Many small to midsize businesses are hesitant to replace existing technology because they fear high costs and disruption to business operations. At the end of the day, they often decide to roll the dice with what they have rather than deal with the potential risk and uncertainty of the unknown.
A network refresh is a prime example. We’ve heard horror stories from companies that tried to manage the process in-house or partnered with the wrong provider. The budget exploded and the project took three times as long as expected to complete. To make matter worse, after all that aggravation, the new network failed to meet expectations.
Let’s be clear about two things. First, continuing to put off a network refresh could very well be more damaging to the long-term health of your organization than navigating the complexity of the project. Second, if you prepare, plan and work with the right provider, your network refresh is likely to be completed on time and on budget and deliver quantifiable improvements to your business operations.
Legacy networks weren’t designed to support the demands of today. As networks have become more complex, automation has become essential. Adoption of software-defined networking continues to grow because automation and orchestration are needed to reduce human errors, improve management efficiency and allow organizations to quickly roll out new services. Today’s artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled networks can automatically monitor network activity and predict and prevent performance problems and disruption.
Increased use of applications that consume tons of bandwidth and require high-speed connectivity need modern network infrastructure. This applies to both wired and wireless networks. Legacy Wi-Fi networks are unable to support the data constantly generated by mobile applications and cloud services. With more workloads moving to the cloud, from storage to big data analytics, there has been a major spike in network traffic. As the Internet of Things expands, more computing will move to the network edge, forcing organizations to upgrade their edge devices.
As with most major IT initiatives, preparation and research will help you overcome the obstacles that typically cause delays and cost overruns with a network refresh.
Start with the end in mind. What goals must be achieved as a result of your network refresh? Over the course of the next few years, your network might need to support more users, more services and more locations. This will require more bandwidth and high-performance equipment. Security threats and regulations are likely to become more challenging, so you’ll need to address network security.
Once you’ve identified goals, take inventory of your existing infrastructure and create a diagram of the entire network. For all hardware and software, make sure you know where it resides, what purpose(s) is serves and how it’s utilized. Determine which technology will have to be upgraded or replaced. Calculate the cost of each component of your network infrastructure, including licensing, energy consumption, maintenance and support costs. You should also separate all hardware and software into categories based on use and importance to business operations.
Once you have a handle on this information, start researching solutions and vendors. Find out if their services and technology align with the needs of your organization. Identify potential interoperability issues that could require additional upgrades. Determine where applications will be hosted and how this could affect performance and cost. A network refresh will most likely require training, so account for these costs as well.
Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to formulate your network refresh plan. In the next post, we’ll discuss how to approach and execute your plan and why it makes sense to work with an experienced provider.