Reflections on the past year.

A blog entry looking back on blog entries that look back. I came up with the idea to start doing this site just over one year ago, but honestly it feels like a few years have passed since I started. 32 blog entires in the course of a year doesn’t sound like too much to me, but I feel like I definitely covered a lot of ground, especially on a personal level.

Looking back on the knowledge I’ve acquired in the past year is pretty incredible. One of my first posts was about me discovering that Catalyst 3550 switches don’t do NAT. I was still discovering things like this a year ago, but having been through the CCNP curriculum it makes sense to me now why those switches don’t support NAT. This is definitely a perfect example of why I created this site — so that I can look back on things like that to see where I was and where I am now.

My Cisco studies gave me the confidence last year to design a new network for one of the businesses I support. The existing network was requiring daily reboots of all the networking equipment at all locations, but after implementing my new network design, they still have not been down in the past year since I installed it. I make sure to remind the owner of that fact every now and then 😉

Earlier this year I acquired and installed a 45U equipment rack for my house, and though it felt weird and “awesome” at the same time to have one, I now can’t imagine not having one. It really does make a big difference with regards to space utilization. Plus I love the strange looks I get when people visit, because they see a familiar cable modem and home-class wireless router at the top, but then….what in the world is all that other stuff below it?! Likewise, the terminal server is great, I still use it often and couldn’t imagine life without it.

Speaking of equipment, I made a note in my (first) CCNP switch lab post about how the 3550s were $85 and the 2950s were $30. As of this posting, the 3550s are a little cheaper, around $70-80, but the 2950s can be had for as little as $15. I would think it would cost more than $15 just to ship them out! Additionally, when I first bought the switches, I really wanted the 2950-T’s because they have two RJ45 gigabit ports, but they were out of my price range at the time. Now they sell for $20. If you’re starting out at the CCNA level, you really could put together a decent lab right now for less than the price of the exam itself.

In the past year, I started out with a direct end goal in mind (CCNA > CCDA > CCNP/CCDP > CCIE) but the path changed a few times. And now it is changing again as I  pause my Cisco studies completely and study for the MCSE. I suspect this is going to be a pattern over the next few years, if not for the rest of my career. I have an ultimate end goal in mind, but the trail to reach that end goal has twists and turns that I am not aware of yet and I will have to decide how to deal with them as they are encountered.

I still feel Matthew Moran‘s book was life changing and I flip through the second edition of the book from time to time and it almost always leaves me feeling like I have a positive outlook. The book makes me feel like I have options and that I am not stuck where I am at in life.

The VoIP project I was working on never came to fruition. I think the company received sticker shock due to the fact that they’d essentially require a forklift upgrade to completely replace their analog system. I believe they decided that their current system did what it needs to and they really didn’t want to pay for the extra features that VoIP can provide. Those features suddenly became unnecessary 🙂 One thing that was kind of interesting is that at the same time I was doing this, the local cable provider started offering hosted VoIP support. I put together a spreadsheet on the cost of a DIY implementation (as I was proposing to the company) versus going with hosted voice. I estimated that at around 10 phones, it was cheaper to DIY than to go with hosted. With hosted voice they want you to sign a 3-year contract, but at 10 phones I estimated the investment in equipment would pay for itself after 2 years as compared to continuing with the contract. The company put all VoIP plans on hold for the foreseeable future. But during the whole process, I went from knowing very little about VoIP to having a good foundational set of knowledge. Before this, I would not have dared attempt to administer any kind of phone system, but now I have enough foundational knowledge where I feel like it wouldn’t be a problem.

I have found that as I study networking, I enjoy reading older textbooks as they provide great information on the way things used to be, which helps me to better understand the reason things are the way they are now. I also very much enjoyed writing about my CCNP lab experiences, and I think SWITCH especially since I was working with actual equipment.

Though my original intentions were to create a record of my professional journeys, I believe the entries of the past year reflect more of a personal journey. At the end of my very first post, I said that I felt like I was getting a late start in the game. Unfortunately, I still feel that way and I don’t know if I will ever be able to release the ghost of lost time from my psyche.

As I’ve just reviewed all of my posts for the past year, I have come to the conclusion that this entire post may be unnecessary, because it appears I do a lot of reflecting on previous posts as I make new posts anyway! I am happy to report I have learned a LOT of things in the past year, and I am looking forward to learning more in the next year 🙂