Prepare yourself for CCNA: practical tips

    Disputes among network specialists do not subside: is it possible (and is it worth it) to prepare for the CCNA exam yourself or do you need to go to paid courses ? In this article, we would like to give some useful advice to those who have chosen the path of self-preparation for the Cisco CCNA exam.

    So, is it possible or not?

    The short answer is yes, you can prepare, and not somehow, but qualitatively. Successfully undergo industrial certification and make a career in networking, while spending a minimum of money. All that is needed is a great desire to succeed, high organization, the ability to plan your time and clearly follow these plans. In short, this is possible if your head is not just for wearing a hat!

    The preparation process can be divided into two stages - theory and practice.


    Theoretical materials on the Internet - a car and a small cart. The problem is not to find them, but how to swallow and digest such a volume of information, rather than choke.

    1. Cisco Education Network

    An excellent reference point for self-study is the Cisco educational network site . Access to the site materials is limited, full access is only for registered users, but registration is free.

    Here you can find a list of topics that you need to know for passing industrial certification - Syllabus , get acquainted with the details of the requirements for the examiners and such details of the exam itself, as the time of its completion and cost.

    In the section "Preparing for the Exam" - Study / Learn, you can watch videos and other materials on selected topics, most of which are available for free. In the "Workshop" - Practice, there are test options for specific topics, and in the section "Take the exam" - Take your exam, you can practice the certification exam itself in "close to combat" conditions, though it is no longer free.

    Thus, the Cisco educational network is the largest and most authoritative resource containing always verified, up-to-date information for independent preparation. The only drawback is all the materials are in English. Although is it a drawback? For a modern specialist in the field of computer networks, English should become a native language!

    An overview of the training programs and training methods in Russian can be found on the corresponding branch of the Cisco website .

    2. The best books

    It is also recommended that you purchase Cisco Press self-study guides. These books are called the official CCNA exam preparation guide. For many years, these books have been written by Wendell Odom, CCIE 1624 , latest edition 2011 - CCNA 640-802 Official Cert Library , Updated, 3rd Edition.

    There are alternative sources of information. For example, the books of Todd Lemmle , their publication correlates with the release of official manuals, and often ahead of them. Lemmle's latest CCNA preparation guide also published in 2011 - CCNA Cisco Certified Network Associate Study Guide, 7th Edition. When comparing book prices, official manuals are more expensive, with a typical cost of $ 50-100. As for quality, here the ratio is not always in favor of official guidelines. The language Todd Lemmle writes is more vibrant compared to Odom and the information in his interpretation is perceived more easily, although this is only my subjective opinion.

    3. CBT Nuggets

    Another tutorial is the CBT Nuggets video tutorials , . True, several dozen video tutorials by Jeremy Cioara , like the books and courses of Todd Lemmle, are not distributed by the authors for free and all this is also in English, but they can be found on the net not only from official distributors.

    4. Russian-language materials

    If there are problems with the English language, but you really want to learn, then there are intermediate options:

    Resource , where you can find Russian-language articles and books, although English-language ones still prevail. But, the most remarkable thing is that here you can practice your CCNA exam. Of course, this is not a real exam, but if it is honestly performed, then in the present it will not be more difficult.

    The forum and the website and have been and remain a place of “hanging out” of IT professionals in various fields for many years and here you can find a lot of useful information.

    Thematic blog ccnastepbystep.blogspot.ruappeared relatively recently, but “specializes” specifically in CCNA, therefore it can be useful to applicants for this certification.

    The section of Cisco Networks on Habr as a whole and, in particular, the multiple posts related to training, for example here .

    On all of these resources you can find interesting, detailed and understandable explanations of individual issues and topics covered in the certification exam and not only in English, but also in Russian. But do not rely on a ready-made and full-fledged training course! Systematization of the material and verification of the assimilation of knowledge will have to be done independently, and this is considerable work. You can say - this is a fee for free!


    The second part of the training task is practice.
    For practical skills you need equipment: Cisco switches and routers. How long does this access take? The question is complex and the answer to it is individual in each case, according to experience - it is undesirable to have less than 20 hours of total access time for the entire preparation time. Options for getting the equipment itself or access to it.

