By Mike Buckley | Pre-Sales Consultant at Nettitude
Effective network design is crucial for the smooth running of every business. As the heart of your business activity, your network is relied upon day-in, day-out by your staff to keep business flowing, and customers returning. As most of us have experienced before, when the network goes down, chaos usually follows. When this happens, it can often be a mammoth task to get everything back up and running and the time lost is irreplaceable. However, by following best practice for network design and configuration from the beginning, you could prevent many issues before they arise.
Below, we’ll explain why establishing a well-designed and configured network is important, as well as detailing the six factors that are essential to the smooth running of your network…
Why is effective network design and configuration important?
Picture a Monday morning, you’ve just arrived at the office, you grab your usual coffee, pull up a seat at your desk ready to battle through the weekend’s emails... only to find you can’t connect to the internet. You’re aware the emails are probably beginning to flood in by now and you have some essential business plans to confirm before 9.30, but you can’t access your inbox at all. To make matters worse, the less than friendly accounts manager storms into your office, complaining that they can’t process any of the invoices from the last week, so your end of month targets don’t have much hope. What’s more, none of your staff got paid on Friday. None of the phone lines are working and the CRM is failing to load up. It’s game over for at least the rest of the day, if you’re lucky.
Situations like this are not only a huge inconvenience to the running of your business, according to Gartner, the average cost of network downtime is around $5,600 per minute. That is around $300,000 per hour. For an SME, this loss could be devastating. The simple solution is to embrace network design and configuration best practice as it’s not a case of if these types of scenarios happen, but when. Below, we’ll discuss what a good network design looks like and what you’ll need to consider to achieve this.
What is considered as ‘good’ for network design and configuration?
The first hurdle is figuring out what exactly is meant by a well designed and configured network. It can often be an overwhelming task to begin with when approaching the reconfiguration and re-design of your entire network, and whilst we can’t deny there is a certain amount of work involved, the results far outweigh the time and resource drawbacks It takes.
Ready to future proof your business and prevent your office from falling into the usual chaos when the network goes down? Take a look at these six essential factors which will need to be looked at -
Taking a look at what “good” should encompass:
- High performance
- Cost Efficient
Network efficiency factors:
Network Performance Rate
Too often, we see network infrastructure as the forgotten heart of the business. As business size and requirements change – applications and processes may evolve, but the network stays static. The network then starts trying to fulfil requirements it was never designed for, and also on out of date or over capacity hardware. This is where problems begin to arise.
Performance requirements when designing a network should be planned years in advance and include overhead capacity to allow for expected expansion (and then some more). As such, a network plan should be created alongside your business strategy and regularly updated as your business continues to grow. Of course, not all businesses have the in-house capabilities to consider these requirements, meaning budgets must be put in place to hire the right help to do this. However, the benefits of this initial advice and strategy planning far outweighs the cost as the right strategy will future proof your business from costly network outages.
Network Cost Efficiency
No network is designed without cost being a consideration, and for many businesses, cost is the most important consideration. Whether designed in house, or through an external specialist, any design will have an initial cost to implement.
What many businesses forget to consider though, is the ongoing cost of maintaining the network once the initial build is complete. Who will support and maintain the network? How will you factor in changing business demands? The cost for this can be much harder to quantify, especially as your business scales up or down. If no specialist resources are available within the business, then outsourcing becomes an essential need for the ongoing maintenance of the network. Whilst this may seem like another cost to add to the list, regular maintenance will keep any sudden and unexpected large costs at bay.
One thing is inevitable with most businesses – they’ll grow. Whilst you rejoice in the success of your business growing, it’s important to maintain the infrastructure supporting your business’s vital functions. Re-designing your network every time your company expands is neither achievable or ideal, so you’ll want to create an effective system from the beginning, by which the network design should allow for expansion, without the need to redesign.
In this sense, capacity should be able to be added in module form, so that if more users, applications or servers are required, then this should be able to be added simply, quickly and effectively. Feature considerations should also be considered, including when and where power (PoE) is required as part of the network. If in doubt about this, bring in the experts!
As technology develops and demand increases, networks are beginning to carry more and more diverse traffic. Therefore, a network should be able to not only cope with all the traffic it has to carry, but also be able to implement policies to manage traffic priority and throughput capability. There will always be protocols that are more sensitive to latency issues than others, voice protocols being a prime example of one that requires priority. Below are some examples of the traffic a network has to cope with-
- Traditional network traffic (Application, email, etc)
- Voice over IP
- Intra and Internet
- Encrypted traffic (SSL, TLS, IPSec)
A well designed, highly available network should be able to withstand one or more failures without an outage. Failover to secondary traffic paths should allow business critical applications to continue to function, whilst at the same time, an alerting mechanism should alert staff to the failure before further issues cause performance degradation.
This is why real time monitoring of networks is critical to their ongoing health and availability and is an essential factor to add into your network maintenance strategy. Let’s go back to our situation when considering why an effective network design and configuration is important. Hypothetically, by being alerted to the issues faced before the weekend, the affected business would have been able to implement emergency backup procedures over the weekend so that the business was either back up and running on the Monday morning, or at least more prepared for the impact.
For more info on what network monitoring systems are available or best suited to your business and budget, have a chat with our Security and Network Solutions Team.
When designing a network, security is not usually a foremost consideration. In fact, the network designers may not consider it at all, however, segmentation, identity and access control, and monitoring are all important factors of marinating an effective network and a smooth-running business.
One of the key areas for network security concern is around PCI-DSS. As such, anyone holding or processing cardholder data on their network should consider the PCI- Data Security Standards - ‘PCI-Data Security Standard 3.2.1 “Network Segmentation” - Without adequate network segmentation (sometimes called a "flat network") the entire network is in scope of the PCI DSS assessment.’ Giving thought to security during design can alleviate cost and complexity in other areas such as compliance, whether that be PCI-DSS, NIST or a whole host of other standards.
Overall, A good network design should be set up in a way that prepares the business to run smoothly, both now, and in the future. In addition to initial design and configuration, post implementation, the network should be maintained to ensure the 6 key areas of performance, efficiency, scalability, flexibility, availability and security is not compromised. When impacted, each one of these factors can cripple the smooth running of a business and have detrimental effects on performance and profit.
In addition, it’s essential to consider new acquisitions, location moves, transformation projects and technology adoption as a minimum when creating your network maintenance strategy. The key message? A well-designed network should allow a business to fulfil potential and should never be a roadblock or limit to business growth.
For more information on the above factors for establishing and maintaining effective network design and configuration, get in touch with your account manager, or alternatively reach out to our Security and Network Solutions experts using the provided contact details.