Virtual lab verses hardware labs

Underdog66Underdog66 Registered Users Posts: 3 ■□□□□□□□□□
I am new to this industry and this forum, so as such I need LOTS of guidance and advice. That said, I need some good, practical advice. Currently I am taking computer networking at a community college. We are studying switching and routing using VMWare and GNS3. In addition I am studying for the CCNA 100-101. I have read a lot of articles about how to go about learning these concepts, but am just not understanding it by reading and using GNS3.

My questions are:
1. I have this simulator, CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Network Simulator, but haven't installed it. Is it worth using?
2. I have looked at this CCNA Routing and Switching Lab Kit v2.0 200-120 and am seriously considering it. I live 50 miles form my community college which has a lab, but my instrutor said I could do the labs at home. It seems this kit would be worth the investment.
3. Is it worth the ten bucks a month for this, CCNA Training Videos - Networking Basics and IPv4 Addressing, or are these the same/similar videos on youtube?

Thanks for any advice


  • jayskatajayskata Member Posts: 97 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I would recommend checking out video tutorials in youtube. It might help you understand the fundamentals. If you have spare bucks to buy labkit. It would be an advantage for hands on experience and you get to do experimenting on how different setup to better comprehend networking. GNS3 is good for practicing IP Routing and WAN Connection.
  • xnxxnx Do they matter? UKMember Posts: 464 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Real hardware for Switching labs and GNS3 for routing
    Getting There ...

    Lab Equipment: Using Cisco CSRs and 4 Switches currently
  • OfWolfAndManOfWolfAndMan Member Posts: 923 ■■■■□□□□□□
    If you have the money, prioritize switches first. Many of their features are hardware based so you won't get the full capacity of a real switch in a virtual environment. Routers can be completely virtualized but if you have the money, buy a couple routers as well.
    :study:Reading: Lab Books, Ansible Documentation, Python Cookbook 2018 Goals: More Ansible/Python work for Automation, IPSpace Automation Course [X], Build Jenkins Framework for Network Automation []
  • TechGuru80TechGuru80 Member Posts: 1,539 ■■■■■■□□□□
    1. Yes I have used those simulators and they do a pretty good job. It goes along with the official certification guide.
    2. That is a decent starter/economy lab. I say that because the routers are on the low end but you should be able to accomplish the objectives with that equipment. There are other better but more expensive options available.
    3. Keith Barker is one of the premier instructors out there. I haven't done that exact course but I gone through similar for two certifications with Keith (CBT Nuggets) and he knows his stuff.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I find that the CCNA Simulator from Cisco is great for starting off with the main important commands for the exam(used it and like it). I personally think that a better investment would come from the physical hardware itself. Start with some 2950s and some 1841 routers or some 2620XMs or 2500s. For videos, you are better off buying Chris Bryant's CCNA Routing and Switching video course. There are promotions on Udemy to get this course for around 30-40 dollars. You may also want to consider some practice exams (if money permits). Transcender has a great deal with practice exams and a voucher bundled for $247 which is actually fairly cheap or Boson practice exams are great also. I find Boson's practice exams fairly similar to the exam experience when I took my composite CCNA (question type/similarity).
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    For $5 more, don't you think this would be a better investment?
    Cisco CCNA Certification Test Lab 2811 iOS 15 1 | eBay
  • DoyenDoyen Member Posts: 397 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Also wanted to point out that having real equipment is great for practicing troubleshooting, especially physical layer. Most simulators that I've used are too perfect with connections rather than trying to understand why a connection is not lit up on due to using a straight cable instead of a crossover cable.

    Just as clarson said above, you can get equipment fairly inexpensive off of eBay. All you would really need would be 2 switches, 2 routers, and cables to have a CCNA lab to work with. Catalyst 2950 (around $30-$50) and 2960 switches ($50-$70) what you would be looking for unless you plan on going for CCNP down the line for IP Services without needing to upgrade some equipment, then I would recommend catalyst 3550 or 3560 switches. For routers, I would recommend 2600 series or 1760/1800 series would work fine. Bigger budgets would use 1900, 2800, or 2900 series. Sometimes, you get lucky with various CCNA lab prices, but other times they would cost you more than buying the pieces yourself.
    Goals for 2016: [] VCP 5.5: ICM (recertifying) , [ ] VMware VCA-NV, [ ] 640-911 DCICN, [ ] 640-916 DCICT, [ ] CCNA: Data Center, [ ] CISSP (Associate), [ ] 300-101 ROUTE, [ ] 300-115 SWITCH, [ ] 300-135 TSHOOT, [ ] CCNP: Route & Switch, [ ] CEHv8, [ ] LX0-103, [ ] LX0-104
    Future Goals: WGU MSISA or Capital Technology Univerisity MSCIS Degree Program
    Click here to connect with me on LinkedIn! Just mention your are from
  • Jon_CiscoJon_Cisco Member Posts: 1,772 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I just want to point out you are lucky your college is showing you GNS3 and VMs. My courses didn't go outside of the Netacad curriculum so I had to do it on my own with a lot of help from this community.

