How to Approach Your Network Refresh to Minimize Risk, Part 1

Imagine ordering a $100 dinner from a five-star restaurant and waiting two hours for the dish to be prepared while you’re forced to listen to the world’s worst jazz band. When the server finally brings out your dinner, it’s not what you ordered. After another hour, you receive the right dish, but it tastes awful. Then you’re handed a bill for triple the cost because they charged you for both meals and there was a hidden fee for live entertainment.

The combination of too much time, too much aggravation, and too high of a cost isn’t a successful formula for anything, especially when the end result falls short of expectations.

This is why small to midsize businesses are so apprehensive about taking on a network refresh. Without the right planning and expertise, a technology upgrade could cause major disruption and create serious financial hardship. Many organizations would rather deal with the known quantity than risk taking on a project that could potentially turn their organization upside down.

The question is this. Do you fully understand the limitations of your legacy network and the competitive disadvantages it creates?

Legacy networks weren’t designed with automation in mind. They weren’t designed to support bandwidth-hungry applications. They weren’t designed to provide the level of performance required for video, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and other modern business tools. They weren’t designed to transmit and store never-ending streams of data from mobile devices, cloud platforms and Internet of Things sensors. They weren’t designed to support computing at the network edge. They weren’t designed to detect a nonstop barrage of bot-driven security threats that grow in number and sophistication on an almost daily basis.

The advantages of a network refresh far outweigh the risks. The key is to do your homework before you create a plan of attack for your network refresh project.

Research begins with a look at where your organization is now, where you’d like it to be, and how potential changes will affect demand on your network. For example, do you expect the organization to grow in terms of people, facilities and services offered? What performance, storage and bandwidth requirements will need to be addressed? What are today’s compliance requirements, and how do you expect them to change as regulators give consumers more control of their own data?

Once you’ve discussed needs and goals, take inventory of your network infrastructure. Document the manufacturer and model number of every piece of equipment – servers, switches, routers, storage appliances, etc. What operating systems are being used? What is the cost of each component of your network infrastructure, including maintenance, support, licensing and energy consumption?

Take inventory of all software as well. From databases and customer relationship management systems to accounting and sales, what applications are being used? Are you paying for software that is notbeing used?

The information you’ve gathered and organized will help you during the vendor evaluation process. What are your biggest areas of need? What potential integration problems require proactive planning? Are there any compatibility issues? Where and how will applications be hosted? Will you have to upgrade any hardware or software to work with a particular vendor? Would it make sense to upgrade this technology anyway? How much training will your team need when the network refresh is complete?

Once you’ve done your homework, you can develop your network refresh plan. In the next post, we’ll cover the keys to successful plan development and execution and why an experienced provider is your most valuable asset throughout this process.