Thursday, October 7, 2010

Options for CCNA study

Options for CCNA study
Usually you get what you pay for, sometimes less, rarely more

The aspiring CCNA certificant has a multitude of options to study
for their CCNA. The logical choices largely depend on the individual's
current skillset, their talent, and their future aspirations for after
their certificate.

Choices range (sorted largely by price) from
  • illegal braindumps, to
  • no-cost study guides, practice labs, to
  • emulators like GNS3, to
  • pirated versions of PacketTracer, to
  • renting racks, to
  • low-cost simulators, to
  • books, to
  • refurbished hardware on eBay, to
  • full-fledged courses by established training houses, etc.
All of these approaches have their pros and cons. Combinations or
sequences of any of these are usually applied towards achieving the

First, the CCNA student has to ask themselves whether they want to
only get the certificate, or actually learn the material.  Assuming
the latter, that would eliminate choices like the braindumps.

The next issue is how much effort the student wants to invest in ancillary
tasks, like installing software, setting up labs, dealing with incorrect
material, etc. that have nothing to do with the curriculum.

The last decision is about "bang for the buck": what is the cheapest
combination of these choices that will lead to success? This is a tough
question, because each individual learns differently, and we are talking
about probabilities: will the effort and the method I invest in result in
a passing grade in the test, and ultimately in learning the material?

This is also about wasted effort: what parts of the approach are
unproductive towards the certification?  Will a solution costing hundreds
(if not thousands) of dollars lead to more success than one costing less
than a hundred dollars? What is the hidden cost of the free option?

For example, while free study guides such as Matt Basham's "Learning
by Doing: CISCO Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) Lab Manual"
provide a good introduction to the material, they lack the hands-on practice
lab that the certification requires. A good book will include a lab or point
to one.

Ultimately it comes down to investing a small amount of effort into
investigating proven solutions and their alternatives. The first-class
choice comes at a premium. The free approach comes at the expense of
effort. The middle options range in cost effectiveness. Products which
let you try before you buy are always preferred to shelling out your
buck for an unknown solution.

Every "expert" will give you a different recommendation, every vendor
will push their solution.

What was your sequence of solutions and would you do it again?
Were there unexpected costs in your CCNA studies?

We encourage you to spend 20 minutes to investigate for FREE a solution
where you get MORE than what you pay for: MIMIC Virtual Lab Cloud,
a simulated practice lab for CCNA certification.  Kaplan IT Learning
has chosen it, shouldn't you?

Go to or search on Youtube for
"ccna lab one minute".