If you are just getting started in networking many people will recommend knocking out the CCNA certification. I would probably agree with that. Personally, when I got the CCNA I had a networking / systems admin job before hand and did just fine without the cert. The CCNA study, however, gave me the opportunity to focus on the material and to expand a bit outside of what I worked with daily. The CCNA is a prerequisite of a lot of other training courses offered on other Cisco technologies as well.
The CCNA, or any certification for that matter, can be time consuming to prepare for or expensive should you choose the boot camp / structured class route. Time is money typically so you have to weigh and make your own decision on that. Personally, I prefer the self study route. Fortunately, for everyone out there who would agree with me there are a boat load of free resources available to get you up to speed and practiced for the exam. I will mention a few of my favorites below. By the way, I am in no way affiliated with any of the people or organizations. These are really only suggestions to get you started.
First, I found Cisco had a good bit to offer as far as an exam syllabus and practice questions go. Check out https://learningnetwork.cisco.com. This actually includes many other certifications in addition to the CCNA. The Syllabus is a good thing to check out; however, I thought it was rather vague. The practice questions were a great help as you can gauge your knowledge against them to see what you need to study further. They are grouped by topics to some extent making it easier to nail down your weak areas.
The second I found particularly helpful was http://www.freeccnaworkbook.com/. The site has a very solid set of labs to work through with detailed information about the tasks you will be completing. Additionally there are a handful of practice questions that test your knowledge of most CCNA concepts. You are given a score at the end of the test including the list of correct / incorrect questions you should review further. The site creator indicates that CCNA Security, Voice and Wireless should also be available in the future.
Next, I will say a bit more generally that Youtube is a great place to check out. There are a number of CCIE instructors that post material for CCNA and higher learners. Beware that many are very basic and generally crappy quality. Finding some decent stuff can be a challenge. If you find something decent jump to the users channel and see what else that have to offer. Keith Barker, a CBT Nuggets trainer, does a particularly good job with basically everything he has a video on. Many are somewhat lengthy and detailed but that’s what you should be looking for in training videos anyhow.
More recently I found ine.com. They are a training company but offer some free materials as well for CCNA and CCNA voice candidates. Check out http://www.ine.com/resources/ for the goodies. There are also countless blog entries and practical how to articles.
There are countless other resources out there of course but the ones listed above are what I found to be the most useful. I am not affiliated with any of the organizations and cannot offer any type of guarantee with this information of course. Honestly, the best way to learn is on your own. Search the web and I am sure you will find more.
One final resource that I found useful was the CCNA Cisco Press series. There is plenty of detail, examples, scenarios and practice questions to help you study. The books, of course, do come at a price but are well worth it.
I hope all of you up and coming networkers found this information useful and best of luck with your studies!
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