During periods of growth or expansion, the existing IT network that supports a company begins to struggle to keep up. In many cases, a company will choose to add various network hardware devices to connect new users or get through periods of growth. These types of “band aid fixes” often result in a degradation of network quality, and in some cases full network failure. Ideally network upgrades are planned for, and executed before changes in traffic requirements arise, as it generally saves cost and time. To learn more about when you should consider a network upgrade, check out our blog 10 Signs Your Wi-Fi Network Needs an Upgrade.
Here we are going to dive into what a network upgrade looks like. While each network is unique, there are some standard processes that ensure a network upgrade runs smoothly and achieves the intended goals. A common large project team will include an account manager or sales rep, a project designer, technicians or installers, and in some cases, a dedicated project manager.
A site survey is completed so that the network design team has all the information they need to create a project plan for you. It will show what is currently present at your location, and what is needed. A site survey will be completed by a technician and in some cases a sales representative to gather necessary information from the customer. The site survey is largely focused on gathering data on your current network environment, but it is also used to forecast future network requirements. Here is a list of some of the main things gathered during a site survey:
Quantity of Users and Types of Equipment
How many users, printers, servers, laptops, access points, etc. are on the network? A technician will determine how many devices are currently being supported by your network and will consider how many additional devices will be added over the next couple of years.
Growth projection includes the addition of employees as well as new branch offices or distribution centers. The IT infrastructure network is a long-term investment that requires planning.
Current Internet Connectivity
How does your company connect to the internet? Wirelessly or do you primarily use a hardwired connection? Do you own your equipment or does your internet service provider lease it to you? This is important to consider in case there are contracts you are involved in.
Which applications and tools your team utilize for day-to-day operations make a huge difference in how much bandwidth you require and the types of hardware that will be considered. Videoconferencing, cloud applications, and IP telephony all require network device configuration.
Existing Network Infrastructure Layout
The site survey technician will document the physical layout of your IT infrastructure. Some businesses have a blueprint of their current environment, but if this doesn’t exist it will be created for you for planning and implementation purposes.
Do you need wireless, wired, or both? How big is the area that your WLAN must cover? A technician will analyze your current hardware and determine what is needed moving forward. This includes an estimated number of wireless access points and their placement. To estimate the number of wireless access points needed, a technician will need to understand how many users and devices will be connecting to the internet as well as how large the physical space is.
Security Practices and Requirements
Cybersecurity is a huge topic for businesses all over the world. Part of your site survey will include a discussion around firewalls and routers, which will help you and your provider understand what might be needed moving forward from a hardware perspective.
The site survey data can be extremely helpful in determining your budget for a network upgrade. It is a powerful decision-making aid when it comes to planning for what can be upgraded now and what will need to be done in the future.
The Network Upgrade
Once the site survey is completed and all the data has been gathered, the network upgrade process can begin. There are generally five phases of a network upgrade once the site survey and reports are complete including:
This phase is where the provider analyzes the site survey data and determines the network requirements. This stage is very important because it sets up the entire project for success, and adequate time should be spent ensuring all pertinent information has been gathered.
Design and Selection
This phase is where cable and network hardware are selected by the provider that aligns with the customer’s needs and budget. Often, there will be multiple options with a cost-benefit analysis presented so that the customer can make informed decisions. There are many different brands and quality levels of network hardware out there.
The implementation phase begins when the project design is complete, and all hardware has been decided upon. The project manager(s) will create an implementation schedule and the technical installers will complete the project. Issues that arise during the implementation phase are most commonly due to errors during requirements gathering, or the design and selection phase.
Operation and Evaluation
The operational phase is where everything is booted up and tested for functionality. Any issues will be documented, and a plan will be put in place to fix them.
Review and Future Planning
Once the project is completed, the provider and the customer will meet to discuss maintenance of their network to ensure health and longevity. Maintenance includes keeping hardware up to date, keeping the data closet or center clean and organized, and training any employees who will be working on your network.
As we mentioned above, every business network is unique, and projects vary widely in size and requirements. The purpose of this article was to provide a high-level overview of what a typical network upgrade project could look like.
If you would like information on what a network upgrade would look like for your business, reach out to us at ContactUs@Matrix-NDI.com or call 763-475-5500.