The CCNP is your next big hurdle in achieving Cisco certification and networking knowledge nirvana. Your CCNA was a great achievement and should not be overlooked. However, the professional-level certification tier represents a significant leap in domain knowledge and experience about Cisco kit, IOS and general networking architecture.
It will be difficult to navigate the network configurations and new details. It is not enough to have a good grasp of the basics. You can only truly prepare if you have access to Cisco gear.
This is the only way…or it? Software emulators allow you to test and build networking using real Cisco firmware. As with most things, the answer may be a firm. Although it’s not necessary to give you an excuse to build physical labs, software labs have some advantages over hardware.
Let’s talk about it anyway. We’ll look at the different CCNP lab options, their uses, and which ones work best in different situations to determine the best lab setup.
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Start trainingCCNP Lab #1 – How to Build a Hardware Lab
Let’s begin at the top. A rack to store them all, as well as a router and switches, is better than a pile on your desk. You might need a firewall, an access point or security device, wireless access points, patch cables, and a UPS to provide continuous power. Make sure you have enough space to store everything you need to be able to get to your study area.
This is not an easy or inexpensive task. You will find used Cisco gear on eBay for a fraction of the retail price. It is also possible to find companies that buy, refurbish, or resell network hardware. However, they will charge more for their services. If you’re really lucky, GovDeals is another place where you can find bargains. There are lots of great listings for bulk computer equipment in the section. They are usually only available for local pickup, so you will have to be really lucky to find a deal near you.
Three Best Switches to Use in a CCNP Enterprise Home Lab
The real question is: What models? There is no need to buy the most advanced 48-port PoE Cisco Nexus switches equipped with fiber uplinks. You can use simple Catalyst switches. They are easy to find and have most of the features you will need to practice for the CCNP. Here are some models that you might be interested in:
Catalyst 2950 Basic Layer-2 Switch, this should cover most of your test objectives and they are dirt cheap ($20-30 on eBay).
Catalyst 3550 is a step up from the 2950. This Layer-3 switch adds support to routing protocols that will be tested.
Catalyst 3550: The 3750 is a step up, and the 3750 adds support QoS, private VLANs, and the last topics you’ll need for all test objectives.

Three switches are required to configure the switches in a variety ways. For example, you could have them all connected in a triangle configuration to use spanning tree protocol. A single 3560 and two 2950 are the best options to get fully equipped while on a tight budget. This should be enough to cover most of the setups you’ll need. You should choose the models that have the fewest ports possible (most models come with 24 or 48 ports); more ports will not help your studies.
A Few Options for CCNP Lab Routers
You can choose from a Cisco 1841 or 2801 router. All of these routers will work with IOS 15, so you can get the features you need from the software. For more deals, check out eBay.
Things get a little more complicated if you are specifically targeting CCNP Security. This section will show you the hardware options that correspond to the two tests you took to fulfill the certi