the certificate doesn’t expire or require periodic recertification.
Perhaps the most well-known entry-level security certification is the Security+, which covers a wide array of security and information assurance topics, including network security, threats and vulnerabilities, access controls, cryptography, risk management principles, and application, host and data security. The certification meets U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570.01-M requirements — an important item for anyone looking to work in IT security for the federal government — and complies with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
CompTIA recommends that candidates have two years of relevant experience and achieve the Network+ credential before taking the Security+ exam. At $311, this test lands roughly midway between least and most expensive, compared to other entry-level certifications. The Security+ leads to such jobs as security administrator, security specialist and network administrator, among others.
GIAC gears the GISF toward system administrators, managers and information security officers who need a solid overview of information assurance principles, defense-in-depth techniques, risk management, security policies, and business continuity and disaster recovery plans. The Topics covered on the single GISF test are similar to those for the CompTIA Security+, but GISF is considered to be more challenging. GIAC exams in general require test takers to apply knowledge and problem-solving skills, so hands-on experience that has been gained through training or on-the-job experience is recommended.
If you take a SANS training course and then sit for the GISF exam, the test cost alone is $689. Taking the test without completing training, referred to as a “certification attempt” by GIAC, bumps the test cost to a whopping $1,249. GIAC includes two practice exams in the certification-attempt package.
After achieving the GISF, consider pursuing the GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC), an intermediate-level certification that takes a big step beyond foundational information security concepts.
The (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is probably the most recognizable and popular security certification today. But (ISC)2 offers several security-related certifications, with the ANSI-accredited SSCP filling the entry-level slot. The SSCP prepares you for such jobs as systems security analyst, network security engineer and security administrator, which typically start at the junior level if you don’t already have technical or engineering-related information technology experience.
To achieve the SSCP, you must pass a single test that includes questions that span seven common body of knowledge (CBK) domains: (1) Access Controls, (2) Security Operations and Administration, (3) Risk Identification, Monitoring, and Analysis, (4) Incident Response and Recovery, (5) Cryptography, (6) Network and Communications Security, and (7) Systems and Application Security.
To ensure that you have sufficient hands-on security knowledge before taking the exam, (ISC)2 recommends that you attend training courses or conference workshops, participate in webinars, and read white papers and books.
The test costs $250, and (ISC)2 offers a variety of study resources for purchase on its website.
Regardless of which certification seems like a best fit for you, be prepared to devote ample self-study time to the effort. Many test takers prefer to use a top-rated study guide along with some practice exams and flash cards when preparing for a certification exam. If your learning style is more conducive to formal instructor-led training, factor the costs and required time into your plans. Although training costs vary by certification, they typically run from $400 to over $5,000, depending on whether you choose online, virtual classroom or in-classroom delivery.
Headquartered near Chicago, CompTIA is a nonprofit trade association made up of more than 2,000 member organizations and 3,000 business partners. Although the organization focuses on educating and certifying IT professionals, CompTIA also figures prominently in philanthropy and public policy advocacy.
CompTIA’s vendor-neutral certification program is one of the best recognized in the IT industry. Since CompTIA developed its A+ credential in 1993, it has issued more than two million certifications.
In early 2018, CompTIA introduced its CompTIA Infrastructure Career Pathway. While you’ll still see the same familiar certifications that form the bedrock of the CompTIA certification portfolio, this new career pathway program more closely aligns CompTIA certifications to the real-world skills that IT professionals need to ensure success when managing and supporting IT infrastructures.
CompTIA certifications are grouped by skill set. Currently, CompTIA certs fall info four areas: Core, Infrastructure, Cybersecurity and Additional Professional certifications.
CompTIA IT Fundamentals+
CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ is ideal for beginners with a basic understanding of PC functionality and compatibility as well as familiarity with technology topics, such as hardware basics, software installation, security risks and prevention, and basic networking. It’s also ideal as a career planning or development tool for individuals beginning their IT careers or those seeking to make a career change. A single test is required to earn the credential. CompTIA launched a new IT Fundamentals+ test (Exam FC0-U61) in September 2018. This new test focuses on computing basics, database use, software development and IT infrastructure. The English version of the prior test (Exam FC0-U510) retires on July 15, 2019. Exams in other languages retire on December 1, 2019.
The CompTIA A+ certification has been described as an “entry-level rite of passage for IT technicians,” and for a good reason. This certification is designed for folks seeking a career as a help desk, support, service center or networking technician. It covers PC and laptop hardware, software installation, and configuration of computer and mobile operating systems. A+ also tests a candidate’s understanding of basic networking, troubleshooting and security skills, which serve as a springboard for CompTIA networking or security certifications or those offered by other organizations.
