Study Cisco CCNA for free

ccnaIn the ever changing world of IT the importance of certifications cannot be understated. Just like university degrees, certifications are a basic requirement for most IT positions. However, for those just starting out, or the seasoned professional updating their skills can easily become a very expensive proposition unless you are a college/university student who is lucky enough to have access to both Cisco & Microsoft training modules as part of their course.

Hone your Cisco skills in your quest to becoming a networking demigod!

Typical courses running from 5 to 10 days can range from £495 to over £2000 for intensive week long “bootcamp” courses. On-line self study courses can cost anything from £199 upwards. If you are tempted by these courses be aware that you will have to do a lot of reading and practicing before you attend the course as it will most likely run at a breakneck pace.

Given that the exam itself costs around £120 (and there’s no way out of paying that!) we want to try and keep our outlay as little as possible.

Before we carry on allow me to dispel a couple of myths.

Myth #1 – CCNA’s earn £30k +

The number of times I’ve seen training companies using this as a “hook” to get you interested in purchasing a place on a course is nobody’s business1. IT jobs Watch are currently (March 2013) showing jobs containing “CCNA” having an average salary of £38k pa. In reality a newly qualified CCNA can expect a salary between £17-23k pa depending on experience and if you are prepared to work 24×7 shifts! The thing to remember is that everyone has to start somewhere!

Myth #2 – You need a lot of equipment to study for the CCNA

While it is nice to have access to Cisco routers and switches to learn “hands on”, and believe me you can’t beat “hands on” experience. However, it can work out expensive. Having equipment at this stage is not a necessity. The entire CCNA course can be completed using software simulators.

Top 10 Cisco resources

1. Cisco Certified Networking Associate 7th Edition by Todd Lammle/CCNA Official Cert Library by Wendell Odom – They say you can’t beat a good book! These can be had on Amazon for around £18 which is a lot better than the £33.99 RRP. If you have a Kindle you can get it for a few pounds less2. As to which book to get I’d suggest looking a few sample pages and make your own mind up.

If you can’t afford £18 for a book you can check out Router Alley’s free CCNA book. I’ve used it as a companion volume for when I need an alternative explanation of CCNA related things. Very useful!

2. Cisco Networking Academy – This is usually only available to students enrolled on a Cisco course via a college. Again Google is your friend.

3. Free CCNA Workbook – Here’s another great free to use site full of resources to hone your Cisco skills in your quest to becoming a networking demigod!

4. Packet Tracer – Again like the Cisco Networking Academy these are available to registered students. Be creative and you can get it too3. If you only need one piece of software to get through the CCNA then this is it!

5. GNS3 – This is a free simulator program that uses the routers ROMs to simulate and behave like real hardware. It will allow you to use some of the commands that Packet Tracer doesn’t support. It’s great at simulating routers but cannot emulate Catalyst Switches.

6. INE CCNA Course – The guys over at INE.com were kind enough to put all of their CCNA videos on their YouTube channel. This is just like a week long CCNA course from the comfort of your own home! The instructor really knows his stuff (and he should he’s a CCIE!) but does assume that you have read something beforehand. It’s worth using this as a supplement to your reading.

7. Dan’s Courses – Dan Alberghetti has 15 years of teaching experience and has taught Cisco’s CCNA course for the last 8 years. He has a great teaching style and all of the CCNA videos are well worth watching!

8. TechExams.net – A certification forum with study guides and a very active forum. If you need help or advice this is the place to come.

9. 9Tut.com – There are some great CCNA labs available here for packet tracer as well as GNS3.

10. GNS3 Vault – another source for GNS3 router labs.

So there you have it! My Top 10 recommended Cisco resources. Studying for the CCNA is hard work but has its rewards in the long run allowing you to rise in your career, get that promotion and get a better job!

1 The use of a “hook” is one of the advertising industries oldest gimmicks. Well it got you here didn’t it?

2 If you’re really hard up you can probably find this on the internet. To quote Barry Barmcake “You’re sat in front of a computer… use Google!”

3 While I do not endorse piracy of any kind it is a well known fact that virtually everything is available on the internet if you know where to look.

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