Building the Perfect IT Network30 Oct, 2015 By: Eric Stavola, MSCIS,MCSE,MCSA,N+,CDIA+
I see this nearly every day – prospective customers who don’t know how to evaluate their current Network needs, or IT vendor. Last week someone challenged me with ‘How can you create the perfect network?’ I smiled and said it doesn’t exist. Optimal performance is a practical goal, but perfection? Not gonna happen. Let me to explain. Perfection is the condition, state, or quality of being as free as possible from all flaws or defects. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a “Perfect Network” because of so many variables that exist ie Business Process, Culture, and End Users, just to name a few. It’s like trying to create a perfect painting on a canvas that is constantly changing shape. I do think there are many proactive measures or steps that can be put in place to increase Performance and end user experience, to at least create a predictable and reliable network.
It all starts with a plan
Having a clear technology plan to support the company's overall business or organizational strategy is vital. I am often dumbfounded when talking to business owners’ still managing technology by “reaction” instead of a proactive plan. Consider these proactive steps:
· Meet every 90 days to review plan; adjust/document needs accordingly based on business growth or challenges.
· Create a technology plan utilizing 7 key items listed below.
While communication is such a nebulous term, I break out 3 key areas that are critical in planning your ideal network:
· Have Documentation – A solid network is clean documentation of all information including Assets, Passwords, IP Schema, Infrastructure, etc.
· Set Internal/External Service Delivery – Establish company benchmarks and objectives, and acknowledge results.
· Establish an E-Strategy Plan – An e-strategy plan is a clear technology plan to utilize Social Media, Digital Resources & the Web to support a company's overall business strategy. You need to discover how your organization works and what is important to it to convey the best message and image of what you represent, as well as what the company forecasts for the future for itself and its customers.
# 2 Invest in Infrastructure & Leverage the Cloud
There is no “one size fits all” network design. Many companies have tried to identify a preferred network environment before understanding how that network and technology matches a company’s maturity, culture, messaging and overall business strategy. Consider:
· Network Infrastructure – Refers to the hardware & software resources of an entire network that enables network connectivity, communication, operations, and management of an enterprise network.
· Key Objectives – This is what the company considers vital. Actively discuss all options and approaches to leveraging the cloud. Examples of breakdown of network infrastructure include: 1) Networking Hardware: Firewall, Routers, Switches, Wireless routers, Cables; 2) Networking Software: Network Operations & Management, Operating systems, Firewall Network Security Applications, Patch Management, AV; and 3) Network Services: Bandwidth Needs, Wireless Protocols, IP Addressing, etc.
# 3 Budget
Have a detailed, set budget for IT/Technology (not just a one line item on a general ledger!)
· Decide CAPEX vs. OP EX – Capital expenditures tend to be major investments in goods, which show up on the balance sheet and are depreciated over the life of the asset, typically 3 years, whereas operating expenditure shows up on the profit and loss account and relates to expenses incurred on an ongoing basis.
Define an overall security policy as before a network can be secured for business, a security policy must be defined.
· Security Requirements – This differs among organizations. Before you can secure the network environment, you need to understand the organization’s resources, and you need to evaluate their security requirements, as well as assess the current security posture.
# 5 Staffing/Support
Many Technology Leaders’ roles today are morphing from technology to Business Leader. One key reason for this is with so many advances in technology and services, comes changes in the process. Thus, effective IT leaders are relied upon to recommend, manage, and streamline business processes with technology and key outsourced services.
· Accessible - You will want 24/7 monitoring and availability with support. Make sure you are leveraging an MSP to provide this.
· Reliable – A company wants predictable results. Make sure support measures are in place to deliver.
# 6 Professional Development
Like it or not, your employees are learning every day, but are they being taught? Put professional development in place both for your IT staff and general staff, around the advancements in technology. In my experience, this builds company morale while it will likely motivate others to come up with new and effective ways to leverage technology.
# 7 Data Management and Integrity
Determine how much your data is worth to your company and then spend the correct amount to protect it. Things to consider:
· Conduct an Inventory – You need to identify what it is that you need to protect. Every environment is unique.
· Be Sure – That you have an Automated Backup Plan in place.
· Be Sure – That you have a Disaster Recovery in place.
Eric Stavola is a certified, executive IT consultant with a leading OEM. Contact him at email@example.com for information.