According to CompTIA, more than one million IT professionals hold the A+ certification. The A+ is required for Dell, Intel and HP service technicians and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense. CompTIA released new “Core” exams for the CompTIA A+ credential on January 15, 2019. These new exams provide additional focus on operational procedure competency and baseline security topics. Candidates must pass the Core 1 (exam 220-1001) and Core 2 (Exam 220-1002) exams. The Core 1 test targets virtualization, cloud computing, mobile devices, hardware, networking technology and troubleshooting. The Core 2 exams focuses on installation and configuring operating systems, troubleshooting software, operational procedures and security.
Many IT professionals start with the A+ certification. While the A+ credential is recommended, if you have the experience and don’t feel a need for the A+, you can move directly to the CompTIA Network+ certification. It’s geared toward professionals who have at least nine months of networking experience. A candidate must be familiar with networking technologies, media, topologies, security, installation and configuration, and troubleshooting of common wired and wireless network devices. The Network+ certification is recommended or required by Dell, HP and Intel, and is also an accepted entry-point certification for the Apple Consultants Network. The Network+ credential meets the ISO 17024 standard and just like the A+, it is recognized by the U.S. DoD. A single test is required to earn the certification.
CompTIA Security+ covers network security concepts, threats and vulnerabilities, access control, identity management, cryptography, and much more. Although CompTIA does not impose any prerequisites, the organization recommends that cert candidates obtain the Network+ credential and have at least two years of IT administration experience with a security focus. To obtain the Security+ certification candidates must pass on exam, SY0-501.
The CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI certification is aimed at Linux network administrators with at least 12 months of Linux administration experience. Such experience should include installation, package management, GNU and Unix commands, shells, scripting, security and more. The A+ and Network+ certifications are recommended as a preamble to this certification but are not mandatory. Candidates must pass two exams (LX0-103 and LX0-104) to earn this credential. The exams must be taken in order, and candidates must pass test LX0-103 before attempting LX0-104. In 2018, CompTIA began testing a new beta test (XK1-004). The beta test offering ended October 22, 2018. New exams generally follow beta test tests so interested candidates should check the Linux+ web page for updates.
As the cloud computing market continues to grow by leaps and bounds, the CompTIA Cloud+ certification has been keeping pace. This certification targets IT professionals with two to three years of experience in storage, networking or data center administration. A single exam, CV0-002, is required. It tests candidates’ knowledge of cloud technologies, hybrid and multicloud solutions, cloud markets, and incorporating cloud-based technology solutions into system operations.
CompTIA Server+ aims at server administrators with 18 to 24 months of experience with server hardware and software technologies, and the A+ certification is recommended. The Server+ credential is recommended or required by HP, Intel and Lenovo for their server technicians. It is also recognized by Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). A single exam, SK0-004, is required to achieve this credential.
CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
As cybercrime increases, the requirement for highly skilled information security analysts will continue to increase as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports anticipated growth of 28 percent for information security analysts between 2016 and 2026, the fastest rate of growth for all occupations. One of the newer additions to the CompTIA certification portfolio is the Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) certification. The CySA+ credential is specifically designed to meet the ever-growing need for experienced, qualified information security analysts.
CySA+ credential holders are well versed in the use of system threat-detection tools, as well as the use of data and behavioral analytics to secure applications and systems from risks, threats and other vulnerabilities. CySA+ certification holders are not only able to monitor network behavior, but analyze results and create solutions to better protect against advanced persistent threats (APTs), intrusions, malware and the like.
CompTIA describes CySA+ as a bridge cert between the Security+ credential (requiring two years’ experience) and the master-level Advanced Security Practitioner Certification (CASP), which requires 10 years of experience. To earn a CySA+, candidates must pass a performance-based exam.
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner+ (CASP+)
While CompTIA no longer uses the “master” designation, the highly sought-after CASP+ certification is most certainly a master-level credential. Targeting practitioners, CASP is the only performance-based, hands-on certification currently available from CompTIA. This certification is designed for seasoned IT security professionals who plan, design and implement security solutions in an enterprise environment.
Although this certification doesn’t impose any explicit prerequisites, it’s not a bad idea to earn the Network+ and Security+ certifications before tackling the CASP exam. You should also have 10 years of IT administration experience plus a minimum of five years of technical security experience (thus securing this certification’s place as a “master” credential).
Booz Allen Hamilton, Network Solutions and Verizon Connect, among other companies, require CASP+ certification for certain positions. The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy also accept CASP+ as an industry-based certification required by employees and contractors who perform IT work in DoD data centers. The CASP+ certification requires that candidates pass the CAS-003 exam, which consists of 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions.
