When I initially started studying for my CCNA, I found that through amazing online resources, practice exams and more, I was obtaining an incredible amount of knowledge and retaining it at great pace. But as I went on, I found that in addition to those resources, I could supplement my knowledge by having physical gear in my home to lab any theories or concepts I wanted to try out for myself. Thus my CCNA home lab was born. Let’s take a look why investing physical gear into your studies is a recipe for success.
You Can Go With This? Or You Can Go With That?
For the longest time, the question as always lingered – physical or virtual lab? And why? Now I’ve said countless times in the past and it still holds true to this day that what works for some, may not work for everyone. And that’s ok. We all have different learning preferences. How we obtain and absorb information is going to vary no matter what the environment. Some would prefer virtual environments such as GNS3 or EVE-NG to lab their concepts. While there’s no question those are two incredible tools to help on your cert journey, there are a few factors you just can’t replace in a home lab. For one, in a virtual environment, you can’t mimic power outages, bad ports on a switch, racking and stacking gear, or the experience of cabling. For me like anything I’m sure most would agree, repetition is key to retention. The more familiar you find yourself with the hardware, the better you’ll understand not just the foundational but more advanced concepts including how routing, switching and networks work overall.
Upgrades For Days
In your home lab, the best part of building it is you can always add to it. I recommend for someone just starting on their networking journey two Layer 2 & 3 switches and even a firewall. That way you’ll have a solid start in building out your lab. Also, and most importantly, a rack to hold all of your gear is a must. Now what type is completely up to you. There’s a few different kinds to choose from. StarTech in my opinion has some great products that are also inexpensive if you’re just starting out. Then once you’ve used your lab for sometime if you can, take some of your expendable income and invest it back into yourself. Now I’m not saying to spend thousands of dollars on gear. But even to start out with, there’s some amazing and inexpensive gear you can find on Ebay. If you’re looking to upgrade that firewall with one that has some next-gen features, you’ll probably pay extra. My point is to always invest in yourself. The reward is always worth it – trust me.
What To Do Next?
So, you’ve obtained all the gear you needed and you’ve made that leap into your first home lab. Congratulations! Now what!? Well, the real fun as just began as you decide how to rack your gear properly. A few of the questions you may have right now are what are some best practices to use when assembling your lab and cabling. Don’t worry. Soon I’ll review some tips and tricks for first time home lab users, along with some things I learned along the way that’ll help you lab efficiently and get the most out of your studying. Until next time, happy labbing everyone.
Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions (CCNA v1.0)