    1. Own hardware

    Purchase of used equipment. The whole laboratory (3 routers, 3 switches) will cost $ 300 - $ 400. The advantage of buying equipment is obvious - unlimited access and any time you work on it. And if you are lucky, then you can find the necessary equipment at your work completely free.

    2. Equipment rental

    Rent a rack with equipment and connect to it remotely for laboratory work. There are many offers of this kind on the Internet. The cost and method of paying rent can vary greatly. From an hourly payment of $ 4-8 per hour to buying a rental for weeks and months, for example, 3 months for 200 euros .

    There are also free offers, the most famous and , the latter is temporarily unavailable due to relocation. As always, there are a number of restrictions on the free service - inability to connect with an SDM or CCP clientoutdated equipment. You will have to reserve time for a week or a month and wait in line, and after gaining access to follow certain rules, for example, if you reserved 2 hours of work on PacketLife , worked 10 minutes and are tired of it, then it’s possible that next time you won’t be able to use the service - get a "ban" for "bad behavior." If, having reserved 4 hours, you are late with the connection by half an hour, you may find that you are no longer connected at all, your time has been freed and someone else has taken it. On paid services for your money you will get everything in the best possible way, no one will take your paid time and no one will teach you the correct behavior.

    3. Dynamips

    Using the Dynamips virtual machine . Recently, most often describes working with this virtual machine and the GNS3 graphical frontend , rather than the console Dynagen. Although the Dynagen window is saved and present in GNS3, it is practically not used during operation. On Habré there were several publications on the basic configuration of a virtual router here and here or on creating a laboratory on the Voice track. This topic with a large "beard" and several articles is too small to reveal all the subtleties of working with this wonderful product. He helped, and will still help, for many generations of “Cisars” to master the wisdom of network technologies when they do not have sufficient funds to purchase or rent a laboratory bundle. Disadvantages Dynamips - support for legacy platforms only, with the possible exception of 7200 and the inability to fully virtualize the Cisco switch. In preparation for CCNA certification, these shortcomings are almost invisible, because we study the basic elements of technology that have not changed in modern implementations, and working on a 3640 router with a 16-port switching module is "almost" similar to the switch.

    4. Emulators

    The last available option for gaining practical skills is working with software emulators. Probably the best of them is the product of Cisco itself, the Cisco Packet Tracer program , the latest version of the product 5.3.3 allows you to build large and complex network topologies and even supports multi-user work, i.e. parts of the topology can be distributed to different computers, arbitrarily remote.

    Another well-known NetSim product from Boson, current version 8.0. It is not so universal and focused on a specific task - mastering the skills of configuring devices on the command line, therefore it always comes with a set of predefined laboratory work. Both programs are protected by licenses. NetSim cost depends on the set of laboratory works included in the program, for a minimum certification level CCENT (ICND1) price of $ 99. Packet Tracer is available only at Cisco Networking Academies, where students receive it for free. Officially, this program is not for sale. One of the most interesting opportunities for gaining practical skills is the implementation of virtual labs included in free training courses, positioned by Cisco as additional materials for the training of IT-professionals. They are grouped by direction and product and here you will also need to pre-register for free at itself.


    Which training option to choose? You decide. There is another method of preparation for certification that I have not mentioned - the use of so-called "dumps" - ready-made answers to exam questions. I will quote Andrei Biryukov here (System Administrator magazine, No. 11, 2008): “Traveling through various Internet resources devoted to certification, you will sooner or later find mention of braindump, testking, pass4sure and other“ training materials ”. ... Brand dumps are actually exam questions stolen by irresponsible test center staff. These questions are presented with answers, and here the fun begins, since these answers ... contain errors. In addition, even if the answer is correct, there is no explanation for it, which also does not contribute to the understanding of the material. ....... It is useless to memorize the answers from the dump ... But it will be useful for dumps if you do not look in the answer, but try to answer each of the questions yourself and, in case of ambiguity, check on the corresponding subject forum, and do not accept the answer from the dump on faith. ... the material must be understood, not memorized. ”

    There is nothing to add to what has been said. I wish you all success in certification and a professional career.

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