Recommended Labs

For your CCNA home lab you will have several considerations.

Do you intend to upgrade this lab as you go along for CCNA Voice or CCNP? Are you on a tight budget or is money no object? Are you limited for space in your house so you have to pack it all away each day?

I can’t cover every permutation here but I hope to give you some good advice so you can start out choosing the right equipment. Remember that for your equipment you will need some basics such as:

  • Power cables
  • Console cables and USB converter
  • AUI to Ethernet converter
  • Ethernet cables and crossover cable
  • Serial DTE to DCE cables
  • WAN modules for your routers (WICs)

If you choose to buy a complete rack via eBay for example then you may get much of the above included.

Router Models

Not all Cisco routers are suitable for exam study. You can buy some very low end routers for a few dollars but they could prove next to useless for practice labs. Here are a few guidelines:

800 series – no good

1600 series – no good

1700 series – I used these for the CCNA courses I taught for a few years. 1700 series routers are small and plastic so very light to pack away or move. They have slots for WIC and voice cards and a built in fast Ethernet port. I think they are fine for a budget CCNA home rack. Just bear in mind that some come with very low memory so you may want to buy one with upgraded memory.

1800 series – a massive leap forward for Cisco. The 1800 series is designed for small office use and can provide wireless access, multiple switch interfaces, ISDN access and DSL. Check Ciscos model page and documentation. These can prove very costly even via eBay and may be overkill.

2500 – not much use apart from 2509/2511 as access servers. Some models have multiple serial ports so could be useful as frame relay servers if required. Read more on wikipedia.

2600 – can be very useful for labs. Comes with a 10Mbps Ethernet port so you may need to purchase a fast Ethernet card. The 2600 series has slots for WICs (WAN interface cards) and a larger slot for network modules which can supply fast Ethernet, additional serial ports or voice ports. Read up on the exact model numbers on Cisco 2600 page. 2600XM models provide increased performance, memory and provide fast Ethernet ports instead of 10Mbps Ethernet.

2800 series – the big brother of the 1800 series. Designed for SMEs. Various models available but most outside the standard CCNA students budget and overkill.

3600 series – very large and pretty out-of-date for CCNA lab purposes. Some students buy them and use them as frame relay switches.

Switch Models

You will need one but preferably two switches for your CCNA exam. If you want to practice trunking and spanning tree then you will need two.

1900 series – very old and unsuitable for the CCNA exam due to the fact it uses an out-of-date menu and operating system.

2900 series – used for the actual exam. Most models of 2950 will do the job fine but in order to access the most recent commands you will need IOS release 12.1(9)EA1 or later on the switch so you can use the updated VLAN commands (the vlan database command is out-of-date).

Recommended Racks

If money is tight I recommend:

1x 2950 switch and 2x routers

If you want a medium budget rack then:

2x 2950 switches and 3x routers

If you want all singing all dancing then:

3x 2950 switches 4x routers 1x frame relay switch (see 2500 above)