The existing additional to the CompTIA certification family is the CompTIA PenTest+. An intermediate-level credential, PenTest+ is designed to complement the CySA+. While CySA+ is defensive in nature (focusing on threat detection and response), the PenTest+ credential is offensive, focusing on using penetration testing to identify and manage network vulnerabilities across multiple spectra.
There are no mandatory prerequisites, but the Network+ and Security+ (or equivalent skills) are highly recommended, along with a minimum of two years of information security experience. Candidates pursuing the cybersecurity career path may take the PenTest+ or CySA+ credential in any order.
The test was released in July 2018, and is focused on communicating and reporting results, analyzing data, conducting penetration testing and scanning, and planning assessments. The test also tests a candidate’s knowledge of legal and compliance requirements.
The CompTIA Project+ certification focuses exclusively on project management and is ideal for project managers who are familiar with project lifecycles from planning to completion, who can finish a project on time and under budget. Project managers interested in this certification should have at least one year of project management experience overseeing small- to medium-sized projects. The Project+ credential requires that candidates pass a multiple-choice exam, PK0-004.
CompTIA Cloud Essentials
The CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification is geared toward individuals who understand the business aspects of cloud computing and how to move from in-house to cloud storage. In addition, they should be familiar with the impacts, risks and consequences of implementing a cloud-based solution. A single test is required to earn the credential.
The CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) certification is perfect for anyone interested in technical training. It covers instructor skills, such as preparation, presentation, communication, facilitation and evaluation, in vendor-neutral fashion. Adobe, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Microsoft and Ricoh all recommend CTT+ to their trainers and accept it in lieu of their own in-house trainer certifications.
Two exams are required for the CTT+ credential: CompTIA CTT+ Essentials (TK0-201) and either CTT+ Classroom Performance Trainer (TK0-202) or CTT+ Virtual Classroom Trainer (TK0-203).
The CTT+ Classroom Performance Trainer and CTT+ Virtual Classroom Trainer are performance-based exams. In this case, you must submit a video or recording of your classroom (or virtual classroom sessions), and complete a form that documents your training preparation, delivery and student evaluations.
In addition to certification levels, CompTIA groups its certifications into several career paths:
The CompTIA Certifications page lets you pick a certification level and/or a career path and then returns a list of certifications to focus on. For example, one of the most popular career paths in IT is network administration. CompTIA’s Network and Cloud Technologies career path offers numerous certifications that can help you advance your network administration career, such as IT Fundamentals+, A+ and Network+ (Core certs), along with Cloud+ and Linux+ (Infrastructure certifications) and Cloud Essentials.
Those interested in network security (one of the fastest growing fields in IT) should consider the certifications in CompTIA’s Information Security career path. This includes all four of the Core credentials (IT Fundamentals, A+, Network+ and Security+) along with all cybersecurity certifications (CySA+, PenTest+ and CASP+).
CompTIA provides a comprehensive IT certification roadmap that encompasses certifications from CompTIA as well as a variety of other organizations, including Cisco, EC-Council, Microsoft, (ISC)2, ISACA, Mile2 and more.
Because CompTIA credentials do not focus on a single skill (such as networking or virtualization), CompTIA credential holders may find themselves in a variety of job roles depending on their experience, skill levels and areas of interest. Here are just a few of the possible careers that CompTIA credential holders may find themselves engaged in:
While the examples above are by no means exhaustive, they provide an overview of some available careers. Your career choices are limited only by your interests, imagination and determination to achieve your personal goals.
CompTIA provides various and extensive training options, including classroom training, study materials and e-learning. A wide range of CompTIA Authorized Training Provider Partners (CAPPs), such as Global Knowledge, Learning Tree International and more, operate all over the world. Classroom and online/e-learning offerings range in cost from $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the particulars. Visit the CompTIA Training page for more details.
CompTIA works with third parties to offer self-study materials (the search tool is available here). Content that has been through a vetting process is branded with the CompTIA Approved Quality Content (CAQC) logo. Other materials that allow you to study at your own pace, such as audio segments, lesson activities and additional resources, are available through the CompTIA Marketplace.
Finally, every CompTIA A+, Linux+, Network+, Server+, Security+ and IT Fundamentals+ certification candidates must check out CertMaster, CompTIA’s online test prep tool. CertMaster helps you determine which Topics you know well and those you need to brush up on, and suggests training to help you fill in the gaps.
Despite the many changes in data storage over the decades, some fundamentals remain. One of these is that storage is accessed by one of three methods – block, file and object.
This article will define and expand on the characteristics of these three, while also looking at the on-prem and cloud products you will typically find that use file, block and object storage.
