Businesses cannot afford to let their office networks drift into obsolescence. Network upgrades are essential for improving productivity and profits. Here are some procedures businesses should follow when upgrading their network.

The office network and the IT infrastructure that supports it are your lifelines for productivity and operational efficiency, which can suffer when they no longer meet the needs of your business. Whether it is due to aging hardware, outdated technology, or simply outgrowing the network infrastructure, an upgrade is inevitable for businesses that want to remain competitive and profitable. Done right, upgrading a network can lead to an immediate increase in productivity and a reduction in operating costs. Done poorly, it can cause damaging business disruptions up and down the user chain.

Understanding and applying best practices for a network upgrade can ensure optimal results with as little business impact as possible.

Keep the Future in Mind

The network upgrade you need to satisfy your needs today should be able to be able to support your IT strategy for several years to come. That will minimize your costs, while allowing you to make incremental upgrades as needed. For instance, if you need to invest in new network equipment, it should be flexible enough to handle future technologies. This will require thorough capacity planning to identify your needs today as well as your evolving needs. Working with your IT advisor, develop a network map with accompanying hardware inventory that can act as a baseline as well as a blueprint for future changes.

Keep All End Users in the Loop

A network upgrade will affect everyone. Your end users at all levels will be instrumental in helping your network planners understand how the network is accessed and leveraged for their particular functions. That knowledge will be critical in explaining how the upgrade will impact the users’ interaction with the network during and after the implementation.  Any anticipated changes to processes, security requirements, and functions should be clearly communicated before implementation begins.

Keep Security Top of Mind

A network upgrade should include a complete threat assessment and implementation of new security measures as part of the process.  It would be dangerous to assume your current security apparatus is sufficient to protect your network going forward. It’s very likely that your current system has inadequate technology and protocols for the cyber threats that have emerged since it was installed, let alone the newer, more advanced threats yet to come. A network upgrade should be used as an opportunity to increase cyber security because it could be much more difficult and expensive to add it later on.

Create an Implementation Plan

When upgrading an office network, it is important to determine the speed at which implementation can take place without risking the network. Many businesses use a phased approach, focusing first on network subsets to limit the maintenance window of the overall network. The implementation plan should also include a roll-back strategy in the event of a problem that would preclude the completion of the upgrade. A roll-back strategy should include a fail-safe procedure for minimizing harm to the network while backing out of the implementation.

Train Internal Support

Typically, the people who design, build and implement the network upgrade are not involved in day-to-day network support. Internal support staff (or external if you outsource your IT) need to be fully trained on the infrastructure and protocols of the new network. End users should also be instructed on new network protocols and security procedures in advance of the implementation.

Document the Implementation

From the development of the initial design to the final wiring, the complete implementation of the network upgrade should be documented in detail. The documentation, which should include a new network map, not only forms the new baseline for planning future changes, it serves as the operating manual for support staff.

Upgrading a network can be a major undertaking for a business. Although there are costs involved, they can be quickly recovered through increased productivity and operational efficiency. Following these best practices can ensure the upgrade results in a network solution that best meets the business’ needs for several years.

 


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.