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Question on using a home lab VS work experience

I've never had the opportunity to do any WAN configuration . Mostly because every place I've worked, had an outside vendor take care of the external routers.

That being said:

Is it difficult to configure routers for T1 usage, frame etc?  I have a home lab consisting of three 2500s, one 2600 , a pix 501 and a plethora of 2924 and 2950 switches. This is where the majority of my experience has come from (Can't really blow up switches and firewalls at work in the production environment. Boss wouldnt accept the answer of "higher learning"  :-D   )

Am I on the right track?  Is home lab experience sufficient provided I (eventually) employ some advanced configurations?

Thanks for any comments/advice. I just do not want to have all of these certifications oneday, and end up not being able to "walk the walk."
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nodiscoCommented:
Wow - thats a pretty extensive home lab you have!

I have done the same before myself - get a truckload of equipment, some manuals and sit down with a "ok here we go" attitude.  The problem is that real-world work experience with this equipment is far more valuable because you HAVE to get it working - the pressure is on, so you pull out all the stops.
That said - I have found that if you are going to benfit from a home lab as a learning tool, the best way to do so is to set yourself specific tasks. Setup the equipment as for a specific office environment and then test yourself :

Open up the PIX to allow a pc on 1 lan to browse a webserver on the other lan but no other access
Do the same with ftp
Setup some vlans on the switches and let the 2600 route traffic between them
etc etc

The important thing is though - DON'T stop until you have each task fully working, because it is usually only in the completion of the full task that you will fully understand all the steps within.  As you said, you don't want just the certs and no know-how.
While going through manuals and typing in all the commands on a physical switch or router is beneficial, it won't be nearly as important as trying to get something working that requires an understanding of same.


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dissolvedAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the comments.

Those are good recommendations about the PIX. I'll put that on my agenda.
thanks again
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Dr-IPCommented:
The home lab should get you pretty close to there, and you could get a couple of CSU/DSU’s if you want to play with T1 configs, but you really don’t need to since there really are only a few settings for a T1’s line code and framing, almost universally set B8ZS and ESF for data, time slots for fractional T1 service, and encapsulation PPP, HDLC, frame, and ATM.

Once you get the Telco side of the wide area link taken care of it’s pretty much all IP from there on, but eventually you are going to have to get your feet wet and work with some live circuits. If at work they decide to run a T1 to some remote office you might be able to get them to let you play with it before the vendor comes in and sets up the equipment.

The real fun by the way comes with bigger links like OC3’s which are more complicated to deal with than T1’s, and because they are so expensive, you won’t find many opportunities to practice on them. So generally end up having to do your learning on a live circuit, in other words you learn those under fire.      
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dissolvedAuthor Commented:
Great post Dr-IP, thanks.
Where is a good place to pick up some CSU/DSUs to practice with???  I'm assuming they have no ethernet connections on them since their sole purpose is to provide clocking ? (correct me if I'm wrong).

Thanks!
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Dr-IPCommented:
It’s a little more complicated than that, they connect to the router via its serial port, and convert the data from the serial port to a form that can be transmitted over a T1. You can also get ones that plug into the WIC slot of Cisco routers like the 2600’s. Those are a CSU/DSU and serial port combined together into a single card. You can pick up some older CSU/DSU’s pretty cheap on EBay by the way, here is one I found that even has the cable for the Cisco router. I don’t know what it will sell for, but the price now is less than what the cable alone is worth.    

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=11175&item=5765533650&rd=1
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dissolvedAuthor Commented:
Thanks I bid on that link you sent me. I guess I will interface it via DB-60 ?
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Dr-IPCommented:
With a little luck yes, since in the picture the the end that goes to the router looks way to big to be a high density serial port connector.    
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dissolvedAuthor Commented:
thanks guys. The help is always appreciated
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dissolvedAuthor Commented:
Dr-IP, the CSU/DSU is here and I'm trying to configure it. If you have a chance, could you lend me some of your expertise?

Thanks!

http://experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Routers/Q_21390630.html
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