What we see is that while on-prem (usually) hardware form factor block, file and object storage products are available, these types of access to storage are also offered in the cloud to serve the workloads there that require them.
The rise of the cloud has also led to hybrid – datacentre and cloud – and distributed forms of file and object storage.
So, although file, object and block are long-running fundamentals of storage, the ways they are being deployed in the cloud era are changing.
The file system has always been a mainstay of storage technology. Block and file access storage offer two ways to interact with the file system.
File access storage is when you access entire files via the file system. Usually that is via network-attached storage (NAS) or a linked grid of scale-out NAS nodes. Such products come with their own file system on board and storage is presented to applications and users in the drive letter format.
In block access, the storage product – usually deployed on-prem in storage-area network (SAN) systems, for example – only addresses blocks of storage within files, databases, etc. In other words, the file system that applications talk through resides higher in the stack.
File systems deliver all sorts of advantages. Among the most prominent is that this is how most enterprise applications are written – and that won’t go away too soon.
A key characteristic of file system-based methods is that there are methods – such as those found within the Posix command set – to lock files to ensure they cannot be simultaneously over-written, at least not in ways that corrupt the file or the processes around it.
File storage accesses entire files, so it gets used for general file storage, as well as more specialised workloads that require file access, such as in media and entertainment. And, in its scale-out NAS form, it is a mainstay of large-scale repositories for analytics and high-performance computing (HPC) workloads.
Block storage provides application access to the blocks that files comprise. This might be database access where many users work on the same file simultaneously and from possibly the same application – email, enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), for example – but with locking at the sub-file level.
Block storage has the great benefit of high performance, and not having to deal with metadata and file system information, etc.
File storage still exists in standalone NAS format, especially at the entry level, and scale-out NAS, intended for on-prem deployment, is commonplace.
But the advent of the cloud, and its tendency to globalise operations, has affected things has had a twofold effect.
On the one hand, there are a number of suppliers that offer global file systems that combine a file system distributed across public cloud and local network hardware, with all data in a single namespace. Providers here include Ctera, Nasuni, Panzura, Hammerspace and Peer Software.
On the other hand, all the key cloud providers – Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure – offer their own file access storage services, and also those of NetApp, in the case of AWS. IBM also offers file storage though its cloud offering.
Some storage suppliers, such as IBM and Pure, offer instances of their block storage in the cloud. And the big three all offer cloud block storage services, aimed at applications that require the lowest latency, such as databases and analytics caching, as well as virtual machine (VM) work.
Probably because of the nature of block storage and its performance requirements, no distributed block storage seems to have emerged in the way it has with file.
Object storage is based on a “flat” structure with access to objects via unique IDs, similar to the domain name system (DNS) method of accessing websites.
For that reason, object storage is quite unlike the hierarchical, tree-like file system structure, and that can be an advantage when datasets grow very large. Some NAS systems feel the strain when they get to billions of files.
Object storage accesses data at the equivalent of file level, but without file locking, and often more than one user can access the object at the same time. Object storage is not strongly consistent. In other words, it is eventually consistent between mirrored copies that exist.
Most legacy applications are not written for object storage. But far from that necessarily being a disadvantage, historically speaking, object storage is in fact the storage access method of choice for the cloud era. That is because the cloud is generally far more of a stateless proposition than the legacy enterprise environment, and also comprises probably the bulk of storage offered by the big cloud providers.
Also, objects in object storage offer a richer set of metadata than in a traditional file system. That makes data in object storage well-suited to analytics, too.
The cloud has been object storage’s natural home. Most storage services offered by cloud providers are based on object storage, and it is here that new de facto standards, such as S3, have emerged.
With its easy access to data that that can happily exist as largely stateless and eventually consistent, object is the bulk storage of the cloud era.
You can get object storage for on-prem deployment, such as Dell EMC’s Elastic Cloud Storage, which is solely for datacentre deployment. Meanwhile, Hitachi Vantara’s Hitachi Content Platform, IBM’s Cloud Object Storage and NetApp’s StorageGrid can operate in hybrid- and multicloud scenarios.
Some specialist object storage suppliers, such as Cloudian and Scality, offer on-prem and hybrid deployments.
And in the case of Scality, along with Pure Storage (and NetApp, to an extent), converged file and object storage is possible, with the rationale here being that customers increasingly want to access large amounts of unstructured data that may be in file or object storage formats.
Excel has long been one of Microsoft's most popular software products, and for good reason: it allows everyday users to create clean-looking spreadsheets and balance payroll right out of the box.
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The GRETB Training centre Mervue is currently recruiting for the IT Support Specialist Traineeship.
