Used #CCNA Router Pricing Process
Part-timer Chris has been dutifully scouring eBay off-and-on for the last two months, checking for router and switch prices. Today, I’ll provide a few background details on routers, router interfaces, methods, and interesting random facts. Next week – updated prices, which then gives us a better idea of which models to look to buy.
Earlier posts in this series:
- CCENT and CCNA Lab Gear
- CCENT and CCNA Lab Topologies
- IOS Version 15 for a Cisco Home Lab – or Not
- Narrowing Your Router Search Based on IOS Version
- CCNA Home Lab Homework: Cisco Feature Navigator
- Specific Searches for Your CCNA Lab
- Final Words on CCNA Router Lab
How We Priced Routers
When setting Chris to this task to look at eBay prices for old gear, I gave him a lot of criteria of what to look for. First, for the basics:
- Only look for “Buy it Now” options, ignoring auctions
- Ignore suspiciously cheap listings
- Only use examples that have a pre-defined (by Wendell) minimum RAM and Flash memory size (more to come on this topic)
For example, 1721’s have traditionally been a great used router for CCNA study, so of course I had Chris look at those. For criteria 1, on eBay, Chris clicked the option for “Buy it Now” only. That lists only items with a price for which you can just buy it at a pre-set price, more like at a normal store.
The motivation for requirement #2 is that the prices listed at Certskills.com show what you could reasonably expect to spend if you turn around and buy the same thing today. So, after making the page list only “Buy it Now” options, Chris then sorted from lowest to highest price, and then paged through items ignoring cheap replacement parts, until some 1721 router listings showed up on the page. Finally, he also ignored any single items with super-low prices compared to the others. Why? A single unusually low priced item does not reflect what you would normally expect to see every day.
Finally, on point #3, many used routers come with too little RAM or flash to run the IOS version you want for CCNA. So, you’ll want to check the details with Cisco Feature Navigator, and ask the reseller what IOS version and feature set is installed, and the RAM and flash installed, before choosing to buy.
For example, a 1721 can run 12.4T, and per this earlier post, you would most likely want to use the IP/ADSL Plus feature set, as listed in the tables at my web site. Well, the max possible RAM and Flash in a 1721 is 128M and 32M, respectively, and 12.4T w/ IP/ADSL Plus requires all of it. So I had Chris ignore listings that had less than 128/32 RAM/Flash for the pricing research.
Finally… Chris has done 2 or 3 rounds of price gathering over a several month period, just to avoid getting prices based on a temporary glut of one model of router. He’s wrapping the last bit this week.
800’s are Great… But No Serial Interfaces
I’ve mentioned several router models in the 800 series over the earlier posts in this series. They can be great (and cheap) options for CCNA study. The 831 models, which can run up through a 12.4T version of IOS, seem to be particularly cheap these days, for instance.
The bad news: these routers do not support serial interfaces. They generally come with:
- Several Ethernet ports that combine to form a small built-in Ethernet switch
- Some WAN interface with which to connect a small office to the Internet: another Ethernet port, DSL, etc.
So, while popular, and useful for CCNA, you would not be able to test features such as HDLC, PPP, and Frame Relay.
15.1M Supply on 87x and 2600XM was Sparse
So, imagine the life of a 2600XM series router for a moment. For example:
- Purchased new by Big Co in 2003
- Ran non-stop for 6 years, other than one legal IOS upgrade to 12.4T, same feature set
- Big Co sold the router to Reseller Co; the router has 12.4T installed at the time
- Now sits in the user router inventory of a reseller, with that same 12.4T IOS on it
When you see that router listed for sale on eBay, even though the hardware is capable of running 15.1M on it, it probably has 12.4T on it. Why? Loading 15.1M takes the reseller one big leap closer to legal trouble. Here’s why:
- Big Co bought the router, originally, from Cisco, legally, with all rights to run IOS for a certain feature set.
- Big Co kept the router under a Cisco maintenance agreement, so the IOS upgrade to 12.4T was even legal.
When Reseller Co tries to sell the router, they have a choice: keep the same IOS (version and feature set) on the router, or “upgrade” in their lab. The upgrade is literally as simple as copying a new IOS file to flash. But that’s also an overt choice to break Cisco’s IOS licensing – either by upgrading to a newer IOS (same feature set), or upgrading with the same IOS version but a better feature set.
To be safe, the reseller may sell the device with the IOS that it came with.
Enough of the story time, and back to the pricing exercise. One thing Chris noticed when looking for prices was that eBay listed very few 2600XM or 871/877 router models with 15.1M, or even 15.0M, already loaded. So, while these models may be great fits for a CCNA lab because of their support for 15.1M, you may have trouble finding them with the right IOS version and feature set.