    I like real equipment but I think you have to long at it as two learning methods with different purposes.

    Buying real equipment you deal with the layer one for real. Networking is not dragging a line from one image to another. If you are not working in industry then buying a few pieces of real equipment will teach you a lot. It might be common sense after 6 months of experience but as everyone points out how do you get that experience. For me it's with a lab. I make my own cables and have played with several wiring schemes. My lab is in my basement so I get to troubleshoot remotely then get up and go move wires as needed.

    Simulators such as GNS3 and Packet Tracer are great.

    The way I see it is you learn about the equipment. What it is and how it connects with a real lab. But at some point when you have made sense of that it becomes quicker to use simulators to practice the theory. If you want to set up a routing protocol you can do it in a minute or two with a simulator. real equipment just takes more time. It's a lot easier to get your ports right when you drag out a new switch image and make the connection you want. I have to remember that I connected my second router to ports 13,14, 15 and remember what vlans they are in.

    The problem with simulators is that not all commands are available. GNS3 runs as an emulator so you get to use the real IOS that is the same as a routers. But switching is handled differently. The newest version of GNS3 give you options for setting up switching but I have not used it yet to know the limitations. I did get a switch to boot up properly but had no time to create a network and play with the features.

    I know this is a big block of type but I wanted to point out that both have value for different reasons. Many people will tell you that you don't need a lab. They are correct you don't need a lab but that does not mean they have no value. It's just another resource you have to consider. If money is not an object then I suggest buying one.
  • MTciscoguyMTciscoguy Member Posts: 552
    I am going to agree with Joe, simulators and emulators are great for getting a good start, but if you are like me, you want to touch see and feel the real thing, many of the concepts and theory was great, but actually seeing it on the real thing drives the point home. In the field you are not going to have a simulation, it is going to be real and in many locations, it is going to be real in a big way. I just shadowed a buddy of mine on one of his calls for a large company and it was intimidating walking into the equipment room that had dozens of switches with connects going every which way they could, I am glad I have been working with the real equipment or I would have been overwhelmed.
    Current Lab: 4 C2950 WS, 1 C2950G EI, 3 1841, 2 2503, Various Modules, Parts and Pieces. Dell Power Edge 1850, Dell Power Edge 1950.
  • Underdog66Underdog66 Registered Users Posts: 3 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Wow! Thanks guys so much! You're advice and input is much appreciated!

    I have been using the CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Network Simulator by Odom. It is very helpful and informative.

    I have read a few blogs that talk about buying older equipment that may be obsolete. Also my instructor warned me about IOS's that do not come with the routers. I see some of these kits offer additional IOS's, is that legal?

    As for practice exams, my college tuition included some exams at MeasureUp.

    One last thing, is it unreasonable to be expected to pass the CCNA 101-101 after only one month of study?
  • Jon_CiscoJon_Cisco Member Posts: 1,772 ■■■■■■■■□□
    You need to purchase upgrades from Cisco to be legal. I don't know that there is a lot of case law generated pertaining to home labs.
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    All of Cisco's software is only legal if you have purchased a license from Cisco. So, if you haven't paid Cisco to use their software, every ios on every piece of equipment that it is running on is illegal. Now, supposely Cisco won't take legal action against those that are using their software for educational purposes. So, every piece of equipment that comes with Cisco software that a reseller sells will come with a stipulation that the included software is only for education purposes and it is the responsibility of the owner to get proper licenseing. You can bet that no one with a cisco lab at home is paying licensing fees to Cisco. And, you can bet Cisco has a team of lawyers working full time making sure they are getting paid by those that should be.
  • markulousmarkulous Member Posts: 2,394 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Packet Tracer works great for CCENT/CCNA. I didn't see any need to go out and buy a lab, especially since most of my studying is done at work.
  • bharvey92bharvey92 Member Posts: 419
    Markulous is spot on, I've actually used some Packet Tracer for my NP Switch as some L3 switching and HSRP, Port-Security is available on them devices!

    However, it's great to get hands on experience with real equipment and to get a feel of the actual hardware and to do some real life troubleshooting on real hardware. Emulation's are great but don't give you that practical experience that real equipment does.
    2018 Goal: CCIE Written [ ]
Sign In or Register to comment.