There’s a lot of hype out there in the industry, and it can be difficult to figure out what’s essential for a stable, reliable network that supports your business requirements. You don’t want to over-invest in technology you really don’t need. But you also don’t want to miss out on improvements and innovations that can drive your business forward and deliver real ROI.
The answer doesn’t start with the technologies available. The most important thing is to first have a good network design. This will give you the foundation you need to evaluate options and make better technology decisions for your organization.
Components of a Good Network Design
First, a definition. A network design is exactly what it sounds like—a plan for how all the elements of your network link together. It includes a topological design that maps out where all the components are placed and how they’re connected. And it defines how the elements will support performance SLAs and how the network will meet capacity requirements. But a lot more goes into it. To build an effective network design, you need to consider the following:
- Connectivity: As the name implies, this is how systems and devices connect—to each other and to the outside world. Modern networks must provide multiple types of connectivity—such as LAN/WAN, Internet, cloud, wireless, mobile, etc.—to support various needs.
- Hardware and software: Keeping your network running smoothly means ensuring all the hardware and software is fully operational. But when you’re dealing with a hodgepodge, this can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. The more you can standardize hardware, software, and peripherals across the network, the more you can streamline your efforts and ensure network stability and performance.
- Security: Network security is critical and must be built into your network design right from the start. You may want to segment your network to keep certain sensitive or high-risk functions or systems more isolated to protect them from infiltration.
- Redundancy and failover: Downtime happens. How much a business can sustain, however, varies. Some organizations can operate with 5 minutes of downtime with no significant impact, while others could lose millions of dollars in an outage of mere seconds. You need to have a plan to support your company’s availability requirements, which means building in redundancy and failover that will support those needs.
- Disaster recovery: In addition to planning for routine glitches that can disrupt normal operations, you also need a plan for a true disaster, such as a fire, hurricane, or other major incident. This includes backup processes and recovery protocols—as well as periodically testing those procedures.
- Regulatory compliance: There are numerous regulations and standards governing data and systems that companies must adhere to. Organizations that hold customer data must comply with GDPR and CCPA. Companies that process credit card transactions are subject to PCI DSS requirements. And there are others, such as HIPAA in healthcare. You need to ensure your network design supports all the regulatory requirements applicable to your business.
- Monitoring and documentation: Your network design is your starting point. But the network itself, once it’s up and running, operates in the real world and evolves over time. You need to monitor the network on an ongoing basis to ensure it continues to function as designed—and to quickly identify and fix any problems that arise. And you should document the inevitable changes you make, and the elements you add or remove, to maintain an up-to-date picture of your network.
The Balancing Act
Developing a network design requires making decisions, and decisions usually come with trade-offs. That’s why you need to carefully evaluate what your business needs, so you can best determine how to fulfill those requirements within the budget you have. And, of course, you must create a network design that anticipates future needs to allow for growth.
You should also factor in your team’s expertise and capacity, especially given the current shortage of skilled IT talent. If your team doesn’t have the knowledge or is too short-staffed to manage the “bells and whistles” of a complex network, you could run into problems. This doesn’t mean you need to oversimplify your network or forego needed functionality, but you may want to consider how managed solutions fit into your design and plan.
Need Help Building Your Best Network Design?
While there are best practices when it comes to designing a network, context is critical. There’s no one network design that’s ideal for everyone. The individual requirements, budget, and resources of your business must be taken into account. That’s why working with a trusted partner, like BCM One, can be beneficial. We’ll work with you to create a network design that supports your business and technical requirements. Contact us to learn more.