Hi, welcome to the Certification Kits presentation on how to build your very own CCENT/ CCNA home lab. A common question we get is, how many routers to I really need in my lab? As you can see on the slide on the screen, one router will give you the ability to run the commands on it and allow you to memorize the correct syntax in context in which to run the commands. However, two routers are really required to see if anything works. So what do I mean by that? With Cisco CCNA exam is built around the propagation of data in route tables. The only way you can see this in action is to have at least two routers. Two routers will allow you to see the data propagate, route table information propagate, and path elections. In addition, you’ll be able to see some basic device selections. Whereas three or more routers, and you’ll get all those things we just talked about, be able to experience more complex topologies and see full device selections. So for those reasons, we really do suggest that you have three routers in your lab. You may say, you know what, I have seen another video or article that said I only need two routers, why are you saying that I need three routers? That’s a good question and we’re going to cover that between this and the next slide.

Now, if you take a look at this slide you’ll see a OSPF topology from our free CCNA study guide. We want a configured environment so we know that R2 will be the designated router.  Well there are actually a couple ways we can accomplish this, so at a real high level if we only had two routers, say R1 and R2, we could set R1 with the priority of 0 and then R2 would, by default, be the designated router. But that is not real world, as most companies you will work for, probably any company you work for, will have many more than two routers. So, once we add the third router into the mix, would R2 still be the designated router? I don’t know, but by changing a priority on R2 and leaving R3 the default priority, we can assure that. So I think you could start to see why three routers is our preferred topology, as this can be applied to many of the CCNA concepts that you’ll see.

So let’s take another look in an example why we believe three routers is the right way to go. If we have just a simple two router scenario, we basically have one subnet, and you can argue we could have another one on each Ethernet, so we have a total of 3 subnets in this environment. Now let’s compare that to our EIGRP lab that we have in our lab workbook. This is a 32-page lab, and what we have here, we have dual WAN links between R1 and R3, that could be like New York and San Francisco, so it’s a real company, they have to have redundancy here. We have some LAN links here, so you understand the different encapsulation protocols between WAN and LAN. So we have multiple paths, we could have multiple costs on the different LAN links, we could have load balancing and we could have more complex route tables because now we have a total of 6 different subnets, where here we’re tapped out with the maximum of three. So, I think you can see clearly that this is a much more realistic scenario of what you will see in the real world, where this is so simplistic it really doesn’t get to the meat and potatoes of routing and switching.

So hopefully you’ll agree in those couple scenarios we just showed you, you can see the benefits of having three routers. And if you can afford it, go that way, if you can’t, two routers is still a great environment. Now let’s just take a real quick look at some of the features. We have this table actually on our website at certificationkits.com and I’m going to show you where at the end of the presentation. But, what we will have when you go through this article, you’ll see the different models, what the requirements are memory-wise for Ipv6, whether or not it supports CCP, the max IOS version, whether its 15.x for your 2801, and your 1841s, 12.4 for the 1700 series, 12.3 for the 2500 and a different integrated ports, slots, and such.

Now something I think we really need to address because we’ve been getting a lot of questions because there have been a couple articles out there and videos about the 1721 routers. People just want a bunch of 1721 routers in their lab, and we don’t actually think that’s a really great idea, but maybe we can explain that to you quick. You see, it’s important, if you look down here at the lab alert, that you get the right mix of routers in your lab. Not every router has to have the same capabilities and functions and same features. You’ll want maybe one router to be your dual Ethernet router that can do your NAT PAT stuff, and then every other router might not necessarily have to have dual Ethernet in it. So, different features, functionalities, operating systems versions, IOS versions. It could be a mix of full featured routers and more basic routers such as you see in the CCIE labs. For instance, the current CCIE lab version 4, it has two 2501 routers in it. That’s a CCIE lab, they’re just acting as edge routers, they don’t need to be as powerful as maybe the core routers, or have as many features. So again, the key is getting the right mix of routers and switches in your lab.

So, let’s just talk a little about the 1701’s because we’re getting a lot of questions about that. The pros; it’s small, it’s quiet, and it supports 12.4, and it’s cheap, great! The cons, why I’m not a real big fan of it, not easily stackable or rack-able, there is this bulky external power supply which has a high failure rate. Generally when they came from Cisco they were 64/32, now the big thing about this is hey, it’s a 12.4 router, great. However, if they only have 64/32 memory, you’re going to have to purchase a memory upgrade.  And as you start to add that cost to it then, hey, you want to make it a dual Ethernet router, just add a WIC-1ENET to it. Well, that router had a specialized module for the second Ethernet port, that wasn’t as mass produced as the other routers or modules, and thus that module is kind of on the expensive side. You’re going to be $35 to $40 into that module by the time it’s shipped and all that stuff, so you might have been better off getting a much better router in my opinion, like a 2611XM. It’s more expandable, more features, things along those lines.

So, what am I talking about as far as it not being stackable and rack-able and what? We generally have two scenarios with people in their home labs, either stack everything on their desk like here on the left, or have a sweet rack like over here on the right.

