Some time last year I was invited to demo @BosonSoftware CCNP TSHOOT ExSim-Max and NetSim. At the time, I wasn’t able to play with it too much. But the short time I did toy with it I was intrigued and decided (see here where I was contemplating the purchase) to invest in the SWITCH ExSim-Max right that moment since that’s what I’m currently working on. I wasn’t in full study mode cause it was the holidays, but we’re hoarders so it was a typical move for me; I knew I’d need it later. I also got 10% off the ExSim as a holiday promotion
I just wanted to share with you guys the value I see in these tools.
This Boson ExSim-Max application is the missing link I’ve needed since July 2010 (when I passed the BSCI and began working on SWITCH). Since I started using it I’ve learned that I’ve got a ton of the SWITCH material down, but a lot of the small stuff is where I fall short. No worries on the small stuff I get wrong though – when I answer a question incorrectly, the explanations given are superb enough to help me learn! Excellent details and explanations of the correct answer and even why each of the _wrong_ available answers is incorrect and what those incorrect answers _would_ do if you used them. For me, this was big! It keeps track of my progress and lets me know exactly where I need the help. This helps me take notes on where I need to read up so when i do run into more time (yea right!), I know exactly what chapters and sections to hit!
ExSim-Max feels almost like the real exam, the real deal – hehehe. The interface is very simple to work with and gets right to the point. It has an auto-update feature to update the exams, questions, maybe answers, additions to the exams or maybe correct incorrect explanations – I like that! The application is approved by Cisco and is all legit for use as study material. It’s so hard to find (if you know of others please share) any other application like this out there, that are also legal for exam studies
Another cool feature is the simulator questions, when you come to a question that requires you to pound out commands in the CLI, just like the Cisco exam; you have to launch the simulator. You have to install the the Boson Exam Environment (BEE) framework which links all of this together. Again, even with the simulation/lab/CLI questions – when you’re marked wrong or right you get a very nice explanation.
There are 2 types of ExSim applications. One is the ExSim-Max and the other is the normal ExSim. The differences are a big deal in my opinion!
ExSim-Max features not in ExSim.
- Written by Boson’s authors, who are leading subject-matter experts
- Quality assurance (technical & language)
For a difference of only $40, it’s well worth the investment to just go on and get the full ExSim-Max.
Similar to the platform the simulator questions are delivered on, Netsim is the full blown simulator tool. NetSim software for the purpose it’s sold, packs a ton of practice and is a huge benefit to my studies. I’m not sure why, but you must purchase the whole NetSim application that contains labs for CCNA and CCNP (SWITCH, TSHOOT and ROUTE). This is my only issue because for folks with little pocket money, it’d help to slim down the cost by just purchasing what you need and be on your way to studying and labbing and not going broke. The software itself can take some getting use to, but once you familiarize yourself with the interface you’ll be labbing in no time! There is a total of 17 CCNP SWITCH labs which are accompanied by full lab scenarios, goals, etc.
The labs get you down into just about every topic covered on the CCNP SWITCH exam. Most of the labs included with NetSim are similar to that of the older version of NetSim. They can also be printed into PDF which I found useful to recover some desktop/screen real estate and just work from the printed PDFs.
You can even create labs yourself using the lab compiler. The simulator does a great job giving you nearly every (what you need) command needed to cover the SWITCH material
Overall I have to admit that the NetSim application doesn’t replace your home lab or even GNS3 (for routing ). It’s not a true IOS environment, it’s an emulator so keep that in mind – but it packs a ton of awesomeness for routing and switching in terms of covering the necessary commands for the study materials. I think it’s important to point this out. You don’t need every command available in IOS to pass the ROUTE, TSHOOT or SWITCH exam, so essentially you get what you need. This is a study platform, not a simulator to help with testing, labbing or emulating work related networks – but depending what you’re trying to do you can probably do plenty of that depending on the complexity of what you’re trying to do.
CCNP and CCNA isn’t the only level material Boson covers. They also cover CCIE R&S, CCIP, CCDA, CCNA Voice and more!
One thing that is very important to point out is the confusion out there as to who writes the practice exams included with the Cisco Press books. Boson only provides the engine to run those CDs included with the books – those are not Boson practice exams. Cisco Press provides the content and Boson delivers them through the Boson Exam Environment.
Boson’s in-house written practice exams are called ExSim-Max and aren’t included with any study guides.
Some screenshots from the NetSim and ExSim software..
Notice: I was not paid by Boson to write this post. I was offered an extended demo of their product with an agreement that I’d post my review and opinion of the product.. I just want everyone to know this so there is no funny stories about my post