IPexpert Lab Preparation Workbook Review
I recently read a number of messages on groupstudy.com seeking a comparison between the labs offered by CCBootcamp and the labs offered by IPexpert.net. I also read questions about the whether or not labs written by a first attempt CCIE were better than those written by multiple attempt CCIEs. My review of IPexpert's Lab Preparation Workbook for the CCIE Routing and Switching Exam will address these two questions from the perspective of someone who is highly qualified to answer these questions. Before I do that, however, I want to add several caveats.
by David Wolsefer, CCIE #5858
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I purchased CCBootcamp's CCIE lab subscription for $650 several years ago. I have labs 1-18 and have used them extensively. I am a strong proponent of their product and you will find my endorsement on their web pages. Wayne Lawson of IPexpert.net provided a copy of version 2.0 of their CCIE Lab Preparation Workbook to me at no charge for the purpose of writing this review. I received the copy via overnight UPS about a month ago and have had adequate time to work through the book and examine it in detail, so I now know both products intimately. In writing this review, I will be comparing IPexpert's product to the CCBootcamp labs, labs from Cisco's ASET program, and using my own knowledge of the CCIE Lab Exam to answer a simple question; "How well does the IPexpert's Lab Preparation Workbook for the CCIE Routing and Switching Exam prepare candidates for the exam?" In the interests of objectivity, I must disclose that I am at author of numerous white papers and labs at www.certificationzone.com, which does sell the IPexpert's workbook, but I have no financial interest in the success of either www.certificationzone.com or www.ipexpert.net. My interests are in furthering the amount of available network engineering talent and knowledge in the world.
Let's get right down to the question that is really on people's minds. "Which is better, CCBootcamp or Ipexpert?" When you have had a chance to use both products, you will realize that this is like asking, "Which is the better fruit, apples or oranges?" Both products are complementary. Both are high quality products. Both products will help you to not only pass the CCIE lab exam in routing and switching, but to increase your own knowledge of internetworking. With this basic idea in mind, let's get started with the review.
One obvious criteria that comes to mind is price. CCBootcamp's subscription package costs $650.00 while IPexpert's workbook costs $474.00. I do not feel that the price difference makes any difference in the quality of either product. My advice is to buy both products. If the difference in price is going to make a difference in which product you buy, then stick to CCO as your best source.
What about the quality of the two products themselves? Is one better than the other? The CCBootcamp labs are presented as a series of stapled together pages to describe the tasks for each lab with the answers supplied as .zip files consisting of the final configurations for each device in each lab. The IPexpert labs are presented in a single bound book with the configurations for each lab on a CD at the back of the book. Here IPexpert has a better product because they use color while CCBootcamp does not. I also prefer the bound volume, but that is just my own personal preference. Is there enough difference that it should affect your choice? No, I don't think so. Both products are well documented with clear drawings and are high quality products.
How about technical support? Is there any difference in the technical support offered by CCBootcamp and IPexpert? Mark Russell was always very responsive to me whenever I had any questions or problems. He always cleared things up within 24 hrs and even went out of his way to let me use a partially developed rack for ISDN practice right before my lab. IPexpert has also been very responsive and answered any questions I had within 24 hrs. Could their support be better for me because I am writing this review? Sure it could, but I don't think it is. The best advertisement out there is happy customers. I feel that both products will give you equally excellent technical support.
You may be wondering what makes these products different? Why is it like comparing apples and oranges? The products are different because they use totally opposite formats. The CCBootcamp labs teach about technology while presenting complex problems at the same time. There is no set order to the CCBootcamp labs. CCBootcamp's Lab 8, for example, is considerably more difficult that either lab 1 or lab 18. The IPexpert labs, on the other hand, take a more structured approach. The first part of the book presents topics in a teaching fashion. For example, the IPexpert book takes OSPF and covers all the different options for configuring OSPF in one section. The CCBootcamp labs cover the same material, but you will find one option for OSPF on one lab, and another option for OSPF on another lab. I find that the organization of the IPexpert labs makes them easier for candidates who are newer to networking because they can compare individual topics easier. The second section of the IPexpert lab book consists of a series of challenge labs. While I find these labs to be equal in length and difficulty to the labs offered by CCBootcamp, there are only five of them. I would like to see more challenge labs added in the future. Since the product is continually evolving, this will probably occur. CCBootcamp does continually add labs to their subscription package. The final section of the IPExpert lab book is a scenario designed to duplicate the length, difficulty, and pressure of the actual one-day lab exam. This is something that the CCBootcamp labs do not explicitly do. For these reasons, I feel that both products complement each other well. Most people seriously studying for the CCIE lab exam can probably afford both products. I wholeheartedly recommend both products.
Finally, I would like to close by addressing the question of whether lab preparation products are better if they are written by single attempt CCIEs or by multiple attempt CCIEs. While passing the lab on your first attempt is certainly an outstanding accomplishment, I feel that this does not make any difference in the ability to produce quality lab preparation products. CCBootcamp's Mark Russell may not be a CCIE, but I can assure you that he has CCIE level knowledge and applies this knowledge in his lab subscription package. The IPexpert labs were developed by a team of five CCIEs. There is a real advantage in this approach because each CCIE has a wide variety of knowledge and experience. One may be expert in OSPF while another knows ISIS really well. Ultimately, I think that the more you have seen of the lab, the more you can know about what is necessary to prepare for the exam. Both of these products will help prepare you for the rigors of the one-day lab exam. Both products are very high quality products. You should not be asking yourself whether you should buy one product or the other. You should be asking yourself how soon can you get both products.
David Wolsefer, CCIE #5858