This exciting Traineeship will commence in September 2022 and offers trainees excellent opportunities to gain Microsoft and CompTIA certifications. The certifications delivered are globally recognised and provide a key knowledge base for anyone wanting to begin a career in IT Support.
The 46-week programme also includes 16 weeks work experience to gain real life skills in the industry.
Certifications include: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, Microsoft Azure Fundamentals and Microsoft 365 Administration. In addition to this Trainees will learn a number of non-technical skills.
The Traineeship commences Monday September 5 and is full time for 46 weeks. Potential trainees will be required to sit an interview and aptitude test with the GRETB prior to being offered a place on the traineeship.
Interviews and the course itself, will run in compliance with Covid 19 guidelines at the time. It is envisaged that interviews and the course will be run in the centre and the course ran on a full time in-centre basis.
The trainees will be expected to secure their own work experience with organisations for the 16-week period and may be expected to sit interviews with relevant organisations. Assistance and guidance will be provided by the GRETB.
Demand from employers for people with these skill sets is high at present and the right people will have great opportunity to secure full time employment.
If you are an employer and want to get involved or find out more about how this Traineeship can help your business, please get in touch with us.
For more information and how to apply for potential trainees or employers, please visit https://bit.ly/TecSuppS or www.fetchcourses.ie and search for course reference 342426.
You may also call 091 706200 or email [email protected]
Nasdaq stocks to buy is our syllabu for today. Many of these widely-followed shares have suffered significant year-to-date (YTD) losses on news of persistent inflation and interest rate hikes.
For instance, the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 index is deep in the bear market territory, down around 26% so far in 2022. While macroeconomic headwinds continue to squeeze the hefty valuations of growth stocks, investors who can ride out the short-term volatility are poised to find attractive Nasdaq stocks to buy in the third quarter.
Despite growing fears for a recession, the bear market has ignited analyst calls to “buy the dip.” Many concur investing in beaten-down growth stocks with sound fundamentals could help create long-term wealth for many of our readers.
With that information, here are seven Nasdaq stocks to buy that could gain traction in July.
52-week range: $19.23 – $39.78
Global energy tech play Baker Hughes (NASDAQ:BKR) offers a range of oilfield services to oil and gas companies. It serves customers through its oilfield services, oilfield equipment, turbomachinery and process solutions, and digital solutions segments.
The offshore oil technology leader released Q1 results on April 20. Revenue increased 1% year-over-year (YOY) to $4.84 billion. Adjusted earnings came in at 15 cents per diluted share, up 26% from 12 cents in the prior-year quarter. Cash and equivalents ended the period at $3.19 billion.
The war in Ukraine combined with strong demand for oil and gas continue to support energy names. Soaring crude prices lead to higher drilling activity, increasing demand for BKR’s services and equipment.
BKR stock has gained almost 25% YTD, and supports a 2.40% dividend yield. Shares are trading at 22 times forward earnings and 1.25 times sales. Wall Street’s 12-month median price forecast for Baker Hughes stock stands at $41.
52-week range: $455.71 – $677.76
Semiconductor heavyweight Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) generates most of its revenue from wireless chips used in high-end smartphones. Its market share in the global chip industry is over 3%.
Broadcom released Q2 financials on May 26. Revenue soared 23% year-over-year (YOY) to $8.1 billion. As a result, adjusted diluted earnings per share came in at $9.07, up from $6.62 in the prior-year period. Cash and equivalents ended the quarter at $9 billion.
The chip name ended last year with a record backlog of $14.9 billion, implying a highly reliable cash flow stream through 2022. In addition, Broadcom is poised to benefit from a decade-long smartphone replacement cycle, in part driven by the global rollout of 5G technology.
Management anticipates generating roughly $8.4 billion in revenue during the third quarter. Additionally, the company has recently authorized the repurchase of up to $10 billion of stock through the end of 2023.
So far in 2022, AVGO stock declined 26%. Shares are trading at 13.9 times forward earnings and 7.2 times sales. Moreover, they currently generate a 3.3% dividend yield. Analysts’ 12-month median price forecast for Broadcom stock is at $690.
52-week range: $379.21 – $612.27
Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) operates the second-largest warehouse club chain stateside. Among global retailers, the Costco brand is among the most valuable 10 brands.
The warehouse club announced Q3 results on May 26. Revenue increased 16% YOY to $51.6 billion. Despite cost inflation pressures, Costco increased diluted earnings per share to $3.04, up from $2.75 in the same quarter last year. Cash and equivalents ended the quarter at $11.2 billion.
Costco enjoys a loyal customer base. Membership renewal rates stand at an all-time high of 90% worldwide. Management is also working to increase the e-commerce presence.
