As your business grows, you might pay more taxes, move into a new building, paint some walls and hire some new employees. However, what about your network? Have you upgraded it and given it some attention? You even have a new fancy tablet on your desk – but your network remains the same?
Ins this Q&A Cisco offers some advice on how or what you should do to upgrade your network:
How should a small business get started building a small office network and what sort of products are required?
This is all dependent on what your business requires. When connecting employees to your business network it is important to think about current needs, while looking to the future a few years down the line. Also taking into account what your needs will look like in three to five years down the road.
To address most of these concerns, many small businesses look for a switched network that their business can grow with in size and services, but still remain secure. In order to provide these type of services you should consider switches that are “Power over Ethernet” (PoE) enabled and be cautious of purchasing a switch that will be filled up right after the purchase of the switch. Virtual Local Area Networks (VLAN’s) provide a layer of security within a business because different users on different VLAN’s cannot see each other, unless permission is granted. PoE will enable your business to provide power from the switches to such devices as Voice over IP Phones, wireless access points, and some video end points. When addressing growth, if a switch is full from the day it is purchased then there is no way for your business to grow using that switch. Typically a new switch should have ten to twenty percent of the ports unused to allow for future growth. VLAN’s can separate different types of users within your business and remove visibility of specific servers from the general employees, but it is also possible to use a router to bring thesenetworks together, while still restricting access.
When providing Internet access, it’s important to look into devices that will support such features as Internet, remote employees assistance and multiple locations. Typically, these devices are routers and/or security appliances.
What are three questions SMBs should ask when considering a network upgrade?
- Where are the network issues today and how can they be resolved?
- What future services are we considering and what products will suit these services?
- What type of growth should we prepare for; will there be future remote offices and/or employees?
What are the top three mistakes that small businesses make when upgrading their network?
- Not preparing for growth with current switches, ultimately forcing the business to replace switches too early
- Not preparing for services such as wireless and voice, which force a business to replace most, if not all the switches within the network
- Not preparing for external connectivity from either a remote office or remote employees
When should a small business consider upgrading their network? How often should a small business upgrade its network?
Business networks provide companies with a competitive advantage as they enable employees to take advantage of productivity tools to help make them more efficient at their jobs, and ultimately, enhance the business. If the network is not capable of providing such services or is restricting employee growth, then you should consider upgrading the network. If the network is based on devices that have been discontinued by a vendor, or if the vendor has gone out of business then it is necessary to consider an upgrade. If the equipment is based on discontinued equipment then the network is out of date and probably can’t provide the most advanced services that are either out today or are coming in the near future. If the vendor has gone out of business, this is a reflection of the equipment they have manufactured and these devices are probably not providing the competitive advantage that is expected.
What are the cost benefits to upgrading a small business network? Is there a good way for a small business to quantify upgrading/ what is the ROI?
The cost benefits and the ROI is typically based on what new ways the network can enhance an employee’s productivity or secure the business better. For example:
Employee productivity – Enabling services on the network that enable employee productivity is an easy way to show an ROI or cost benefit, these services may include:
- Voice over IP – VoIP doesn’t just provide voice services, but combines applications with the voice services enabling employees to be more efficient. Some examples include: collaborating easier through voice, video and data sharing; receiving voice messages from clients in their email, anywhere they are; extending their desktop phone to their mobile phone making them more productive where ever they are.
- Wireless – Wireless enables employees to move around the office freely with a laptop or IP Phone, enabling easier collaboration when a face to face meeting is necessary.
- Video – The addition of video into a network provides many different levels of productivity:
- Training – training of employees can be accomplished face to face even though employees may not be in the same office
- Video conferencing – video conferencing offers the ability to communicate face to face, regardless of location
- Video security – adding video IP surveillance enables companies to monitor their site from remote locations
- Point to Point video calls – point to point video brings people closer together when working on projects
- Remote connectivity – enabling employees to work from anywhere enables them to be more productive wherever they are because they have access to the same resources they would have in the office.
- Security – Upgrading security on the network secures the business by providing updated features and functionality.
Whether it is enhancing employee productivity, enabling employees to work from anywhere or securing the business network with new and updated policies and features, most network upgrades will provide cost benefits and ROI to a business.