Product Reviews

Prepping for Your CCNA Cert

Can’t afford a Cisco router home study lab? With RouterSim 2.0, set up a simulated router network at a fraction of the cost.

In today’s job market, many MCPs realize that their Microsoft certifications aren’t enough. With Cisco owning an estimated 85 percent of the router market, the company’s entry-level CCNA certification is becoming increasingly popular among MCPs. But getting the hardware to study for this certification isn’t easy.

Building a home lab can cost thousands of dollars, so how does one train on Cisco technology without incurring this kind of cost? Enter RouterSim 2.0, a comprehensive Cisco router simulator. In fact, it’s much more than that. The previous version, 1.25, allowed for three Cisco 2500 routers to be configured in a network. Unfortunately, that configuration didn’t allow for a full understanding of router configuration for the CCNA exam after Cisco changed it. RouterSim 2.0 includes not only the three 2501 Cisco routers, but two full-featured Catalyst 1900 switches with enterprise capability and configuration, a 2621 Cisco router with two 10/100 fast Ethernet ports, five hosts you can double-click on and verify router and switch configurations by pinging from a DOS prompt, and two 804 Cisco routers for ISDN connections.

RouterSim runs on Win9x/NT 4.0. The product’s console, as shown in the screenshot, is an easy-to-use application that enables a surprising amount of control over the virtual network. Switching to the desired router is as simple as clicking on it. You can view the network configuration while working in a selected router’s command console. Once the network is configured, you can use either the Ping or Telnet command to ensure the network is functioning properly. Should an error occur, you simply click on the Net Detective button and the application lists possible problems and solutions for them.

If RouterSim is to be summed up in a single word, it’s “WOW!”

While, for the software’s cost,one might be able to purchase a used router, RouterSim’s multiple router, switch and host-configuration features, plus 29 labs, are invaluable and worth the purchase price.

At the same time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some negatives. First, while extremely powerful, RouterSim doesn’t fully simulate Cisco routers. You’ll find some of the more advanced commands unavailable. This may not be a real issue for the CCNA exam, but is limiting for the more advanced CCNP exams. [The Company states that two new products to be released in late 2000, SwitchSim and CCNPSim, will cover all four exams in the CCNP series.—Ed.]

The RouterSim console allows a high level of control over a virtual Cisco network. (Click image to see larger version.)

Another drawback is the cumbersome way licensing is handled. When you purchase RouterSim, a CD-ROM contains the program and a floppy disk the licensing. When you install RouterSim, you click the Install Authorization button and the computer copies and then removes the license from the floppy. If you install RouterSim on another computer, you must move the license to the floppy disk from the old computer and install it on the new. Should the old computer fail or the floppy become corrupted, the license is lost and a new one must be ordered from RouterSim, though this is done at no charge with proof-of-purchase.

Still, overall, if you’re preparing for the CCNA exam, RouterSim is a tool you must have in your study arsenal. It’s worth its weight in gold.

About the Author

Barry Shilmover, MCSE+I, MCT, owns Shilmover Consulting Services, a Microsoft Solution Provider specializing in Windows NT/2000 and Exchange 5.5/2000 solutions. He has co-authored books that include Windows 2000 System Administrator’s Black Book and Exchange 5.5 Exam Cram, both from Coriolis Press.


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