*** Warning – technical post coming up! ***

In the past few weeks, I’ve learnt how doing things practically is ALWAYS a better way of learning how to do things.

Okay, I’ve always known this, but ever since I started building my Cisco home lab, it’s been reinforced in my head. When I was studying for the CCNA (the entry-level certification), I was only using a textbook and a simulator, so I could not really picture the equipment (routers, switches and cables) in my mind.

Now, I’m preparing for the next certification (CCNP) and I’m using the four routers my friend gave me. I can confidently say I’m understanding the concepts a lot better. I’ve learnt about the different ways of connecting to routers, the different kinds of cables used, the problems that occur when you try to update the IOS (operating system) of the router, the different types of IOSs available, the different ports on the router etc.

I am about to take the SWITCH exam, so I have decided to buy three switches. It costs between £30 to £50 for a second-hand “2950” switch on ebay. Until I decided to buy the switches, I didn’t realise there were different versions of 2950 switches. I didn’t know Cisco had two versions of the IOS (standard image and enhanced image) and they both have different features. It didn’t really dawn on me which cables are needed to connected two switches together. I knew all about crossover cables, but I didn’t know which type were needed…

Alright, alright, I’m losing you! Anyway, my point is, learning something practically opens your mind up to all the little intricacies and details of what it is you’re learning. This doesn’t mean that theory is not important – it’s VERY important. However, I prefer the practical way.

In the end, I’ll say that a combination of practical work and theory is the best way of learning.

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