Pin a network upgrade project plan to the top of your 2017 to-do list
As we enter into the last few months of the year, it's as good a time as any to reflect on your current network operations and put together a network upgrade project plan to keep things running smoothly into 2017 and beyond.
Making sure their network infrastructure is running optimally can go a long way toward helping businesses scale their operations and keep pace with new demands.
Even if the number of employees stays static, it pays to periodically review old assumptions in the light of new developments and shifts in usage. This could entail making configuration tweaks to better align with changing usage levels of the network or identifying aging equipment that needs upgrading, paving the way for future business growth.
With this in mind, here are two key areas of any network upgrade project plan.
Upgrade the network core
First, your business should consider an upgrade of the network core. The affordability of fast network switches means you can affordably bump up most networks to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) for servers and storage devices and at least 1 Gbps for the rest of the local area network (LAN). This increase in speed can result in transferring larger files and heftier amounts of data faster, and when combined with low latency, your operations will run smoother—and quicker—than ever.
However, a network upgrade isn't solely about speed; swapping out obsolete network switches also opens the door for the introduction of more modern ones. For instance, if you're going from an unmanaged network to a smart-managed or fully managed network, new switches will incorporate additional intelligence and advanced features, which make managing the network easier with their ability to offer greater visibility into the network.
The new equipment also makes it possible to set up a virtual LAN (VLAN) to segment the network, if you don't already work in a smart-managed network environment, which allows for VLAN. The enforced isolation increases security and makes it simpler to seclude and diagnose potential network problems. More importantly, businesses can leverage VLANs to support latency-sensitive applications, such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and video streaming, allowing you to prioritize and shape selected data flows.
Finally, if you're not already using switching with Power over Ethernet (PoE), you should be. It can eliminate the need for clunky, mid-span power injectors. Those without PoE hardware can now rely on it to power a large array of devices, such as IP phones, IP cameras, and other network-powered IoT devices in the office.
Setting up PoE can also go a long way toward driving greater energy efficiency and reliability by eliminating scores of incompatible external power adapters with a standard power infrastructure. Protecting against power outages can be added with the installation of a suitable, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) appliance at a central location (usually the server closet).
Examine your network cabling
Many people often overlook network cabling, but it's a critical aspect of upgrading network infrastructure. Of course, it's a hassle to set up new cable runs, so it's common for IT managers to future-proof their investment by specifying the latest (and greatest) network cables during installation—which means this may not be a problem.
Still, the ubiquity of Wi-Fi in recent years shows you should reevaluate whether existing cable runs adequately meet the needs of your business. Specifically, you should mount Wi-Fi access points (AP) on ceilings or walls for optimal coverage, but suitable LAN ports may not be nearby.
You can conduct a review on this front in tandem on whether existing LAN points can appropriately scale with future growth. For now, opting for a minimum of CAT 6 cables will ensure support for the new 2.5G and 5G Ethernet standards for faster speeds on the LAN. This isn't about desktop computers, either—faster Wi-Fi will saturate existing Gigabit Ethernet in the future, which necessitates the use of 2.5G and 5G. Should you install new cables, consider adding redundant runs for important links. This can serve to protect against failures and increase capacity with the use of link aggregation, if necessary.
Crafting the perfect network upgrade project plan now will ensure you can start the new year smoothly—and what better way to begin? With these necessary network infrastructure elements upgraded to meet current (and future) needs, you can spend less time worrying about capacity and bandwidth and more time capitalizing on business growth.