After completing two CCIEs and numerous other certifications over the past 10+ years, I can certainly say that I have been through my fair share of training. As many fellow CCIEs can probably appreciate, learning never stops, not even with two CCIEs, so I continue to go through training from different vendors and OEMs on different products.
This experience uniquely qualifies my to provide recommendations for training. First I’ll break it down by certification level – CCNA, CCNP and CCIE and then I’ll provide the pros and cons for each resource mentioned.
Summary of Resources
CBTNuggets is one of my most preferred resource. It has the industries best trainer, Jeremy Cioara (and after so many years, I just noticed that his last name has CIO built-in :p). It also has probably industries second best trainers, tied for the second place: Keith Barker and Anthony Sequeira. The quality, depth and quantity of material at CBTNuggets, especially for the courses conducted by these three trainers is truly unparalleled. CBTNuggets sets the bar for quality for video based training in networking.
Cisco Press Books
This is likely the least popular resource, because most prefer to learn through videos than books, BUT, this resource is one of the MOST important. That’s because MANY questions on the exams come directly from the Cisco Press Books. Make sure to buy books (ebook or physical) specific to your exam. Note that many newer exams don’t have dedicated books – and for those exams, many questions also come directly from Cisco’s documentation as well which must also be reviewed.
This is a relatively new resource, but, they’ve already managed to get training material from some of the best instructors in the industry. Many of the courses are focused on training that can be completed on GNS3, which significantly adds to the convenience and cost-savings factors. You can read about GNS3 in one of my past blogs
INE and iPexpert deserve their own special category. When studying for CCIE, one has to be in a very different mindset compared to a CCNA or CCNP. CCIE is by far one of the most difficult exams in the industry, and thus, it requires a high level of determination, time and effort to complete – usually requiring many attempts pass. The training resources for CCIE exams thus have to be so technically focused that they often lack the polish and rigor that vendors often put into CCNA and CCNP level training materials to keep the students interested.
INE is my preferred CCIE training vendor. (At the same time, it’s important to diversify your learning plan, hence I always recommend two training vendors). INE has world class instructors: Brian McGahan and Mark Snow. With CCIE, the focus has to be technical, and there is nothing that gets past these instructors. My experience with other INE instructors, specifically the ones that teach CCIE material, has been similar. Compared to iPexpert, INE’s material is much more organized, polished and the learning experience is overall better. INE’s support is also more prompt and great at reaching resolution faster.
There are probably 30-40 or so organizations world-wide that teach CCIE preparation, and out of those, after INE, iPexpert is my second most preferred training vendor. While INE is more polished, offering a better learning experience through better videos, GUI and instruction quality, iPexpert offers greater breadth in both their videos and workbooks. At the same time, the instructors at iPexpert are also 100% technical focused and world-class experts. They tend to offer greater quantity of material, which is also often better focused towards the actual exams.
* at the time of writing, CBTNuggets only offers CCIE R&S training
** Update April 22, 2016: iPexpert is undergoing ‘restructuring’ according to their website. Hopefully they’ll return soon!