Every now and then I get questions from students (from real life courses) or people here on gns3vault which labs they should work on when they are studying for their CCNA. Maybe you are studying for CCNA yourself and are not sure where to start on this site. To help you and others I decided to compile a small list with the labs you should definitely do if you want to pas your CCNA.
Don't forget if you want to do get your CCNA you can do the 'combined' exam which consists of ICND1 and ICND2 or you can take both exams seperately. If you do the combined exam you'll need a higher passing score and of course there's more stuff for you to remember...you'll have to know everything. If you want to do both exams seperately this is what you can expect more or less:
Once you feel familiar with static routes, the routing table it's time to try a routing protocol. RIP (Routing Information Protocol) seems simple but is a great way to start understanding Distance Vector routing protocols. Start off with the RIP Beginner lab and if you like it just try to do the RIP Advanced lab. This one might be a bit too steep for ICND1 or CCNA but I think you'll enjoy it and you should be able to work your way through.
If you've seen enough routing it's time to check out some WAN protocols. We'll start with the PPP Authentication lab where you configure PAP and/or CHAP authentication. Don't forget to run a "debug" to see how the link is built, this'll help you understand the theory of PPP better as well.
The last one to tackle is the Frame-Relay Basics lab, keep in mind you DON'T have to configure a frame-relay switch for your CCNA or understand how it works, but if you ever want to configure it on real life routers it might be fun to try. Otherwise just get the configuration from the final configs and stick it on the frame relay switch.Concentrate on the routers, there's enough to learn so the stuff you don't "have" to is nice.
The final CCNA ICND1 lab to work on is the ICND1 Assesment Lab. I have built this lab so you'll encounter most of the ICND1 commands, if you can beat this lab easily you'll have much of the 'practical' part under control.
Last word of advice, CCNA tests you on plenty of subnetting questions so make sure you practice plenty of those. You don't have enough time during your exam to take 5-10 minutes to solve a single subnetting question...make sure you can hammer at those and get going with the other questions. I don't have a lab for subnetting but I did write a very nice book which explains you how to do subnetting off the top of your head without touching any paper. I also describe how you can create your own "cheat sheet" which will help during your exam (don't worry I'm not talking about scrambled paper and smuggling it into the test center). If you have trouble with subnetting please check this out.
ICND2 is where you get the good CCNA labs, protocols like OSPF, EIGRP and Spanning-Tree are more exciting than subnetting and the OSI model. Let's start off with some routing to warm up the muscles and have a look at the OSPF Single Area lab. Beat this lab and then get going with the OSPF Intermediate lab which will test your OSPF knowledge even further, you can't beat your CCNA without OSPF knowledge.
Let's do some more routing and there's no better way than checking out EIGRP. Start with the EIGRP Beginner lab and fight your way through the EIGRP Intermediate lab. Make sure you know how to configure a key-chain by checking out the EIGRP MD5 Authentication lab. Did you already forget about RIP and Split Horizon? EIGRP has split horizon as well so try the EIGRP Split Horizon lab to juice up your knowledge.
Not sure if EIGRP uses unicast, multicast or broadcast to send packets? Check out the EIGRP Unicast lab and find out! While you are at it make sure you do a 'debug' for EIGRP packets to find the answer...this is something to try for OSPF and RIP as well.
He/she that is studying networking does not have Google but Debug as his/her best friend...(and then Google for the output if you have no idea what it means)
Ok typing it like a quote is more like a joke and it looks kinda cool putting my name under it ;) But i'm serious about the message!...all the answers are in your router or switch just use the appropiate show and debug commands.
Last one for EIGRP...promise! Try the EIGRP Maximum Path and Variance lab which will help you understand successors, feasible successors and load-balancing for EIGRP a bit more.
Enough with the routing, let's play with Network Address Translation (NAT) and Port Address Translation (PAT). At the moment I only have the NAT Static Lab. Just configure NAT Static, then try Dynamic NAT and finally PAT. I'll see if I can put up some standalone labs for those as well.
The last one is awesome, go ahead and work on the NAT Dynamic Troubleshooting lab. If you truly understand this one and are able to finish it you'll understand a good deal about NAT and routing as well. Besides I believe it's a fun lab to work on.
If you made it this far you can be proud of yourself since there's plenty of protocols you have seen by now. The grande finale is the ICND2 Assessment Lab which will mix OSPF, EIGRP and RIP and some other things into a single lab.
For now these are all the CCNA labs I have for you on CCNA level. I'm still missing some security labs where you can play around with access-lists, i'd suggest to lab something yourself for the moment.
Last but not least...what about the switches? You'll need to understand protocols like VTP and Spanning-Tree to beat your CCNA. VTP can be done on GNS3 routers but spanning-tree is a bit shady...commands are different and not as extensive as using a real Cisco switch. My recommendation would be to buy 2x Cisco Catalyst 2950 switches on Ebay. They go for around 50 US dollars / Euros which is cheap. You'll be able to practice all the CCNA commands you'll need working on the "real thing". If you plan to study for CCNP after your CCNA make sure you buy 3550 switches (those are layer 3) instead of the 2950 (which is only layer 2).
So what do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion! If there's any lab you'd like to see please let me know by leaving a comment below.