A beginner’s guide to building your own Cisco Home Lab People all over the world, wanting to make a career in technology, have always been f...
A beginner’s guide to building your own Cisco Home Lab People all over the world, wanting to make a career in technology, have always been faced with the dilemma of working on a simulated computer network to gain practical experience. It is easy for people wanting to become server administrators as this entail the installation of a server operating system on their existing computers. Yet, other users who want to make careers in specific software, like enterprise resource planning or imaging, is a matter of installing the software for practice runs.
The toughest task is for users wanting to gain experience in setting up, administering or trouble shooting a network, specifically a Cisco based network. Cisco is recognized by the technology sector as the industry leader in providing physical connectivity to users. It is the job of the network technologist to design a physical network, determining all the necessary pieces required and then choosing from all the, commercially available, models.
A network has several disparate pieces that come together to form a viable means of delivery for digital content. These pieces are role specific and are designed from the ground up for performing their part in the network operation. The fundamental components, required to build a Cisco Lab in your home, are routers, switches and cable besides a couple of computers to simulate server and user. To accomplish this, you are faced with two options; build one yourself or buy a Cisco Home La kit depending on your budget. It is always best if you were to identify the required pieces beforehand, then survey around as to what is available and at what cost. You might get lucky and find an entire kit but chances are that you would have to assemble one with individually acquired pieces.
Starting off, the bare requirements are two routers and two switches. Two routers are the minimum required when simulating routing protocols and utilizing two switches let you take practice runs on virtual local area networks (VLANs). The ideal router for starting out is the Cisco 2611 Router. It is cheap and has expansion capability for when you want to add a WAN (Wide Area Network) or VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocols). You can add different router for your second option like the Cisco 2523. This would be excellent to act as a Frame Relay Switch so that you can simulate being an ISP (Internet Service Provider).
If you have additional budget, you can opt for a WIC-1T module needed to simulate WAN in your network. Next are Switches, and the choice here is limited on the amount of money you want to spend. Your goal is simulation, so you can opt for a less expensive switch as these items are on the expensive side. A good choice would be the Cisco Catalyst Switch 2924 or perhaps a 2950. Remember to test all the ports as some do get damaged with usage. You can opt for similar switches as these are required for simulating different layers of your network.
Up next is cable to join all the pieces together. Always remember to make sure that you buy the power cables and console cables for configuring the Cisco devices. You will need CAT5 or CAT6 type network cable. It is better to buy bulk cable, RJ45 connectors and a crimping tool to prepare the finished cable. Besides the network cable, you will require console cable, which has a RJ45 connector at one end and a serial connector at the other. For those who opted for the WIC cards, you will need DB-60 crossover cables. Finally, for those who do not want to get into the hassle of crossover cables, there is the option of buying an access server/router. The Cisco 2500 router is a good option in access servers/router. Remember to get octal cable when buying access server/routers. This cable allows you connect the asynchronous port of the router to 8 RJ45 ports.
Always test your equipment before buying and make sure the seller gives you at least a 6 weeks guarantee.
About the author: The article was written by Jacob Pettit, a techology blogger interested in Cisco Switches and generally everything dealing with Cisco technology.