Recently, I received a PM from a HappyRouter.com member,asking for help in selecting equipment for his CCNA studies. There are a ton of choices out there and a lot of vendors trying to push equipment on new users that they may or may not need.
In the dialog below, you will see how I made the following recommendations to our member:
1) You don’t have to buy equipment for CCNA preparation but it will help you learn more and retain what you need for the test
2) Only get the most basic equipment needed, such as Cisco 2500 series routers. In fact, you should be able to spend no more than $300 to get a couple of routers and a switch.
3) For learning concepts and seeing how things should work in the Cisco IOS, take a look at the Train Signal CCNA videos – they cover the whole gamut of router, switches, subnetting, VLANS, and more. Plus, they come with study questions and a lab book!
The conversation on this topic follows….
Hi. It’s been awhile since I have posted in the forums about setting up my home lab. However, now that I am aware that the current CCNA exam is going to retire in November, and be replaced by a more in-depth CCNA exam, I feel more pressure and under-the-gun to try to achieve this certification before the November deadline.
Having said that, I definately want to have real equipment to practice on (not just simulations) from home, but, I want to make a wise and informed decision when I purchase the equipment. First off, this is not necessarily something I’m looking to the future with as regards to CCNP. Hopefully down the road it might be, but after the CCNA, I would like to continue on the Microsoft route to MCSA. So I do not necessarily want to buy the better equipment with plans for the CCNP right now. Just something to prepare me for the CCNA.
At the moment, I’m looking at CiscoKits.com. I wanted to get an informed insight from you as to whether the equipment I am looking at will suffice.
The first is the switch found at CiscoKits. As stated before, I’m still not really sure on all of this equipment, but would this suffice for the CCNA? I also noticed that it did not state the IOS ver.
Secondly is the CiscoKits router kit.
I’m still a bit lost browsing this site for the equipment. I know I don’t need high-end equipment needed for CCNP and CCIE, but at the same time, I want something steady and solid to practice and study from for the CCNA. For example, I know I really don’t need the 1924 switch, as it isn’t even tested on anymore.
Can you give any thoughts or suggestions on the above equipment? If I am way off in my selection, can you kindly point me in the right direction for the appropriate equipment that I would need?
Thanks again for all of your help to people like me just getting started in the networking realm. It is an invaluable resource to us.
Thanks for the email.
These 2500 series routers (as long as they have the 16/16 RAM & Flash and a recent IOS) are very valuable for testing and studying. While you can’t do some of the latest features in the latest IOS or run SDM (the GUI router mgmt interface) – you don’t need any of those for the CCNA.
For the money – the are what you need. Once you move outside of the 2500 line to something “current”, you will easily spend $500 per router. I have about 5 x 2500 at my house and that is almost exclusively what I use most of the time for testing because what I generally work with is CCNA/CCNP level stuff. While I have done CCIE level advanced stuff – it just isn’t what most people need or are interested in.
As for the switch, I also think it would be fine. One thing that I believe you won’t be able to do with this setup is configure VLANs because VLANs require a Fast Ethernet on each side – thus – you would need a Fast Ethernet (100Mb) on one of your routers and on your switch. Really, for the CCNA, getting something that can do that isn’t worth it (in my opinion).
In fact, all of this practice on the real equipment, in my mind is for two reasons 1) so you can say that you CAN use real routers and HAVE DONE it before and 2) so that everything you learn in your studies will really sink in (and maybe because there might be a few simulation questions on the test). I mean, if you have never entered the commands, you are more likely to forget them. Still, most people who are interested in the topic could, theoretically, read like crazy, memorize, and pass the exam without ever touching a real router – sad but true.
If you don’t mind, I am going to take this Q&A that we exchanged and post it on the website as a blog entry so that others might benefit. I think that many people have these questions so others could benefit from the dialogue. When it comes to study material, I always recommend the Train Signal CCNA Videos because I think they are the best value out there. Chris Bryant (who is a CCIE) does a great job on the CCNA certification video! He explains some complex topics in plain English.
Here is a complete course listing – Cisco CCNA Video Demo
I hope that helps!
Let me know what I can do to help along the way.
I have thought of setting up a rack that I could rent over the Internet with some basic equipment for CCNA prep….