Budget Friendly Cisco Lab at Home
First of all, why spend money for Cisco lab? Moreover, why by switches, routers, cables for your home? Now, may be you are taking preparation for a Cisco certification exam or another vendors certification exam. At any case, you have to spend lot of times practicing commands! Of course, you can not expect to watch tutorials, read articles and pass a certification exam. You have to practice everything, not just memorizing commands. All things considered, you should spend some money and time to build a Cisco lab at home.
The sole purpose of building a lab at home is practicing. We don’t need some crazy speed for home lab environment. However, we should be able to perform all the required tasks related with exam. As a result, we have to keep balance between price and performance. Therefor, we have compiled a minimal list of Cisco device within 100 to 200 USD.
01. Cisco 2621xM Router
First you need a Cisco Router. Actually most of the task you perform for CCNA exam, is related with either routing or switching. All things considered, having a Cisco router in your lab, is a must. Now, there are many different routers out there. But for lab use, you don’t need a over priced router. With Cisco 2621XM router, you will be able to perform every task, required for CCNA exam. From ebay you can easily buy used routers which won’t burn your wallet!
02. Cisco 3550 Switch
Next thing you need is a switch. Of course there are few routers which has built in switch. But that will cost you a little bit more. Again, you can not configure those Swouter (Switch+Router) differently. To get the real feel of Cisco lab, you should buy two of this switch.
Finally you need few Ethernet cables, both straight through and crossover, few console cables and of course power cables for every device.
Best available alternatives
Sometimes you can not spend 200$ for a lab environment or there can be many other limitations. In this situation, you can use simulation software. There are two popular simulation software. One is GNS3 and another one is Packet Tracer. GNS3 can emulate original IOS image file for Cisco devices. On the other hand, Packet Tracer, developed by Cisco can run almost every command of IOS. Another advantage of Packet Tracer is it has built in scenarios. So you can work on those!
Final thoughts? Of course you should spend for a physical Cisco lab. But if you really can’t manage to have a physical lab, then go for the simulation software. Because something is better than nothing!