When I started to research into Cisco Certifications it was apparent that there would be a number of ways to learn the curriculum and comprehend what is needed to get Cisco certified.
There are official certification guides from Cisco Press1 and other ‘publishers’ such as Exam Cram (Exam Cram is published by Pearson IT Certification2 who also publish the books of Cisco Press). Now whilst books are a valuable resource to learn networking, what it doesn’t give you is the experience of labs and real-world scenarios. But for those who aren’t employed in a data centre or who have employers who will let you play with the company routers and switches how do you get this experience?
There are a number of options available to get you the experience including enrolling with Cisco’s Networking Academy3 programme. This provides choices for classroom-based education as well as online course to enrol on, including courses related to its tool Packet Tracer4. Packet Tracer is a software tool that allows the simulation of networking topologies and allows a user to configure simulated Cisco hardware. GNS35 is another network software emulator that can be used to create such topologies.
Another way to receive training is via a video presentation and following a search there are many companies out there offering tutorials in how to get your CCNA including Udemy6 which hosts courses from finance & accounting to music as well as information technology and software. Another popular platform is CBT Nuggets7 which is more geared to information technology and has Cisco courses presented by trainers8 & 9 who have achieved the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert) certification and have published books about Cisco technologies.
But how do you prepare for an exam or measure your knowledge to see if you’re ready to take an exam. There are ‘dumps’ on the web where people leave answers to exam questions – wholly meaningless if you are then going to need the familiarity to work out an answer to a real-world situation. There are practice exams provided with some of the Cisco Press publications and other books but where else could you go to? Boson10 have been providing practice exams on Cisco since the 1990s but also provide NetSim which is a software application that simulates Cisco Systems’ networking hardware and software and is designed to aid learning of the Cisco IOS command structure. They also provide courseware which covers the learning material for the curriculum of the relevant exam and offer practice labs allowing hands on learning without the expense of real hardware.
Cisco has a network of approved “Learning Partners” across the world to teach their certification curriculums, but these classes tend to be very costly to an individual. What would be an alternative to get the support of from a tutor?
So, that question leads to where I am at presently. I enrolled on the DavidBombal.com CCNA Mentorship Program11. This is a twelve-week program following Cisco’s ICND1 and ICND2 curriculum for the CCNA R&S Cert. The teaching is delivered via Webex with weekly mentorship video calls lasting 3-4 hours on the topics that are part of Cisco’s syllabus for ICND 1 and ICND2. Participants are able to submit questions for discussion during the WebEx session and get live help from the instructors Brian Gallagher and David Bombal. The calls are recorded for those unable to attend and allows students to revisit the material discussed in the session. Materials provided for the course come via Boson and include its Exsim exam prep software, courseware which is the full CCNA curriculum and Netsim exam simulation software. As part of the course there is access to David Bombal’s CCNA video courses and importantly there are Packet Tracer labs & assessments and also access LiveLabs’ physical hardware hosted in the UK to practice with, using prewritten lab guides. There are monthly assignments and progress reviews and Packet Tracer assessments. Importantly there is a Slack group which the instructor’s monitor. You are able to ask questions and get help. Basically, you have all the tools you need to pass the exams that get you Cisco’s CCNA certification.
8 https://www.ajsnetworking.com/ [Anthony Sequeira]
9 https://www.youtube.com/user/Keith6783/featured [Keith Barker]