How to train for CCNA certification?

How to train for CCNA certification?

Kevin Harris Network and equipment simulator
It can be difficult to self-study for the CCNA certification. There is a lot of information required for CCNA candidates and many skills required. Where do you start?
Step one is to decide which resources you will use. To give you a solid understanding of the concepts and to be able to refer to them, you will need a book. Quality books on the CCNA are available from major publishers like Sybex, McGraw-Hill and Cisco Press. Visit the bookstore to find which book you like best. Next comes the big step. How can you acquire the practical, hands-on knowledge required to understand routing and switching? This is the next step. There are two options in the self-study world: either buy real equipment or a network simulator. (NOTE: Many will argue that router emulators can be used as an alternative. Although many people choose this option, it is against Cisco’s license agreement to run the IOS on any hardware other than that which it is licensed for. This option is illegal and I don’t recommend it. It is not okay to steal from Cisco just because you and I disagree with their licensing model. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each option.
You can practice on real equipment, which is obvious. This is, I believe, the best solution, given the access. So that’s it. There are some things you should consider. Cisco’s official labs require at least two 2811 routers and two 2960 switches. These new routers will cost you $5,200. You can also buy them used on eBay for as low as $2,000 (before you have to pay for the IOS licenses). How can anyone afford to use real equipment in a home laboratory when these prices are so high?
You can build a home lab using older equipment that is much cheaper on the secondary marketplace. (NOTE: Cisco’s irksome licensing model is important to remember. Although your used hardware may be marked with an IOS image, you cannot use it without paying a Cisco license fee. You may have noticed that many vendors selling Cisco lab kit kits make it a point of mentioning that licensing is your problem and not theirs. This is because there is a reason. You could use a few older routers in the 2500 or 2600 series and some 2950 switches. Remember that IOS 12.4 is being tested by the CCNA and most routers have an IOS maximum of 12.3. This is not a major issue, but it is a limitation. It is important to ensure that your router and IOS allow inter-VLAN routing. To determine which IOS versions are required to support your hardware features, it would be a good idea consult the Cisco Feature Navigator. A 2501, a 2600 and two 2950s will give you a functional home lab for about $350-$400, before you add IOS license fees (around 150-$225 per device). You can also get an additional 2501 to add as a frame relay switch.
What are you going do with your lab now that it is set up? You will need to find a set of exercises. You will need to source lab exercises that have the same goal as you do–passing your CCNA exam. Unfortunately, Cisco does NOT make their labs public. You can only get them by taking a course with a Cisco partner. You can find labs in a variety of places online, many of which are free. Be careful. Although free or cheap lab content is sometimes good, it’s not always worth the price. Cisco charges approximately $225 per ICND1 or ICND2 lab book. These books are not cheap, but they are very useful.