How to Build a Cisco Voice Certification Lab

The best way to learn is to engage in hands-on practice using real equipment in a non-production environment. Having crashed a few networks in my time, I can tell you that having the freedom to make changes on the fly without any risk can reduce unnecessary pressure and keep you focused solely on learning. Ideally, if you have older components in your work environment, then by all means use those, particularly the servers, switches and voice gateway. You may also be able to borrow them from friends or your local Cisco Users Group (see the directory at http://www.cisco-users.org/). If necessary, buy your own in the second hard market on sites such as Craigslist or eBay (eBay is probably safer). Here is a suggested parts list that can make the process straightforward, erring on the side of lower cost:

2 Cisco 7940 IP Phones
1 – 3524-XL-EN (Power over Ethernet)
1 – ASA-5505 (Base License)
Cisco UC520
4-5 Cat-5 Ethernet Cables
Dell R170

Correctly assembling these components into an easily accessible lab is fairly simple, and I have built enough of them over the years to help simplify the process. One item not listed above that can be helpful is a terminal server, which establishes console-based access to all of the devices in the lab. In the simplest setup, you can simply swap the console cable between each device, but when you have 8 or more devices (as I typically do) a terminal server is a big help.

Step 1: Rack, Stack, & Power

This particular lab environment is rather small and probably will not create significant issues if you have to host it in a home environment. You can probably find very small network cabinet (6-9RU) that would be able to host the rack-mountable pieces. When possible, fasten mountable devices and cable strap the various power cables together to a power strip to provide electricity to the components. If you are using PoE, then very little else is needed regarding power cabling and such.

Step 2: LAN Cabling

The second step in assembling this wireless lab is extremely simple. Run LAN cables from the PoE switch, taking care to connect all the following devices in the lab:

  • Cisco 7940 IP Phones (2)
  • Cisco UC-520 (only cable one connection, labeled Expansion)
  • Virtualized Server(s) (1-3 depending on how you stage the server)

You can use CAT 5/6 cables of any length, but the shorter they are, the better; the exception is adequate length to comfortably reach between devices.

Related Courses
CCNA Voice Certification
CCNP Voice Certification
CCIE Voice Certification

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