To be a good engineer, you need a Testlab. End of sentence.
You need it so you can peruse flights of fancy, like making some web services, trying out that new language and other endeavors perhaps not specifically related to your day to day work.
It HAS to be your own too! You can’t just use the one at your work. If things go awry between you and your company, you definitely don’t want to lose your livelihood AND your hard-earned testlab in the same stroke! This is also why you don’t want to have your life insurance purchased through your work too (or if you do, make sure you don’t get fired and die in the same day).
In consulting, I would get assigned to a project and have a month or so to come up to speed on new technologies. I found that when I had a testlab, it was so much quicker to get working, just make a new VM, domain join it and have SQL installed and ready for a new SCCM, Scorch, Air-Watch, whatever. In fact, the periods when I did the best engineering work over my career closely line up to the times that I had a working testlab available to model my customer’s environments and make mistakes on my own time, not theirs.
If you have read this and are convinced that you too need a testlab, and don’t yet have one, you can click here to read my guide here on setting up a Domain Controller with one-click!
And what should we do with things that are important? We protect them. In this post I’ll walk you through some of the options available to protect and backup your testlab.