I find the different aspects of networking difficult to understand and retain if I do not get some sort of hands on experience. But as we all know, hands on experience may be difficult to find, the only other alternative seems be to buy some cheap equipment and play around with it...as for me...too expensive at the moment.
So to my question:
Have any of you worked with Virtual Labs? If so, is it worth the few extra bucks or am I better off just purchasing the books.
Right now I am using the "CCNA Virtual Lab Gold Edition" for my class and it gives me the chance to play around with routers, switches and hosts....although not quite as powerful as the real thing.
I haven't used virtual labs, but there are a lot of simulators out there that will let you build a virtual lab.. I've tried Boson Router Simulator and RouterSim.. both were very decent.
However both those teach networking from the point of view of Cisco exams, basically focusing on layer 2 and layer 3 connectivity. Thats fine if you want to do one of the certifications but otherwise you might want a real virtual network.
You can have a look at the posts on VMWare in the Cool Software forum, using VMWare you can build a virtual lab with different OS/s without having to shell out on any extra hardware. I don't have a LAN at home, but I do have a virtual simulation of 4 networked machines running a variety of operating systems.. this lets me play around with the networking on each, as well as take a look at the higher level protocols at work. Its a real learning experience to sit with a packet sniffer and learn TCP/IP.. relating what you see to what you've learned on a website such as this one.