22 September 2008

9 Freewares for Your Cisco CCNA Home Lab

If you decided to build your own Cisco home lab, then I know you're going to need the following freewares for your LAN sooner or later.

These freewares I picked not because I think they're the best based on the functions but they are the ones I use in my home lab and what I think most handy for me.

By the way, I used the image above I found on the internet, if you click that image it leads you to a site where they held a freeware logo contest there, pretty cool.

Back again, I'll start with freewares that you can use to connect your PC to your Cisco Devices:

1. HyperTerminal Private Edition

Since Microsoft decided not to include hyperterminal in Windows Vista, you surely need this private edition version of HyperTerminal if you like the look of it.
You can use HT to connect to your Cisco Devices through serial connection or TCP/IP winsock.

2. Putty

Now Putty offers almost everything that you need for data communication, Telnet, SSH, RLogin, Serial Connection, proxy, anything, you name it.
One thing that I very much like from Putty is that I can change the font, color, the appearance of the Putty window.
I like to change it to be the matrix-like console, so I can get a "hacker" feel from it sengihnampakgigi

3. TeraTerm

Now sometimes when given too much offers like in Putty, newbies can get confused. TeraTerm offers the solution between the HyperTerminal and Putty.
It has simpler design than Putty but flexibility to change user interface.

4. Solarwinds TFTP Server

If you're working with Cisco Devices, sooner or later you're going to need TFTP server. TFTP server is used to upload and download file to or from network devices.
You can use TFTP server to save your configuration files, backup your IOS, upgrade the IOS, store DHCP bindings if you're using your router as DHCP server, etc.

5. Kiwi Syslog Daemon

Syslog is used to receive messages from your network devices, and then display them in real time.
If you're using syslog in your LAN, you can find out immediately if your ports or devices are failing, and know exactly the errors are happening.
You can also use this Kiwi Syslog Daemon as an alert system, sending you email when one of the devices in your LAN is failing.

6. Cisco TACACS Server for Windows

This is not a software released by Cisco but more like a custom software based on Cisco source code.
If you don't know what TACACS server is, it is a server that stores your users' credentials such as user names and passwords.

If a user want to access something in your LAN, the TACACS server will check the credentials first before allowing the user to do something further.

The CCNA exam won't test you in configuring TACACS server, but it's fun to configure so try it out.

7. Wireshark

Now this baby is dangerous, you surely know Wireshark (previously named ethereal). It's a protocol analyzer, it can sniff, grab everything that running around in your network and view it.

No, I'm not telling you to sniff on your users data but Wireshark can be a very valuable learning tool for your exam.

You can use it to view what's going on behind the scene when you set up routing protocol or anything else in your LAN, see what things are transferred, see how they interact, etc.

8. PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor from Passler is a powerful network monitoring solution you can used to monitor your network devices, not just Cisco devices, it gathers all your devices' status and display them in graphical report.

There are other tools you can use to monitor your LAN, you can see a list from Cisco, what they recommend for monitoring Cisco devices here:

9. Tenable Nessus

If you want to scan your network for vulnerabilities, you can use Tenable Nessus. It's not exactly necessary for Cisco Devices since you're in control of what ports you're using for your network devices, but you can use Nessus for scanning your users' machines.

More on this you can find at my previous post.

Well, that's it the freewares that you can use in your home lab, there are vendors that produce an all in one solutions for your network such as Solarwinds and Kiwi, of course you have to pay for the advanced version.

This is fun, I found other tools when researching for this post, think I'll use it in my network and share it with you next time.