11 September 2008

Building Your Own Cisco CCNA Home Lab

You know that you can build your Cisco home lab using many simulators out there, but I must say, nothing beats the real Cisco devices.kenyit

Imagine having Cisco devices in your own local area network, awesome.
And also, having a real hand experience on these devices can surely boost your chance passing the CCNA exam.

If you have more budget in your hands, then go for it, buy used Cisco routers and switches. You can get them at relatively cheap price - compare to the real price, you're looking for an average price above US$ 1,000.

At the used Cisco sellers you can get discounts up to 90% or more. Even though they're used but Cisco devices are tough, yet you still have to be careful buying, check the sellers reputation first, and make sure you have warranty at minimum 6 months.

So, which devices should you buy, there are many Cisco series out there. If you need these devices on your LAN for the CCNA exam, the key is to know what topics are tested at the CCNA exam.

Lets see, you definitely need routers and switches, you're going to need at least 2 routers and 2 switches.


Having 2 routers allows you to practice on routing protocols, and 2 switches lets you practice on VLANs, VTP, etc.

The best routers for CCNA home lab I think are the 2611 series routers, they have slots that allow you to add modules in case you need to upgrade your routers to enable VOIP, WAN, etc.

The 2611 can cost you from less than US$100 - 200 depends where you buy them.

If you have more budget, buy the WIC-1T (US$ 30 - 50) to simulate WAN in your network.
The CCNA exam will test you on WAN protocols, in my opinion, having the WICs are not too urgent, but if feel like it, then go for it.sengihnampakgigi

To make things complete for your WAN environment, you can buy additional 2523 router at less than US$ 100. What this router can do is to act as Frame Relay Switch. So you can pretend to be an ISP in your LAN that connects two different networks located half way around the world, cool.


Next is the switch, you don't need a great Layer 3 switches for the CCNA exam, plus it costs more than US$ 500 each.

You can buy something like Catalyst Switch 2924 or 2950, they should be enough for the exam.
12, 24, or 48 ports? it's all up to you.

What you need to concern when buying the switch is that you have to check all the ports in that switch, sometimes few of the ports got damaged.


The most important things, but often forgotten by newbies are the cables. Make sure the seller provide you with the power cable and console cable for configuring the Cisco devices.

One end of this console cable is RJ45 that you plug into the Cisco devices and the other end is for connecting to your PC's serial port.

You can actually make your own console cable, but it is much more convenient to get it from Cisco.

If you are going to use the WIC, then you'd need the following DB-60 crossover cables, you plug in this cable at the WIC card back-to-back to another router.

Access Server / Routers

Now you don't actually need access server in you LAN, but it is so convenient that one day you'd need them anyway.

Access servers allow you centralize your configuration without having to plug and unplug the console cable between routers and switches.
You can buy the 2500 series routers (2509, 2510, 2511, or 2512) for access servers, you need to buy also the octal cable.

Octal cable is a cable with one end plug to the asynchronous serial port of the 2500 series router and the other end(s) have 8 RJ45 console cable hah.

Wow, can you imagine that, that's genius, with one octal cable you can control up to 8 Cisco devices. Here's how the cable looks like:

There you have it, many people will suggest different devices in your home lab, it's really up to you and your budget.
When you're lucky enough you can have a pretty complete Cisco home lab for under US$ 1,000 and I need to tell you that many people out there selling what is called Cisco lab kit.
Cisco lab kits are sets of Cisco devices usually for certification purpose, they have from lab kits for CCNA until CCIE, and the important thing is that they sell them with pretty good price.

Happy hunting.