So if you’re stacking it over here on the left, you can see how these 1721’s they stack up on there, but they’re plastic and they fall and break. You’ve got this big power cube on the side. I’m just not a real big fan of them as you can tell. At least on these you can have them nice and neat, you have your 2600 series, 2500 series, 1800 series, whatever it is they are all rackable. If you do decide to go with the rack, you’ve got this sweet little setup. You can put it under your desk or you can put it on top of the desk. It keeps everything nice and compact so that nobody is complaining, tripping over it, and pulling out your cables.

So, now how many switches do I need? Just like with the routers, one switch will give you the ability to run the commands on the switch, memorize the correct syntax and context, in which to run the commands, and allow you to do some of the VLAN labs. Two switches will allow you to see VTP domain information and VLAN information propagate. In addition you will see basic device elections like on your routers. Three or more you will have full device elections, more complex scenarios. Now, every now and then, we will get some really smart Cisco people. Maybe they’re at the CCNP level or higher or what have you, or really great CCNA’s. And they’ll say, you know what, you don’t really need that third switch on that second switch.  You go and VLAN it, you could do this, that, and the other, and simulate everything you’re talking there with the full device elections and such, and some of the other scenarios we’re going to cover. And I do agree with that, but here’s the problem. We’re trying to get someone to understand this from the ground up, and you’re talking about $35 more for this extra switch. If they knew how to do this off the top of their head, you’re probably already a CCNA so you don’t need a lab such as this, and you’ve already passed it. But let me just show you now what you can do with three switches.

So now with three switches and this slide, you can see, and again this is from our free CCNA study guide. We have a scenario which we are talking about spanning-tree here , and there’s a lot of different concepts that we’re going to talk about. The root bridge, the designated bridge, the non-designated ports, root ports, forwarding ports, blocking ports, which are doing which. And you can’t really do this and experience it in a real world scenario unless you have the three switches. If you took one out, it just doesn’t happen. If you VLAN one off you could probably do a lot of it, but it just doesn’t sink into the student as easily, because that induces some other issues.

So, next thing is switch features. What switches do we recommend, which ones should we look for, stay away from, things along those lines. So, you’re going to stay away from the 1900 series, the 1912, 1924, the plain 2900 series, of the 2912, the , 2924, the 2924m and also the 3512, 3524s. A lot of people get confused with those and the 3550 and 3560s because the 3550s and 3560s are layer 3, as you can see on the slide, the 3512s and 3524s are not a layer 3 switch. Now a really great model for the CCNA exam in your lab scenario will be the 2950 switch, and that comes in SI and EI version. Now EI, enhanced image, supports Enhanced QoS, 802.1s is your multiple instance spanning tree and 802.1w your rapid spanning tree, you’re going to see some of that stuff on the exam. If you can, upgrade to a 2950 to support that, which are generally your C models, your T models, things along those lines. Now some people say that Cisco says you should have the 2960, why are we not saying that you absolutely have to have a 2960 in  your lab? Well, think about it from Cisco’s perspective. When they wrote the exam, the 2950 had been sunset for five years, are they going to tell you to go buy something that is five years old for your lab? No, they want you up to date on the latest technology and hardware, so this way when  you’re working in the real world, you’re going to be able to be familiar with that hardware and IOS there. But the reality is 2550, 2560 pretty similar, you will be fine with either. Now that brings us to the 3550, 3560 switches. They are Layer 3 switches, they can route, really cool feature. I like to have a 3550 in your CCNA lab, it is touched on a little bit. But again, if you can’t afford it, not a big deal. But you definitely have to have 3550s and 3560s once you get up to your CCNP exams.

Now something I want you not to overlook, getting a bunch of equipment and having it on your desk is not helpful if you don’t have really good labs to follow. If you get, whether it’s a Cisco Press study guide, or Todd’s book, or some of the other books out there like the Brian Advantage ones. They really don’t have much in regards to labs. They have a lot of great theory and their study guide might be 600-700 pages, it’s a smaller size format, and the labs might encompass 20-30 pages total. Most of the labs are one to two pages. Our lab workbook is 450 pages, 8.5” by 11”, so there is a lot of information in our lab workbook. Also with our labs that we sell, we include a Cram Sheet, a How and Why we Subnet Workbook with over 100 examples that you have to go through, exercises, and this book is also over 100 pages. We have our Exam Prep Tools which gives you our Exam Test Engine, Electronic Flash Cards, TFTP Server, Subnet Calculator, Binary Bits Game, and 40 plus Instructional Videos. We have this cool poster that we also send out that has comparisons of IPv4 and IPv6. So, just getting hardware if you don’t have labs to follow, it really doesn’t matter, it’s not going to be that helpful to you.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier in the presentation, if you go to certificationkits.com, and you go over to lab suggestions, and you click CCNA, you’ll see all that information I just talked about, and actually there’s more information there and there’s some tables showing the various routers, switches, IOS versions, what you need. Take some time to chew on it, there’s a lot of good information there.  I also might suggest if you go down to the CCNA study center, you will see that we have a free CCNA study guide there, use it! There’s a lot of good information. If you have any questions for us, please feel free to go over here to the Contact Us and shoot us an email. We are here to help you pass your Cisco Certifications, whether its CCNA, CCNP, or CCIE. Thank you and have a great day.