I found using the virtual GNS3 lab to be somewhat cumbersome and given how new I am on Cisco gear I wanted to construct my own lab.
A lot of people are just fine learning in a virtual environment but I wanted to get my hands on some of the equipment and make sure I was familiar enough to rack-and-stack.
I ended up finding three Cisco 2801 routers locally for $15 each along with a 3560 POE switch and a 3750 POE switch from eBay (about $30 each). The rack ears cost roughly $35 with the mounting screws and I used 2×4 to create a “rack” of sorts. There’s room to grow by another seven 1U devices so I’ll be fine for the next year or so. Really, I could add another switch, but that’s all at this point.
Some of the benefits of this setup include my being forced to discover the software version on each device and learning (repeatedly) the process of password reset and device wipe.
One of the disadvantages is that I cannot leave them running at all times and just SSH into them from an overpriced coffee shop I can’t stay away from. Along with the wasted electricity they also make quite a bit of fan noise. I’ve considered disabling the fans, but for now I just turn them off in between sessions.
Overall the experience has been worth it and I’m well on my way to learning how much I truly don’t know.