Category Archives: Certification

Building a Cisco CCNA Lab, the Hard Way, Part I

Ever since I could remember, I always did things the hard way.  I was determined to chart my own path.  I would foolishly disregard common sense and soldier on until life drummed common sense into my thick skull.

Sometimes, it would lead to some revelations or epiphanies that would reshape the way I thought.

Several months ago, I decided to look into what it would take to earn the Cisco CCNA certification.  A long, long time ago, I wanted to earn the certification, but never had the time or money to spare.

Since I have 20 years of professional software development under my belt and have written SNMP agents, VOIP/SIP code, and even worked on bringing an embedded Linux-based cable set-top box to life, I’m fairly sure that I would be able to quickly get up to speed and knock out the certification.

Moreover, since I’m actively upgrading my home office networking hardware anyway, I thought I would just purchase some new Cisco gear, play with it, and end up with a certification or two.  Or so I thought.

I quickly entered the smarmy world of Cisco resellers, grey market importers and E-Bay dumpster divers.

E-bay.  I looked on E-Bay, only to find 10 year old equipment that was obviously dug out of a dumpster by hucksters.  I saw several auctions listing obviously used equipment as “new.”  The description of the (seven year old) equipment was an “open box” demo, that conveniently doesn’t have a box.  The price was well over $300.

I soldiered onward looking for that elusive bargain while looking up test objectives, comparing older models with current models.  It turned into an obsessive activity.  I never found a bargain.  The few that I thought were bargains, I was quickly outbid at the last minute, probably by another reseller. 

The more time I spent, the more disgusted I became.

I changed course and started looking at Cisco’s current networking gear and chatted with a friendly customer service rep who kept asking me if my purchase would be “funded.”  I thought it was odd, but I figured it must be a quark of Indian society.  He recommended a Catalyst 2960 switch and Cisco 888 router and told me that a reseller would contact me in a few days.

Three weeks later, a local reseller finally contacted me.  I replied asking about getting a SmartNet account to update my ASA 5505, and a quote for purchasing a 2960C switch and an 800 series router.  He never responded after that.  I guess I should have told him it was “funded.”

So I purchased an HP Procurve 1810v2 gigabit smart switch and bolted it into my rack.  The Insecure ZyXel ASDL modem was tossed into the trash and replaced with something that actually worked.  I also upgraded some PowerLine Ethernet bridges.  The only thing left was a router and a switch.

At the one month mark, still no contact or response.

I activated the chat widget at, and basically told the CSR that I’ve had it, and that I was deeply disappointed that I couldn’t find any resellers willing to take my money or even respond to me. 

To Cisco’s credit, the  escalated the issue immediately and a very helpful Cisco sales person immediately called me and gave me part numbers to order and recommended that I order from CDW or Tiger Direct if I couldn’t get the resellers to respond.

I was finally able to purchase a brand new Cisco 2960C compact switch (fanless) from LanStreet for about $280, as well as a 50 user license for the ASA 5505.  

And so the adventure continues…