Build Your Own CCNP Lab At Home

Virtual routing and switching simulator are grate tools to help you prepare for your CCNP exam. However we do know that there are some limitations to it, primarily the lack of switching support and quite a few useful commands. Since Cisco’s CCNP exam series is actually pretty heavy on some of these commands especially in the TSHOOT module; you may actually decide it is in your best interest to build your own home CCNP lab. The good news about that is the cost to build a CCNP lab has come down tremendously from the days I built my own CCNP lab. Back in I think it was 2000 or 2001 when I built my first CCNP lab it was about $22,000 I seem to recall. Shoot just one of the MSFC modules was $4,000 at that time! So you are in luck today as you can build an entire CCNP lab for as little as $700ish. You can see some examples of preconfigured CertificationKits CCNP Lab Kits here.

What Routers Do I Need for My CCNP Lab?

Well you are going to want to have four routers to cover the exercises in the Cisco Press Lab Manuals. Currently the recommendation is to have four 1841 routers by the book’s author. But you can actually get away with three 2610XM routers and one 2611XM router if you are tight on cash. As these will run the Advanced IP Services IOS that is required by the lab manual.

Now given that the date of this article is February 2014, I might suggest that you consider the 1841 or 2801 router if you start to build a CCNP lab at this point. You are probably asking why? Well knowing that Cisco tends to update their exams somewhere between every 3 and 5 years the CCNP exam is probably due for a minor refresh soon. Do I think the exam will be drastically changed like the last revision of the CCNA exam? No, not at all. The CCNP exam suite was actually the first exam that migrated toward their new format of specialization in a specific discipline and enhanced emphasis on troubleshooting; hence the TSHOOT exam. But don’t worry, if Cisco does announce a refresh is pending, you will get 6 months to complete any exams you are currently studying for which is more than enough time for any exam absent the CCIE exam.

So back to why I would suggest the 1841 or 2801 router at this time. Let’s just go with the possibility that Cisco does refresh the exam, the next logical step for them to do will be to include some features that are in IOS 15 and the ISR routers. So these are the most cost efficient routers that will give you those features without breaking the bank. Also they are not much more expensive than the 2600XM series routers at this point. So the 1841 and 2801 routers are in my opinion the best bang for the buck.

What Switches Do I need for My CCNP Lab?

Here again you will need four switches to complete the labs in the Cisco Press lab manuals. What is recommended is two 3560 Layer 3 switches and two 2960 Layer two switches. The 3560 may be a little pricey for someone on a tight budget so you can actually swap that out with a pair of 3550s. You will lose a little functionality like PVLANs and such but it is a fair trade-off if you budget does not allow for 3560 units. Another area where we can save a little bit of money with a minor trade-off in some QoS commands and security is by replacing the 2960 switches with 2950 switches running the EI IOS. But in a perfect world you would like to get the two 3560s and two 2960s so you can follow the CCNP labs verbatim.

Any Other Items?

The items above are the non-negotiable items. There are a few CCNP labs the touch on Voice and Wireless. For those it would be nice to have a pair of IP Phones and also a wireless controller and two access points. Are they absolutely required? No. But what they do for you is give you exposure to two really big Cisco technologies that many people end up specializing in to make a very comfortable living. So this may be the opportunity to find out that you really have a passion for Voice or Wireless while you get your CCNP R&S certification and you will be better prepared for the CCNP exam.


You obviously will want to get the ROUTE, SWITCH and TSHOOT lab manuals and these are great for helping you prepare for your CCNP exams. These are not meant to replace your theory based study guide. These are hardcore lab workbooks that give you 800 pages of detailed labs!

Best Way to Build a CCNP Lab?

As long as you meet the minimum requirements of CCNP lab workbooks there is no absolute best way to build the lab. What really comes into play is your budget and future Cisco aspirations. Some people want to use this lab to then venture off into Security, Voice, Wireless, etc. So for instance if you are looking to possibly go in the Voice direction I might tell you to spend a couple extra bucks now on two 2811 routers so you have the two routers you need to do your CME 8.6 labs for Voice. As you may not know it, but to run CME 8.6 and the aim2-cue module you need a set of 2811s with the appropriate modules. So it is these types of little tips, ticks and insights that can help you build a successful CCNP lab. Although I have not covered every single module you will use in a CCNP lab, I think you can see that to a certain extent you want to customize your CCNP lab to your objectives and plan for the future. That is where the team at CertificationKits can really help you build your lab. So check out the CertificationKits CCNP Lab Recommendations as the article there goes into some more detail on how to build your own home CCNP Lab and the guys over there will be happy to customize one to meet your desires. Remember, the lab is a great place to make mistakes without bringing down your production network!

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3 Responses to “Build Your Own CCNP Lab At Home”

  1. bpackard says:

    Cisco 3560 Series WS-C3560-48TS-S V04 L68475-704

    Would two of these be good for the CCNP?

  2. bpackard says:

    Great, thanks!

    Turns out, my employer had some contacts at cisco and they hooked me up with some gear on a temp basis:

    3 2960’s
    2 3560’s
    3 1900 routers

    Now it’s time to get it done!

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