What is the best CCNA lab setup

I'm setting up a Cisco CCNA lab. What equipment would you recommend?

Is it okay to use a Cisco 2948 for CCNA students, after all, these switches are cheaper to get and have more features? Wouldn't that be better than a 2950 switch?


CCNA assumes that the student is familiar with the iOS operating system. This makes the Cisco 2948 unusable for a CCNA lab because Catalyst OS (CatOS) is running and it there is no way to upgrade the operating system from CatOS to IOS. While it may have more functionality, it isn't really usable for a pure CCNA lab.

Personally, I would also recommend the following devices (if you don't choose GNS3):

  • 2 x Cisco 2610XM Advanced Fast Ethernet 128 MB Dram / 32 MB Flash IOS 12.4 Adv Security

  • Cisco 1760 Fast Ethernet 64MB Dram / 32MB Flash IOS 12.4 Adv Security

  • 3 x WIC-1T for the two 2600 routers

  • 2 x Cisco ws2950

One thing to keep in mind about CCNA is that the vast majority of the things you have to play with are trivially done in Cisco Packet Tracer and GNS3 (especially since you can now get a switchport card working in GNS3) . Depending on how you learn, you might prefer to go with a physical setup. If this is within your budget, go for it.

In any case, I would definitely recommend against Refrain from any kind of use of PT / GNS3, not least because something like GNS3 can actually be used to increase your laboratory setup - it wildly hook up your physical gear and run.

There is a lot of useful information on the Wendell Odom website, including recommendations for laboratory equipment for CCNA and CCNP.

I also started a Whirlpool thread for those studying for the CCNA and CCNP certificates a few years ago. There is a lot of great information there. We also turned it into a wiki.

If you want to save a bit of money you can use GNS3 for the routers and then just buy some switches. I've written quite a few blog posts on how to connect virtual devices to physical devices.

I prefer the virtual router + physical switch approach to the whole physical lab as it saves money, energy, and power points :) It's also good because you can take your virtual router topologies with you wherever you go.

One of the best ways to get a lab for CCNA is to purchase a copy of the Packet Tracer utility that is used in the Cisco Networking Academy courses. It contains the full range of "devices" and commands you need. However, I don't know if there is any legitimate way other than enrolling for the course itself.

Another thing to keep in mind: if you're on a tight budget, don't worry about an expensive switch that can run QOS and Layer 3 as the CCNA doesn't focus on anything above Layer 2 and nothing really special (no QinQ etc.). . VTP and (Rapid) Spanning Tree are about the "most complicated" switching topics you are going to have. With that in mind, a 2950 will serve you well, and you can buy this one on ebay for less than $ 50 a pop.

I just got my CCNA no more than two weeks ago, and the only hardware I bought was a $ 30 C2950. Everything else was virtual. Both GNS3 and Packet Tracer are overall helpful, but also not without flaws. I preferred GNS3 simply because it's easier to connect a GNS3 virtual network to real hardware (like my C2950) or any virtual host (like Qemu or VMWare guests). But I say this: Doubting instead of trusting the correctness of the simulation software can really slow down your learning. The actual C2950 hardware either worked as expected or I made a mistake somewhere. For example, with GNS3 you have to wonder if you made a mistake or if the software did it.

For maximum reliability, buy the real hardware if your budget allows. Expect a lot of time to figure out how GNS3 works and to handle exceptions. But even with the errors of the emulators, it is a good idea to consider GNS3, as it is possible to quickly and inexpensively create all kinds of almost realistic scenarios.

To get a basic understanding of how to toggle Catalyst IOS, people have often looked at the 3550 switch. Certain functions (QoS, private VLANs, etc.) are not possible. However, these do not come into play at the CCNA level. 3550s are pretty cheap on eBay, the last time I checked it, under $ 100.

(Also worth mentioning: If you have a POE 3550, you have to manually configure access ports as trunk ports for the separation of voice / data VLANs.)

If you want more functionality and a newer version of IOS, the 3560 is available for $ 100 to $ 300.


3550s have QOS features as described in the comments below. For more information, see this 3550 QOS setup document. I meant that it is unable to do MQC style QOS.

Packet Tracer and GNS3 are highly recommended as you can get them for free. If you are using Packet Tracer, familiarizing yourself with the Sims of Trials is also very useful.

However, if you can afford it, there's nothing like getting your hands on a real kit and getting used to the various physical cables, especially if you're not currently an engineer. As the CCNA requires you to know about the kit, how it boots, flashes, moves configuration and IOS files from tftp, etc. If you have a real kit you can take a look inside and try to update the flash example, which really helps the theory take off.

Cat 2500 and 2950 switches are probably the cheapest option that allows this. However, if you are serious about certification and want to go beyond the CCNA level, then you should consider building your laboratory for the future. So if you can afford it I would recommend some 1841 to your routers as these are very cheap on eBay these days, and then (if you can afford it) buy 3350 switches that you can then charge with IOS, the L3- Switching and routing enables protocols.

My suggestion is that you practice a lot with Cisco Packet Tracer and Gns3, which is more than sufficient for the CCNA level.

Also, I recently completed my CCNA R&S v3.0 certification.

I went through entire Cisco 200-125 books and then started practicing scenarios and I've used Cisco 2900, 3650, 3700, and 3560 switches.

Better to use Gns3 wherever you can work with IOS.

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