Yet, COST stock is down 21% YTD yet remains up 16% over the past year. Shares are trading at 33 times forward earnings and 0.9 times sales. Wall Street’s 12-month median price forecast for Costco Wholesale stock stands at $546.50.
52-week range: $64.74 – $162.24
Energy group Diamondback Energy (NASDAQ:FANG) explores, acquires and develops oil and gas reserves in the Permian Basin in West Texas. With a market capitalization (cap) of about $22 billion, the energy play is likely to create shareholder value for many quarters.
Diamondback issued Q1 metrics on May 2. Revenue more than doubled YOY to $2.4 billion. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $5.20, up from $2.30 a year ago. Cash and equivalents ended the period at $149 million. Free cash flow (FCF) stood at $974 million.
The board plans to return at least half of the FCF to stockholders via dividends and stock repurchases. It increased the annual base dividend to $2.80, and the share price currently supports a 2.3% yield.
So far in 2022, FANG stock has gained more than 13%. Shares are changing hands at 5.1 times forward earnings and 2.8 times sales. Finally, the 12-month median price forecast for Diamondback Energy stock is $180.
52-week range: $113.40 – $282.46
Enphase Energy (NASDAQ:ENPH) is known for its micro inverter-based solar and battery systems. In the “Renewable Energy Services & Equipment” segment, its market share is approaching 20%.
The energy company released Q1 financials on April 26. Revenue soared 46% YOY to a record of $$441.3 million. Adjusted earnings stood at 79 cents per diluted share, up from 56 cents in the prior-year period. Cash and equivalents ended the quarter at $1.1 billion.
Microinverter system shipments grew by 16% YOY, while shipments of energy storage systems increased by 187% YOY. The energy technology company boasts an impressive 40% gross margin, one of the highest in the solar space. Management anticipates revenue increasing at least 55% YOY to reach $490 million-$520 million in the second quarter.
The President Joe Biden administration’s decision to extend import tariffs to accelerate domestic production of clean energy offers solid tailwinds for long-term growth. Additionally, the European Union’s (EU) plans to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas, along with significant support for alternative energy solutions, mean good news for Enphase.
ENPH stock is up 1% YTD. Shares are changing hands at 59 times forward earnings and 19 times sales. Meanwhile, the 12-month median price forecast for Enphase is at $240.
52-week range: $241.51 – $349.67
Technology titan Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) dominates the global desktop operating system (OS) market of around 74%. With a market cap of almost 2 billion, it is also the second most valuable company on the S&P 500 index.
In late April, Microsoft announced Q3 financials. Revenue increased 18% YOY to $49.4 billion. Adjusted diluted EPS surged 14% YOY to $2.22, up from $1.95 in the prior-year period. Cash and equivalents ended the quarter at $12.5 billion.
Server products and cloud services revenue increased 29% YOY, fueled by 46% growth in Azure cloud services. During the quarter, the company returned $12.4 billion to shareholders in share repurchases and dividends.
However, management cut its Q4 revenue and earnings expectations. Now, revenue is forecast to come in the $51.94-$52.74 billion range. Therefore, Wall Street is eagerly looking forward to the next earnings statement to be released in late July.
MSFT stock fell more than 26% YTD. Shares are trading at 24.5 times forward earnings and 10.4 times sales. The 12-month median price forecast for MSFT stock stands at $350.
52-week range: $166.49 – $241.54
Our final stock, Tractor Supply (NASDAQ:TSCO), is the largest operator of retail farm and ranch stores stateside. It primarily targets recreational farmers and ranchers and has little exposure to commercial and industrial farm operations. The group operates over 2,000 retail locations.
Tractor Supply released Q1 metrics on April 21. Revenue increased 8.3% YOY to 3.02 billion. Diluted earnings per share soared to $1.65, up from $1.55 in the prior-year quarter. Cash and equivalents ended the period at $405 million.
The retailer’s portfolio primarily consists of non-discretionary products like livestock and pet supplies, hardware, tools, and trucks. Comparable store sales increased 5.2% compared to 38.6% in the prior year’s first quarter.
In other words, Tractor Supply has been enjoying robust demand for its products. During FY’22, management anticipates net sales to come in the $13.6-$13.8 billion range.
So far in 2022, TSCO stock declined almost 21%. Shares are trading at 20.8 times forward earnings and 1.7 times sales. They also offer a 1.95% dividend yield. The 12-month median price forecast for Tractor Supply stock is at $245.
On the date of publication, Tezcan Gecgil, Ph.D., did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Dropbox (NASDAQ:DBX) IPO'ed in March 2018, going public at $21 per share and opening at $29. It currently trades for ~$20.65 four years later, despite massive improvements to its financials. The reason for this is simple, it went public at a very high valuation, and it has taken four years for its fundamentals to catch on with the real price.
