We get asked quite often what is the best Cisco switch I can get for my CCNA lab. That can be somewhat of a tricky question as there are a lot of variables that can come into play. At the surface it seems like an easy, very straightforward question. But as you dig into it, there are a lot of factors that go into how you build your Cisco CCNA lab and what Cisco switches you will use in the lab.
We will cover the major considerations which are price, features and then number of switches for your CCNA lab.
So probably the biggest consideration on what type of Cisco switch(es) you will have in your CCNA lab is what your budget is. Cisco CCNA lab switches can run the gamut from about $70 at the time of this writing for a Cisco 2960 switch to roughly a few hundred dollars for a Cisco 3750v2 switch. So let’s take a look at each switch you will probably consider for your CCNA lab from a price perspective.
The Cisco 2950 switch used to be the gold standard for CCNA labs. We have since completely retired this model as everything has fully shifted over to IOS 15. The 2950 cannot run anything past IOS 12, so it has pretty much become obsolete and has very limited capability for the new labs.
Cisco 2950 CCNA Lab Switch
The 2950 also comes in a few other models, the Cisco 2950-T, the 2950-G, the 2950-C and any other 2950 that runs the EI (Enhanced Image) IOS. This is a little different than Standard Image 2950 and costs on average $10 to $15 more than the standard switch. So what do you get for the extra $10 to $15 in additional features? I am glad you asked! You will then be able to run RSTP, MISTP and Enhanced QoS commands on your switch. The problem here is that you are still stuck on IOS 12, completely stuck on an only layer 2 device and still not running IOS 12. The cost on this switch is also so close to the 2960 switch that we will talk about next, that is just doesn’t make any sense to skimp a matter of $10 dollars or so to massively limit your capability. For this reason, we no longer even offer this switch.
In numerical order the next Cisco lab switch we have is the Cisco 2960 series. This is the switch Cisco recommends for the CCNA certification studies. It will cover pretty much all the commands on the CCNA exam. This switch is the base units for every single lab kit that we offer! So, no matter what kit you pick, you will start off with the exact IOS matched switch that the exam is written for. This switch is IOS 15 capable and can even so some limited static layer 3.
Cisco 2960 CCNA Lab Switch
The next switch we will talk about is the Cisco 3550 Layer 3 switch. Being it is a Layer 3 switch, you can do routing on your switch! This is a super cool feature. Now this is just touched on really at a high level in your CCNA studies and Cisco CCNA lab. It can do all the things the 2950 and a lot of what the 2960 switch can do and more at the layer 3 level. Another thing is these switches also run a SI or EI IOS. Again Standard Image or Enhanced Image. You will want to make sure you get one with the Enhanced Image for your Cisco certification lab studies, which is what we carry. The downside to this switch it that it, once again, is limited to IOS 12 and cannot run IOS 15.
Cisco 3550 CCNA Lab Switch
Now we will talk about another Layer 3 switch that is easily one of our favorites Cisco 3560 switch. The 3560 has been in the CCNP labs and Cisco CCIE labs for quite some time now. They have significantly come down in price and only run about $20 more than a 2960. So, in our opinion that makes these a no brainer. They do support one major feature set that the other switches do not which is PVLANs. It is touched on the CCNA exam, but only in a very limited capacity. The entry level kits that we carry come with all 2960 switches, but as you move towards the mid-level and advanced-level lab kits, we actually swap out one or more of the switches with a 3560 or even a 3750v2. This cost effectively builds an easy transition for your CCNA lab into a CCNP lab and also adds a true, fully dynamic option for you to explore!
Cisco 3560 CCNA Lab Switch
Next up is our top of the line and favorite switch. These are a little bit pricier than the other switches, but still very affordable! This is the 3750v2 switch. This is also the only switch that is available that i IOS 15, true-fully-dynamic layer 3 and able to run IOS 15 when purchasing a PoE (power over ethernet) model. Another cool feature for the 3750v2 is the ability to stack with its stackwise ports. All you need to explore that (which is covered in CCNP) is to add a couple stackwise cables to a pair of 3750v2 and you are ready to go! This switch boasts even more capability, tunnel features, etc. over the 3560. Supercharged!
Wow, we covered a lot of ground in this article and it was a lot longer than we thought it would be. We did not actually cover how many switches should be used in your lab and how to have them compliment each other while saving you money. So we are going to break this into a two part series on what is the best CCNA lab switch. So please don’t forget to read part two of this series as the next part will get into a lot more detail on the features so you can build the best CCNA lab possible!
You can check out some of our switch options here. If you have any questions on anything you can also reach out to our super knowledgeable staff at Sales@CertificationKits.com