In the typical small to midsize business (SMB), the computer network was built using consumer-grade hardware and has grown organically over time. And if the network is even a few years old it’s probably not capable of meeting today’s demands.

Think about it. Just 10 years ago, most users had a single desktop or laptop computer connected via an Ethernet cable. Most applications and data were accessed on the user’s local machine. The first iPhone was still in development. Back then, Palm personal digital assistants (PDAs) reigned supreme – until they were surpassed by BlackBerry. Only 60 percent of PDAs had cellular connectivity in 2006, so the volume of data was relatively minor.

Real-time, bandwidth-hungry applications such as video streaming weren’t commonly used, and cloud-based services were still in their infancy. In fact, many people believe that the first reference to “cloud computing” was made by Google’s Eric Schmidt at a conference in 2006.

The point of this little trip down memory lane is that the rise of mobility and the cloud has changed the face of the network, as well as the demands placed on the network. Today’s infrastructure must support the high number of applications and services that are accessed through the network. However, many organizations, especially SMBs, are still using legacy network infrastructure designed for the pre-mobile, pre-cloud era.

Recognizing the need for a network upgrade is the first step. Navigating the complexities of such an undertaking will determine the success of your upgrade. Planning and testing are critical and should focus on three goals: determining how users will be affected during and after the upgrade, completing the upgrade with minimal disruption and risk, and providing you with a robust, reliable infrastructure that will support your business requirements now and in the future.

Network usage data must be analyzed to assess current needs and accurately project future growth. How many users will you have? How much traffic will need to be supported? What types of technology, applications and services will be used? How much bandwidth will they require? How will network resources be shared? Will cabling need to be upgraded?

Don’t make the mistake of retroactively implementing a security strategy. Security should be integrated into every stage of the network upgrade process. Failure to do so increases the risk of gaps in security that can leave sensitive data vulnerable. These issues are far more expensive to fix after the fact than during an upgrade.

Because a network upgrade affects everyone in your organizations, the details and impact of the upgrade should be communicated to all staff. For example, if the upgrade causes changes to how users interact with the network, these changes should be documented and shared with users. Training will likely be required.

At SSD, we take a strategic approach to network upgrades that is designed to maximize productivity and minimize business disruptions. Let us assess the current state of your network and help you develop a upgrade plan that aligns with your business needs and budget.