When you have finally decided to pursue your CCIE certification seriously, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and decide on that all important vendor to help you meet your goals. Here is a list of the top ten things to look for when choosing a CCIE training vendor.
1. An excellent track record — You want to choose a vendor that has trained many CCIEs successfully before you came along. Any decent vendor should be able to present you with several success stories from successful clients
2. Updated and quality material — What you don’t want is some CCIE workbook from 1998 that is going to teach you about source route bridging, IPX, ISDN and Appletalk because those topics are no longer on the exam. You want to make sure the vendor’s material is fully up to date with the latest CCIE blueprint and that the material is top notch in the industry. Make sure to read reviews of their products, and get a demo if you can before you buy.
3. Equipment to practice on at reasonable rates — This is often overlooked. If you are going to be spending thousands of dollars on training material, and likely hundreds upon hundreds of hours labbing, you will need equipment to do it on. Furthermore, you will need equipment that matches that vendors topology. Most vendors will offer some sort of rack rental service where you can rent racks of equipment wired to that particular vendors topology. Make sure the prices are reasonable and that the equipment matches closely what is in the real CCIE lab. Other things you want to watch for are 24×7 support for the online hardware, and as many useful features as possible like remote power access, and the ability to save and load configurations automatically. These features will make your life easier, and save you money in the long run.
4. First class technical support of the product — Everybody needs good teachers when they are learning. Make sure your vendor offers a place for students to reach out and ask questions regarding the materials. This will usually come in the form of email support lists or user forums. Take a look around before you commit and make sure the actual instructors and other knowledgeable people are contributing to the conversations. CCIE is not something you will typically do all alone with no outside help whatsoever.
5. Selection of products that meets your needs — There are many different products available out there. You want to make sure you select a vendor that will offer the products that best fit you. You may prefer learning on demand through DVD or online instead of attending a class due to your hectic work schedule. Maybe you enjoy listening to technical lectures while running or on the way to work on the subway. If that is the case, you probably will enjoy an audio on demand type product. Maybe the best learning experience for you is live right in a real classroom where you get more dynamic interaction with an instructor. make sure the vendor you choose can meet ALL your specific needs.
6. Proven Plan Of Attack — You want to choose a vendor that has a proven time tested strategy for success in the CCIE lab. Anybody can give you a bunch of technical material. What will you do with that material? How do you best utilize your new purchase? What exactly is the path you need to take to achieve your CCIE #? A good vendor will be able to provide you with a structured and proven method to success.
7. World Class Instructors — You don’t want to learn how to be a CCIE from anybody. You want to learn from the best, and as such you want to select a vendor that employs world class CCIE instructors. Many people are technical gurus in this field. Few know how to relate that to other people in a dynamic and understandable way to newcomers. Make sure you research the instructors whose time you will be paying quality money for. What is their real world experience? Have other people been happy with their services and teaching methods? Do your homework. A great instructor can make or break your training experience.
8. Finished Products — This is something people often overlook. Many CCIE vendors will sell you something they can’t deliver on with empty promises that “The new XYZ is coming next month we promise!!!”. Next month comes and goes, and the next and the next….meanwhile your CCIE lab is coming up and you still don’t have finished product you have paid for! Make sure the vendor you select has updated and complete products that they can deliver on TODAY before you buy.
9. Class Size and Locations — If live classroom training is part of the package you are looking for, it would be wise to do a little homework on where your vendor conducts business. Will you have to fly half way around the world and spend thousands MORE dollars just to get there or do they do classes all over the world? A vendor that does classes closer to where you live will obviously benefit you more in terms of your pocket book. The best vendors will typically have classes in the USA, Europe, and possibly even Australia or Asia/Pac. Don’t pay more than what you already have to pay to the vendor and Cisco to get that #. What is the average class size? Do you want to be in a college type hall with 40 people or do you want more personal 1-1 time with your CCIE instructor? Make sure you choose a vendor that can offer you small class sizes and individual attention when needed.
10. Budget — Money is obviously important. You don’t want to go with a vendor just because they are the cheapest. You want to make sure the vendor offers you everything we’ve discussed in this list. Once you narrow you choices down, it is time to look at budget. Do your homework and choose the vendor that will give you the most value for your money. When comparing “end to end” type programs, which vendor gives you more value for your money? What exactly is included in their bundles? Are there any bundles or promotions going on right now that can help you out? Do they offer payment plans? How flexible are they with payment options? These are all important things to consider.