Wednesday, November 21, 2012 CCIE Voice Bootcamp Review

Hello again!
   I've finally managed to write a review about the CCIE Voice Bootcamp. I know that many of you, just like me, are trying to find information about the products that will help you to study for the lab exam. The truth is that there is not so much to discover especially reviews about 3rd party material and content. You may have talked to friends, colleagues or cooperators and have concluded that product A is better than product B. Or maybe you've watched some sample videos and presentations from various training vendors. But you're not exactly sure what is better for you. What I'll try to do is to write a decent review about the CCIE Voice Bootcamp exclusively based on my experience. Read after the break.
   So I was at London for two weeks last September (2012 that is) in order to participate in one of those 10-day Bootcamps. I'll try to breakdown this review in 4 categories and add a score for each one of them.

Bootcamp Premises
   I can imagine that participating to the Bootcamp at Seattle for example, where the INE HQ is located, would be the best option for many reasons. But for us that we aren't living in the US is difficult to spend the money to travel there. So I found my self at London for 15 days.
   The place that the Bootcamp took place was the Hotel Rydges Kensington located at South Kensington (51.49630, -0.18224). I believe this is where the Bootcamp takes place every time in London. The hotel its self is very expensive and if you plan to stay there keep in mind that you'll need approximately £2000 for 13 nights (breakfast included). I'll suggest you to book to another  hotel close to the Rydges.
  The actual place of the Bootcamp was the main conference room at the ground floor. One of the problems we had was the internet connection speed. We shared the same link with the hotel's clients and some other hotels connected to the local loop (as I've heard). So afternoons were a nightmare. The instructor had to  talk to the hotel's IT personnel or the ISP's help desk in many occasions. Above of this we also lost almost 2 days because of internet failures and because one of the INE's routers failed. The instructor had a backup though.
   We were 10 participants there. Each one of us had a desk and plenty of space to put the 6 IP phones, the laptop, notebooks etc. We had to do the cabling by our selves the first day but this was not a problem. Everything was configured by the instructor in no time (almost :P).
   I believe that they could find a better place for the job. I understand that they want to keep the budget low so they can give a competitive price. But this specific hotel is not for that sort of things in my opinion.
Score: 2/5
   If you've watched any of INE CCIE Voice videos, free or purchased, you would already know Mark Snow. He's managed to find a workaround to every situation came up as I described above. Of course this was not Mark's fault but he did what ever was possible to guarantee a flawless course. He was staying late at evenings  to help whoever needed help with the lab, or answer questions specific to the tasks or more generic questions about the technologies.
   The style is the same with the video courses that you've might watched. If not watch this free sample. Remember that you need some previous experience with Cisco Voice technologies. It's not possible to explain in great depth all the subjects in such a short time frame like a Bootcamp. You must have some sort of knowledge and hands on experience in order to be able to follow. In case that someone needed further clarifications the instructor was there to explain.
   I think that the kind of the interaction with the instructor, for this specific Bootcamp as INE decided to deliver, is 100% successful.
Score: 4.5/5
   I'll be clear from the beginning. This Bootcamp won't prepare you to take the exam the next month. I haven't participated in any other vendor's Bootcamp, but I've heard that there are products out there with a different philosophy. If you need something that will stress you a lot as if you were into the actual exam, doing labs over and over again (workbook 2 is like this and you can do it on your own), then this is not for you. What is it then? It's an eye opener, a perfect guide on how you should continue with your study. It's also a great opportunity  to see how much work you need, spend huge amounts of time in a lab, exercise your brains, discuss with the other participants and Mark of course  about the technologies and get answers to questions with examples in real time demonstration on the vRack.
   You run a specific scenario for 8 days. A day is divided in two sections. Morning to noon was the theoretical part, explaining technologies etc. After the launch break and until late evening was the part of actual configuration and hands on training. You work on your own but the instructor is there to help you with anything. On the 9th day you'll run a Mock lab the whole day (actually it's timed to 8 hours but you can continue working after 8 hours). This will put your feet on the ground and show you that you have selected a difficult path and need A LOT of work until the actual exam. It was quite disappointing for me since I didn't manage to finish even the 30% of the tasks. The 10th day you will discuss the solutions of the Mock lab and Mark will explain everything.
   You will spend each day on a different section of the CCIE Voice blueprint. The best thing is that you can be there for the whole weekend and over nights. The conference room was booked exclusively by INE 24x7. We had access whenever we wanted. I was staying there from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. most of the days including the weekend for hands on experimenting, watching videos and reading. If you needed any help the instructor was there till late evening. I definitely am and feel richer with the knowledge I earned from the Bootcamp. It helped me to concentrate and focus more. It made clear  to me where do I stand. Of course this also has to do with the preparation level of the participant.
Score: 4/5
   There was a bundle All Access Pass with The Bootcamp for $3999. You can find out more about the INE AAP here. I've reviewed many other products and found out that this is the cheaper for me. It included vRack tokens. I don't have my own hardware so this was nice. Of course you are not using every resource content in this bundle. So even if you just want to purchase the Bootcamp without the AAP thing, you pay the same and you get the AAP. They just add more value and of course the 2 workbooks.
                                                                                                                                                 Score: 4/5
   I think that the most important thing is the knowledge you earn in such cases. By the end of the day you forget the bad moments. For me it was very important and helped  me to understand the technologies and  the strategy that I must follow after the course. Of course this might not work in to the lab. but I'll write another post after everything have ended. I don't believe that this Bootcamp will help those who are very close to take the lab exam. Except if it makes them to reschedule the exam and change their studying plan :)
   So if there wasn't the issue with the connection this would be a 4.5/5. Maybe it was a bad lack and this is not something that is happening quite often. But the whole package is what I'm reviewing. Many of you who don't live in the US would wondering which solution is better. I hope this will help you decide.
Final  Score: 3.6/5

I'll be back with more posts about the INE product after my exam on the 20th of December. I'll know exactly how helpful all this was for sure.