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Hello Computer's Lab Preparation Workbook for the CCIE Security Lab Exam - A Review
by Priscilla Oppenheimer
Order a Copy of the Workbook

Hello Computers recently published their "Lab Workbook for Cisco CCIE Security Lab Exam Preparation." Keyur Shah from Hello Computers, Inc. asked me for feedback on the Workbook. I decided to share my feedback with Group Study. The Workbook is a great learning tool and a lot cheaper than buying equipment yourself. The lab rental service seems well run with good customer service.

The Workbook is available from Hello Computers or from CertificationZone. I did not receive compensation for this review. I have done work for CertificationZone in the past, but they did not know about this review.

The Workbook consists of sixteen labs that cover all the topics in the CCIE Security Lab [Exam]. The Workbook costs $645 and includes 24 hours of remote lab rack access. It's worth the money. [NOTE: CertificationZone Subscribers receive a $45 discount off of that price when they purchase their copy from CertificationZone] The labs are well written and easy to follow, but challenging. The rack implements a complex network of 10 routers connected via Frame Relay, ISDN, Ethernet, and ATM; a Catalyst 5500 switch; and various security devices, such as PIX boxes, two Sun workstations with Solaris 8, and some NT servers that handle TACACS, TFTP, syslog, and so on.

Hello Computers has been in the IT training business since 1996. They seem to be a robust and innovative company. Because they have had a few years in this business, they have had a chance to implement some new training technologies, such as distance learning and virtual labs. (With a WebEx player, you can actually attend an audio class remotely and see the configurations input by the instructor.)

One of the best features of their service is the Live Person chat that you can open with tech support while doing a lab. I managed to gum up the Terminal Server (due to my ignorance not any fault of theirs! ;-) I started the chat and was immediately connected to someone who helped me.

The CCIE Security Workbook consists of four full-scale 100-point labs and twelve labs of 50 points each. The 100-point labs have instructions on all topics, whereas the shorter labs concentrate on a subset of topics. Each lab is divided into 5 sections:

  1. Routing with EIGRP, RIP, OSPF, and BGP; switching with VLANs; and PIX fundamentals
  2. Tasks aligned with the Managing Cisco Network Security (MCNS) class, such as avoiding DOS attacks, etc.
  3. Advanced PIX
  4. VPNs and IPSec
  5. Intrusion Detection System
Every lab has tips (hints) at the end. The Workbook also comes with a CD that has initial configs such as IP addresses and other basic configurations that you might not want to waste your time on. The CD also includes solutions for each lab. The solutions have some minor mistakes, but Hello Computers plans to publish updates on their Web site.

The lab network diagrams are in color and are laminated. Since I used them a lot, I was grateful for their sturdiness. Also the lamination means that you can write notes on the diagrams with a dry erase marker.

The first step in every lab tells you to redraw the network diagram. This is good advice. The network design is quite complex and more convoluted than typical real-world networks. Group Study readers have heard about my concerns regarding the OSPF virtual link and discontiguous Area 1. ;-) But I guess those are things you need to know for [the] CCIE [Lab Exam].

I was confused at first that all "sites" in the internetwork are connected to the same Catalyst switch. Obviously, this wouldn't be the case in the real world and perhaps that should be pointed out to people new to CCIE labs. Also, perhaps the labs would be more real world if they specified why the customer wants all these complex features enabled. But this sort of additional information wouldn't help one prepare for CCIE, so I don't consider the lack of it a major fault. It's just my design bias showing.

In summary, this is a classy product and service. I recommend it.


Genium Publishing Corporation
1171 Riverfront Center, Amsterdam, NY 12010
800-243-6486 � 518-842-4111 � Fax 518-842-1843
email: [email protected]

Copyright © 2002 Genium Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. is an independent product, not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with Cisco Systems, Inc. Cisco ®, Cisco Systems®, CCNA™, CCNP™, CCDP™, CCDA™, CCIE™, CCSI™, and the Cisco Systems logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco Systems Inc. in the U.S. and certain other countries.