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How can I get a better understanding of routing and switching and all the Layer 3 protocols?

I was recently let go from my job. I have almost a years worth of experience with Cisco routers and switches and I have my CCNA, MSCE and CNE. I would like to get a better understanding of routing and switching and all the Layer 3 protocols before I get back into the job market. What do you suggest? Should I invest in books, online training or even buy my own routers/switch like the Ebay bundles?
I swear I'm not being flippant when I answer your questions "all of the above." That's because you'll need books to teach you concepts, terms, principles and practices. If you can't learn this stuff entirely on your own, online training will make sure you get to work through it in a structured environment where you can ask somebody presumably more knowledgeable and qualified for additional information and clarification when you want it. But absolutey nothing beats the value of hands-on experience in working with this technology, so access to a lab of some kind, real or virtual, yours or somebody else's, is absolutely essential to making the most of the process. I'd also urge you to get a protocol analyzer (perhaps the free open source Ethereal would do the trick for you) and learn as much as you can about how traffic looks and behaves "on the wire" if you really want to get into routing, switching and the protocols up through Layer 3. Good luck. With your attitude and interests you should do very well.
This was last published in September 2004

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