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Building Your Cisco Home Lab
Building a Cisco home lab can seem a little overwhelming the first time you decide to take the plunge. But rest assured, we're here to help! CBT Nuggets trainer Jeremy Cioara has spent a lot of time thinking about and building Cisco labs, so we turned to him to help you figure out what you need to build the lab of your dreams.
First, start at the very beginning. It's a very good place to start. Before you start buying equipment and plugging it in, Jeremy has some great insights on how you should approach the project. Watch Jeremy's video, Building a Home Lab: The Mindset.
With the ready availability of secondhand Cisco equipment at phenomenally low prices — it's easy to acquire a lot of the stuff, but you need to get your head straight as to what you're building and why. Come to think of it, Jeremy's advice is relevant to any type of lab you want to build, whether it's for Cisco, VMware, Microsoft, or whatever!
So, let's get started.
1. Have a Mission
Jeremy says that you should "have a mission" for your home lab. You need a reason to build it; something that's going to make you want to work with it; something more than, "I need to practice for my exam."
So, rather than building a "home lab" for the sake of it, build an operational home network that you and your family use every day which allows you to operate and manage for practice. You'll get real-world experience keeping the network up and running, plus you can use the network to practice scenarios as you go through your CBT Nuggets training.
2. Your Certification Journey
There are many certification pathways, as you go from the entry-level CCENT, through the Associate (CCNA), and Professional (CCNP), all the way to achieving expert status (CCIE). Not only that, but there are lots of different flavors of certification including cloud, collaboration, and routing & switching, just to name a few. Depending on where you are and where you're going, the certification program and exams will cover different technologies, topics, and scenarios. The lab setup you'll need will certainly change — in both subtle and more significant ways. While we can't cover every instance, we're lucky that Jeremy covers some of the most popular certifications: CCNA Routing & Switching, CCNA Collaboration (CICD and CIVND), and CCNP Routing & Switching.
3. Building Your Lab
Let's take a look at Jeremy's advice for building a Cisco lab! Check out the videos below to learn what you need to do for each level of certification lab.
- CCNA Routing & Switching
Building a CCNA Home Lab. Once you've built your lab, you'll be ready to start your CCNA training with Cisco CCENT ICND1 100-105 and Cisco CCNA ICND2 200-105.
- CCNA Collaboration (CICD)
CCNA Collaboration Home Lab: What You'll Need to Build a CICD Lab. For this voice- and video-based certification, Jeremy shows how you can build a home lab for less than the cost of an iPhone. You can then jump into your training with the Implementing Cisco Collaboration Devices (210-060 CICD) course.
- CCNA Collaboration (CIVND)
CCNA Collaboration Home Lab: What You'll Need to Build a CIVND Lab. You may have already set up a lab for CICD, but for CIVND you're going to need some more sophisticated — and expensive — equipment. Arguably, the complexities of the CIVND curriculum make it even more essential to set up your lab the right way! You'll then be ready to begin the courses Implementing Cisco Video Network Devices Part 1 (210-065 CIVND1) and Implementing Cisco Video Network Devices Part 2 (210-065 CIVND2).
- CCNP Routing & Switching
Building a CCNP Home Lab. Good for you! You're moving on up the certification ladder. This MicroNugget will help you get the best bang for your buck for your CCNP lab equipment and advise you on how to set it up. You'll be ready to begin your CCNP Routing & Switching training courses: CCNP Implementing Cisco IP Routing (300-101 ROUTE), CCNP Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (300-115 SWITCH) and CCNP Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (300-135 TSHOOT).
Once you have your lab up and running, make sure to follow along with your CBT Nuggets training courses. You can follow the scenarios that you see and reinforce your learning with hands-on practice.
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