We'll see how it has performed on a number of metrics, and while the company has perhaps not delivered as much as it potentially could have delivered, it is a more profitable company compared to the Dropbox at IPO. It also has a few new products that could start contributing very meaningfully to the top line, particularly its e-signature solution HelloSign.
The foundation of the Dropbox business model is the freemium approach, where the service is mostly free, but users can opt in to pay for additional features. Most of Dropbox's 700 million+ users utilize the service for free, but fortunately for the company, there are ~17 million that have signed up for one of the paying options. Therefore, the number of paying users is a key metric, and it has been trending up. In 2019, there were ~14.3 million, so the company has gained a few million since IPO. The average revenue per paying user has also modestly increased from ~$123 in 2019 to about $133 now. Multiplying the two, we get the annual recurring revenue, which currently stands at a little above $2.2 billion per year.
Despite offering the service to most users for free, the company has managed to post very impressive financials, such as >80% Non-GAAP gross margin, >30% Non-GAAP operating margin, and it is targeting $1 billion in free cash flow by 2024. GAAP operating margins are significantly lower, as can be seen below, and as is common with many technology companies, the reason is mostly share-based compensation. On the positive side, the company has displayed very strong operating leverage, and as revenue doubled, operating margins improved in an impressive way. Note that the graph is using a log scale to be able to better appreciate the improvement trend and operating leverage.
Share-based compensation has moderated a bit since the IPO, but we would argue it remains elevated for a company of its size. We would subtract stock-based compensation from the free cash flow numbers in order to get closer to what we consider real owner earnings.
The company posted $708 million in free cash flow in 2021, subtracting the ~300 million in stock-based compensation we get to an adjusted free cash flow closer to $400 million.
In Q1 2022, the company continued seeing some improvements, even if moderate, in its key financial indicators. Annual recurring revenue now stands at $2.29 billion, average revenue per user increased to $134, and revenue was $562 million for the quarter.
Longer term, the company believes it can further increase gross margin to be between 80-82%, and Non-GAAP operating margin to 30-32%. The company also believes it can generate more than a billion in annual free cash flow, from $708 million in 2021. This is all very impressive, but don't forget to take into account stock-based compensation, which significantly lowers the Non-GAAP numbers.
Dropbox has a very strong balance sheet, with more cash than debt. It has total cash and short-term investments of $1,495.6 million against long-term debt of $1,371.2 million. This leaves a net cash position of $124.4 million.
The company is trading with a market cap of ~$7.7 billion. If we take the $708 million in free cash flow and subtract the ~$300 million in stock-based compensation, the company is trading at ~19x adjusted free cash flow. This is not expensive and can be argued to be a reasonable value.
When Dropbox IPO'ed, it did so with an EV/Revenues ratio of ~10x. With the growth of the last four years, and a moderately less expensive share price, that ratio today stands at ~3.3x. EV/EBITDA was not even very meaningful at IPO given the low level of profits the company had, and now shares are trading with a very reasonable ~14x ratio and a ~9x forward EV/EBITDA.
Same thing with the price/earnings ratio, it went from not being meaningful due to the low level of profitability of the company, to a reasonable ~21x, and ~13x for the forward P/E. These are cheap multiples for a technology company still expected to grow, even if growth is not breaking any records. In fact, decelerating growth explains part of the reduced valuation, as growth has moderated to ~10% year over year. Since it went public, growth has averaged ~17%, so the latest 10% is a meaningful deceleration.
We get the impression from its Glassdoor reviews that Dropbox is a well-managed company. Usually, 4-star averages are only seen at companies with superior management, so a 4.3 average is quite good. And most employees also say they would recommend the company to a friend, and that they approve of the CEO.
We see two important risks with Dropbox, one is intensifying competition, with competitors like Microsoft (MSFT) trying to steal some of its customers with OneDrive, and other similar file sharing/synchronizing solutions from other big tech companies. The other risk we see is that the valuation can continue to compress if growth continues slowing down. At this point, we view shares as fairly valued, even slightly undervalued, but with a significant downside risk if competitors figure out how to steal more market share from them.
Dropbox is an interesting company that has managed to make its freemium business model a success. When it went public, the valuation was quite elevated, but has since become a lot more reasonable. Part of the valuation reset can be explained by decelerating growth, and we caution investors that shares could fall considerably more, should growth continue to decelerate under intensifying competitive pressures from companies like Microsoft with its OneDrive product. At this point, we believe shares have balanced pretty well the positives and negatives, and that the share price should follow more closely in the future the evolving fundamentals of the business.
