I read here how some people say using a simulator is just as good as a home lab. Boy, do I disagree.
I had a problem with one of my serial connections between some 3640 routers on my home lab. After much trouble shooting I found that the DTE DCE labels on the cable shells were reversed on a couple of my âdiscountâ Ebay specials. After correcting the labeling with a silver sharpie data started traveling like it was supposed to.
This sort of real world problem would never arise using a simulator. At least I don't think a simulator will give you a miss-wired or broken cable.
So spend the money to get a few cheap routers and switches. No face plate, a lot of scratches, great. If it works (guaranteed not to be DOA) who cares how ugly it is. The uglier it is, the cheaper it is. And when you are done, put it back on Ebay.