At the very basic level, you require a network in order for all of the devices within your technology environment to speak with one another. This includes the wired network, featuring jacks and cables for computers to connect. It includes the wireless network, where devices connect to the network remotely. It also includes site-to-site networks, where two or more buildings need connectivity between them.
When purchasing networking technology you’ll be doing it for one of two reasons: either you need to build a networking infrastructure from the ground up, or you’ll expand on your existing system.
The reason for building a new network is pretty straightforward – you’ve moved into a new building and you need to start from scratch with your network. This will be an involved process where you may need to build
As far as expansion, there are many reasons. You may be a growing company that requires additional bandwidth for the extra activity. You may have employees working remotely and need to build wireless capabilities on top of your wired system. You may even expand for financial reasons – an example of this is for companies with multiple buildings that are paying ISPs separately for each building. If the buildings have a clear line of site to one another, installing site-to-site networking equipment on the roofs to create a singular network could save a lot of money.
The Common Network Consideration
Most commonly, networks of today are being built at 1 GB speed. There are certainly many older networks that are running at 100 MB speed. Before that the standard was 10 MB speed, but that is almost never the case any longer.
The speed of the network will determine the physical technology that is associated with the build. A faster network required different wiring than a slower one, using cable standards like Cat5, Cat5E, Cat6, or Cat6A. The distance will also affect the wiring – anything over 100 meters may require fiber cable. This comes into play in situations like long warehouses, or buildings that are within close proximity but require over 100 meters to run a cable from one to the other. Inside the buildings for less than 100 meters you can go back to copper cabling.
In addition, the network equipment will be different depending on the speed of the network because the devices that are concentrating these connections are critical in determining the speed of the network.
In some cases, you may want to run certain parts of your network at 10 GB speed, one of the fastest out there now. This is a costly speed, so many companies will not need or be able to run the entire network at 10 GB. However, you may choose to run 10 GB in the backend as part of a storage network or another dedicated channel that requires a high bandwidth.
Wireless networks are determined by need. Wireless networks are needed for many things – if a factory employee uses a handheld barcode scanner on the floor, then you’ll need a wireless network for it to connect to. Or, perhaps you’re in an accounting office where most work is done on dedicated desktops and you only need a small wireless component for guests.
Expanding the Network
Network expansion is mainly driven by two categories – growth and functionality.
Growth can come from expanding the size of your office, taking on additional facilities in the same building, or even adding another building in another area of town or another location altogether. Growth is a driver of expansion. You need more seats, more functionality, more equipment, etc.
Justifying expansion to key stakeholders due to growth should be a fairly simple process. When a company is growing – adding new facilities and new employees – corporate leadership typically has a built-in expectation that there will be additional expense in networking to cover those additions. The IT department should be able to make the case that opening a new building or doubling the size of their office will require expansion of networking cost. They’re likely putting forth a large capital expenditure by opening the new office anyway.
For functionality, wireless is a great example. Perhaps you have limited or no wireless capability but you’re looking to incorporate remote employees. This is a clear case where office functionality requires expansion of the network. You may also wish to increase the complexity of your networking footprint, perhaps when opening a new site. You’d need to buy new equipment for the sites to be able to communicate. Or, perhaps, you simply wish to upgrade a portion of your network to 10 GB speed for better functionality. Again, this requires network expansion.
The justification on new functionality can be more difficult to make. You’re bringing a new functionality to the company that doesn’t exist, so it’s necessary to have a good business case for why that functionality – and the cost associated – is needed. The better picture you have of employee productivity and financial impact, the easier it is to make the case for new technology.
Take a law firm for example – they understand they make X amount of dollar per hour. So if you can save one hour per week, you’ve saved X amount. If the cost of the equipment is less than X, then it’s justified. It’s tougher to determine X in other industries, but if you can prove a positive impact on employee productivity it will make the sell a lot easier.