(MENAFN- The Arabian Post) The collaboration sees CUHK Business School become the first business school as the authorised test centre for Microsoft Certifications in Hong Kong
HONG KONG SAR – Media OutReach – 16 June 2022 – Microsoft Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School have formed a strategic partnership to nurture the development of digital skillsets that will be vital for future success in business.
CUHK Business School is the first business school in Hong Kong to become a Certiport Authorised Testing Centre, where students can obtain industry-recognised Microsoft Certifications starting in the new academic year, available to over 3,000 CUHK Business School students.
The partnership gives CUHK Business School students access to Microsoft Fundamentals courses designed to equip them with in-demand digital skills in fields including AI, big data and the cloud. Training will be administered through the Microsoft Learn online platform. Upon successful course completion and passing the required assessments, students will be awarded with industry-recognised certifications.
With access to the education resources in Microsoft's AI Business School, CUHK Business School will orchestrate digital transformation elements in its curriculum design, business case development and academic research enhancement.
CUHK Business School students will also have the opportunity to participate in capstone projects, chartered by Microsoft Hong Kong or its key partners or customers, to translate their knowledge and skills into innovative business solutions in practice.
Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau , added:“As digital transformation gathers pace, business leaders need to be increasingly adept in AI, data science and cloud computing. Microsoft understands that developing a transformation strategy extends far beyond business and technology to leadership and organisational capabilities. Microsoft certifications encompass both the technical and strategic side of transformation, empowering people with practical insights for their unique journey. We are thrilled to support the future-readiness of Hong Kong's brightest talent through this partnership.”
“As a pioneer in business education in Asia, we are excited to partner with Microsoft to nurture a new generation of tech-savvy leaders ready for the future of work,” said Prof. Lin Zhou, Dean of CUHK Business School .“We are proud to be the first business school in Hong Kong designated as a Certiport Authorised Testing Centre to allow our students to acquire the in-demand industry-recognised certifications. The partnership is a testament to our commitment to developing relevant and competent talent and building the digital capabilities of our students to contribute to the digital transformation across different sectors in Hong Kong and beyond.”About Microsoft
Microsoft (Nasdaq“MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.About CUHK Business School
Established in Hong Kong in 1963, CUHK Business School is the first business school to offer BBA, MBA and EMBA programmes in the region. The School currently has more than 4,500 students and the largest number of business alumni (40,000+) in Hong Kong.
#Microsoft #CUHKBusinessSchoolvia Microsoft Hong Kong and CUHK Business School join hand to nurture future ready digital talent
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Making a market-oriented, community-focused and law-based business climate to meet the highest global standards
QINGDAO, China, June 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The 3rd Qingdao Multinationals Summit, hosted by the Information Office of the People's Government of Shandong Province, came to a successful conclusion on June 20-21, 2022. A total of 99 foreign investment projects covering new-generation IT, renewable energies, new materials, high-end equipment manufacturing and chemical engineering, among other sectors, were signed during the summit, with a total value of US$15.6 billion, a year on year increase of 31.4%. The amount of contracted foreign capital reached US$5.31 billion.
During the summit, the local government and China's Ministry of Commerce held a symposium with multinational companies to widely solicit opinions and suggestions and discuss the possible opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.
Shandong Provincial Party Secretary Li Ganjie said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic having had a certain impact on investment from multinationals and other foreign companies, the fundamentals of China's economy remain unchanged with a long-term positive and resilient outlook. The province is now working to upgrade existing policies and enhance industrial and supply chains to ensure the stability of production and operations and to assure that goods produced are delivered on schedule, so that multinational companies can enjoy peace of mind while investing and expanding business in the region.
Zhou Naixiang, Shandong Provincial Deputy Party Secretary and Governor, said that the province is committed to raising the efficiency and the convenience of government services to the highest global standards, in a move to make its business-friendly environment more market-oriented, law-based and aligned with international levels for the facilitation of development and cooperation.
Sheng Qiuping, Vice Minister of Commerce, said that China has entered a new stage of development and will provide new opportunities to multinational companies by creating a new development framework, negotiating and signing free trade agreements, and facilitating a digital, green and low-carbon economy.
Thirteen representatives from multinational companies, among them, Microsoft Greater China chairman & CEO and corporate SVP Hou Yang, Panasonic Corporation global VP Tetsuro Homma, Nestle Greater China VP of Group Affairs and Sustainability Fang Juntao, Linde Greater China VP of Clean Hydrogen Energy Hu Bei, and Air Products China VP Feng Yan, put forward their ideas on deepening practical cooperation at the symposium.
View original content to obtain multimedia:https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/shandong-creates-business-friendly-environment-for-mutually-beneficial-cooperation-301573818.html
SOURCE Information Office of the People's Government of Shandong Province