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Home Lab vs Emulator/Simulator

Oh a question that has been asked time and time again….What should I use for my Cisco certification studies? Should I buy a home lab or use packet tracer/gns3? I am going to come right out and say this. If you are NOT in the networking field and are pursuing Cisco certifications you need to get a home lab. Period. The troubleshooting experiences that you will experience through your home lab is something no emulator/simulator can teach you. I can honestly tell you this because I am speaking from experience. I am someone that started out as a desktop engineer and have worked my way up into a networking position within a year. Not only does a home lab make you a better engineer but it will also impress employers during your interviews. Again, I am saying this from my own experiences. Why would employers want to give you a shot at becoming a network engineer if you have never even touched Cisco equipment? Think about that. Would you rater hire someone that has a year of hands on experience in a home lab environment or someone that has a year experience messing around in GNS3. Having a home lab shows your potential employer that you are dedicated to your studies.  
 
I am not trying to knock GNS3 because I do use it often when I am traveling. It is a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. However it should not be your means of getting “hands-on” Cisco experience. Yes a home lab may be expensive, but truthfully the experience you will gain from it will pay itself off. Also do not go out and spend a ton of money on a home lab if you are just starting out with your CCNA. Start off with 2x switches and 2x routers. Add things to your lab as you find necessary. 

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(My CCNP home lab)

Caught between a Rock and a Hard place

Caught between a rock and a hard place…an expression I never fully understood until I began my Cisco Certification journey. I often find myself having to make tough decisions, for example, going to the bars with my friends or staying in for the night and working towards my CCNP. Just a little over a year ago I wouldn’t have even thought twice about the answer to this question; I would be out having a good ol’ time with my friends.  However since graduating college I feel that I have changed, and personally I think it is for the better. Most of my free time now is filled with studying/labing various Cisco topics. I usually give myself one free day a week to go out with friends, sadly though going out to the bars is no longer as appealing to me. People always tell me that I spend to much time in the books and that I need to go out and “enjoy” life. Why does going out to bars and drinking mean your enjoying life? I just don’t get it.  I want to make a good life for myself and for my future family (I am still young, 23).  I want to be able to travel and visit beautiful parts of the world, which thankfully I have been able to do once a year for most of my life. I need to push through with my studies, the results are already showing everyday.  Job calls are coming in daily, and without my determination and motivation I know for a fact I wouldn’t have half the success I have now.

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