Cisco Cert Beginner Part-2: Setting up a Network Lab (Rack)

One of the reasons I failed the CCENT was that I didn’t prepare for router/switch simulators that are on the test. I knew the theory and concepts behind Interconnecting Cisco network devices, but I hadn’t spent much time on the command line of an actual router. Since the test is timed you don’t have a lot of time to try to figure commands out on the fly. You certainly can, because Cisco command line is pretty user friendly.

To prepare for the test you must be comfortable in the Internetwork Operating System (IOS). That is why my CCNA, CCNP buddies encouraged me to set up my own Cisco network. They told me how to buy them cheap, what components to buy and how I should actually network them to prep for the Cisco certs.

Cheap Cisco Equipment:
Talking about what actual Cisco models to buy in this post will not be effective since anything I name will be completely obsolete by the time you read this. But I will tell you that my CCNA/CCNP friends recommended buying old Cisco equipment from ebay and Craig’s list. And even schooled me on what was a good deal. In some cases I would just give them money and they would buy if for me. I ended up buying a lot of stuff I don’t need but you are more than likely much smarter with your money.

What to Buy:
They told me that it was important to buy two switches and two routers to practice with routing protocols and spanning tree. They explained that it is important to understand the behavior of the technologies in order to know how to troubleshoot. Theory is important too, but to prepare for the CCENT you must get comfortable with the command line interface so you don’t waste time figuring out basic stuff on the fly.

courtesy of Cisco land

DIAGRAM:
Build a diagram first! This is difficult for me because I like to just jump in and try things. But creating a network diagram and understanding what it is you want to set up is very important.

from rate my network diagram

Virtual Cisco LAB:
Another very useful tool for those who really can not afford to drop $100 dollars on old Cisco equipment is the use GNS3. Its like a VM Ware for Cisco IOS. It allows you to create a virtual network and mess around with actual Cisco IOS. Its really pretty cool… and (best of all) it free!! Aside from air, I am not sure there is anything more useful. Its is a great tool if you are serious about studying for the CCENT/CCNA/CCNP.

courtesy of gns3.net

Cisco Cert Beginner Part-1: where to start

Since I failed the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) (lol), I have decided to get smart on Cisco again. I have been out of it a long time doing mostly DoD Certification & Accreditation work. I used to be a network engineer with a CCNA, until I found a career that pays better with less competition. So now, I am just doing Cisco stuff for fun.

After failing the CCENT, I talk to my resident networking GURU’s (a CCNA Security, a CCNP and a CCIE). I wanted to know what was the best approach on attacking the CCNA again. They told me what they did.. set up a Cisco lab in the house was he most common answer.

The book they recommended to start with was CCNA-CCNENT ICND1. Its really not the most fun book in the world to read, but if your starting out or starting over with this stuff it should be like your networking bible. Among technical Cisco books, its a solid first start.. which is much more than I can say about any of the first start Cisco’s 5500 ASA books– there is just now such thing. You will be expected to have a solid understanding of networking, the OSI model and TCP/IP. If you have a Comptia Network+, the CCENT might be the logical next step. If you do networking pretty regularly, have been doing it for about a year and are familiar to Cisco equipment, you might be better off going straight to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). If you’re going for the fully blown CCNA, the book to get is the CCNA ICND2. I have been warned that you need to very, very good at subneting!! The CCNA is much harder than it was when I took it in 2001. I would even say that the CCENT is harder than the CCNA used to be.

In addition to getting the right books to read, the Cisco Gurus told me to set up a lab.