10 Important Questions to Ask When Considering a Network Upgrade

Updated: April 30, 2009

As businesses expand and change, they may outgrow their existing networks and require an upgrade. Since network upgrades tend to be long-term investments, it is important to plan for future growth while still addressing current needs. In order to meet this objective, proper planning must be done before the first piece of new equipment is purchased. Be sure to consider the below issues when your company is planning an upgrade.

1. The Number of Users and the Types of Equipment: How many network users, printers and servers will the network support? Be sure to include anticipated growth of new users and devices over the next 12 months at the minimum.

2. Types of Growth Expected: Will the company be adding new users to an existing office? Is the business planning a remote office? Consider possible mergers, acquisitions and other factors that can change the nature of the current office space.

3. Current Internet Connectivity: How does the business connect to the Internet? Does the ISP or the company own the equipment? If the company upgrades its connectivity, it may need to get the equipment to enable this improvement.

4. Application Requirements: What applications does the network need to operate? It is especially important to identify the requirements of voice and video applications . These applications often require special services from an ISP in order to maintain an acceptable quality of service.

5. Existing Network Infrastructure and Layout: How many devices are currently on the network? How are they physically laid out? Is cabling running all over the floor, hidden in walls or threaded through the ceiling? When buying equipment, you must take physical infrastructure into account, as well as future plans for new services.

6. New Services Required: What new services will be required now or in the future? If the network will have to accommodate a remote office, for instance, consider a VPN (virtual private network) connection. VoIP and video conferencing are common applications that your business may want to add in the future. These services should be taken into account when you are designing a network upgrade.

7. Security and Privacy: Does your company currently have a firewall in place? Today's Integrated Services Routers incorporate the features of stand-alone firewalls, saving space and simplifying complexity. It may be time to ditch the extra hardware.

8. Wireless Requirements: Your business may want to upgrade a wired network or replace it with a wireless one . Or the company may want a combination of wired and wireless technology. How big is the area that your wireless network must cover? Each wireless access point has a limited range that is affected by the physical characteristics of the area to be covered.

9. Reliability and Uptime Considerations: What is the real cost of downtime to the company? How much downtime can the business tolerate before incurring financial losses? Maintaining 100 percent uptime is extremely expensive and impractical. You have to decide, in discussion with all stakeholders, how much reliability the company can afford.

10. Budget Constraints: What is the budget for the network upgrade? System performance, reliability and scalability are all affected by budget considerations. You will have to make trade-offs among these factors. A complete cost-benefit analysis should be performed to determine what features and services are most valuable to the business right now and which must be postponed.

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