As companies expand, their networks need to evolve to keep pace—especially, if your company has grown significantly, like those rapidly expanding from a small business to a global enterprise. Businesses in this situation have come to increasingly rely on their network infrastructure to provide them with mission-critical services.
Regardless of your size or timeline, when your business grows, so do your network requirements. Which is why you have to be certain your plans for network expansion are not only solid but also scalable for future growth.
Start with an assessment
Before expanding your network you should assess your current situation including what your future needs may be. You’ll want to do a site survey and answer the following questions, analyzing your answers, before making decisions about how exactly to approach your expansion.
- How do you want your new network to operate?
- What are the technical realities of your existing network’s capabilities?
- Which network infrastructure model will work best for you?
- What will you need to properly scale your network, today and for the future?
- What are your privacy and security concerns?
- What new services will you need?
- What types of media will be used on the network and how will that affect your network requirements for speed?
- What types of switching needs to occur?
- Which types of connections can be formed?
- What are your reliability and uptime expectations?
- What are your wireless requirements?
- What is your budget?
- What is your timeline?
- Which physical hardware components are necessary for your new network?
- What software components are relevant to the expansion?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a good overview and be able to analyze how your existing resources (financial, technological, network, and employee) balance with the costs and the necessity of certain network components within your proposed timeline.
Make a plan
Planning a new network involves critical thinking and foresight at every step along the way. Choices must be made, not only in regards to protocols and transmission technologies, but also for optimum performance, usability, and scalability. The more detailed your plans are, the better shape you’ll be in as you move forward to build and implement those plans for expansion and for future expansions.
But before you ever implement your new network plan, you’ll need to consider the physical infrastructure of your network (the actual physical design or network topology, which when coupled with your hardware, provides the physical framework of the network) and the logical topology, including data paths and network functions like routing, using these basic steps:
- Determine the necessary hardware and software (operating systems, applications, and other necessary software) components
- Will software products, networking protocols, and services work together and communicate through clearly thought out and well-defined routes? (Calculate a routing plan, and the size of the components).
- Location: Where will these components physically live in your organization?
- Who is the best-fit solution to partner with you on your network expansion? (Remember, vendors like Summit can provide new or used equipment, oftentimes, with better prices and warranty packages than your current value added resellers.)
- Who will purchase, assemble, install and configure these components?
- What’s the timeline?
- What are your long-term and medium-term network plans?
- How will operations and maintenance be handled?
Be sure to include topology maps for your existing network on a basic inventory to help you see what new equipment is required and the best way to structure the network to support your growth.
Next, consider any feedback and recommendations from key players and as well as any analysis that helps you identify your network’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Develop a step-by-step rollout plan that clearly defines the individual tasks to be completed, along with their order.
Remember, that for each of these questions and actions you have multiple decisions to manage from design, to equipment allocation (types of cabling, switches, routers) and vendors, to timelines to manage for all key players (from high-level decision makers to network designers, IT, hardware and software partners). Your careful, detailed planning and documentation will be your blueprint through the complexities and over the inevitable roadblocks to your successful network expansion.