Setting up your business’ network is a huge undertaking. In the past, building your network was all about buying the specific hardware and physical devices that would allow your employees to do their work at their workstations in the office. Networks were simpler, and the decisions to create them were simpler too.
Technically, any device connected to another device is part of your network. A growing number of devices used by employees for everyday work, company data storage and backup, a diverse set of needs for high and low traffic data flow, platform(s) for consumers engaging with the business – These are all factors you must think about when designing a network for your business.
Advances in technology have also made networks central and vital to the operations of any business. So, building a network has become more complicated as well as that much more important to get right. In addition, your network must work at lightning speeds with no glitches– your employees and customers will expect it.
Network design: where to start?
If you are in the planning stages for launching your business, upgrading your network to grow your business, or overhauling a network that isn’t serving your business, you should start with a comprehensive plan or blueprint.
With a whole squad–your IT network designers, your IT team, your managed service providers, and other employees or outsourced IT help– developing a network design follows a similar path as any major project. The planning process begins by identifying what you expect or need from your network and continues with determining what hardware and software you’ll need in order to support those business goals.
First we’ll present the many moving parts that make up typical business networks (the ingredients), then discuss some important design tips.
What are the components of a business network?
A business’ network is made up of many moving parts that need to work on their own and together. The planning phase is an important time to review all the network components on the market that your business might utilize, analyze which are best for your unique business needs, and decide how to design a network that will work cohesively. Here are some of the typical network components for businesses:
- Desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile devices
Traditional workstations – for example, a desktop computer in a cubicle– might not be the best option for your business. Or, they might just be a starting point with employees also using company mobile devices or tablets as well.
- Servers, switches, modems, routers
Your business needs these pieces of hardware to connect to different devices, which provide access to the internet and to each other.
Servers do many things. The most general way of describing what they do is that they manage the data and devices that exist on the network. Examples of specific functions that servers do is provide storage for data, control access to the network, or even serve as a host to the business’ website. A server might be on the physical premise of the business or exist virtually on the internet.
Switches connect different devices within the network together, physically creating a network. Switches allow for quick and direct transfer of data and information between devices.
Modems and routers deal with the internet. Modems provide access to the internet; routers connect your network and different devices to the internet. Depending on your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the package you purchase, you’ll buy or rent hardware like modems and routers to have a secure and fast internet connection.
- Firewalls (a starting point for security)
Firewalls allow or prevent data from flowing between devices. Firewalls are an important part of network design, but you should also be thinking about intrusion prevention systems (IPS), network access control (NAC), security and event management (SIEM), data loss prevention (DLP), and antivirus software. Securing your network is no joke and is one of the most important things to consider when designing, building, upgrading, or changing your network in any way.
Network design best practices
When designing your network, there are obviously many considerations that will be unique to your business needs. General best practices when it comes to network design include:
It’s easiest to consider the scalability of a network when you’re just starting out, but at any point in upgrading or changing your network, scalability should also be a priority. A business will have different demands on its network as the business grows or pivots to new or different objectives. Things like increasing bandwidth capacity or adding devices is easier and less costly when the possibility of making those additions were considered in the construction of the network from the outset.
As previously mentioned, security is essential to a business network. Ensuring no data is lost or stolen and that the company faces minimal costly downtime are just two of the biggest reasons security should be a top priority. A comprehensive approach to security includes a security plan that is built into the infrastructure of the network, including policies and monitoring software or outsourced monitoring of the network.
When choosing hardware and software that will make up your business’ network, it’s easy to get caught up in nice sounding or expensive packages, which you end up not needing or using. Conversely, buying quantity over quality can also lead to waste. This can be alleviated with good planning, ensuring your decisions are guided by business objectives, and relying on an overall blueprint in the creation of a cohesive network.
- Support & monitoring
Having an IT managed service provider consistently monitoring and providing quick help is another consideration when budgeting for your network maintenance and upkeep. MSPs prevent problems from happening and are always there to quickly address issues and prevent down time.
- Internal IT policies
Although not technically part of designing your network, this bullet should be considered during the planning or designing of your network because it is important to how your network will function. Creating solid internal IT policies, including an employee training program, where appropriate, is essential. Security or data loss prevention measures are useless if employees are not trained in how to use their devices and software. Having training and clear policies for employees allows for a fast and efficient network.
Looking to set up, expand, or enhance your company’s network design? Our team at Royal Network IT Solutions, Inc. can guide you along the process to make sure you’re making good decisions tailored to your unique business needs. Our professionals have over 50 years of experience providing technical support to the Tustin and Eastvale areas of California.
Call or email us today for a consultation at (949) 236-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.