Before you can implement a wired network, you need to know what it must accomplish.
This means that the first step in network installation is to define its requirements. This includes factors like the physical environment, client devices, data security, budget concerns, and timeline. Identifying these factors helps installers to design a network topology and blueprint that will do what it needs to do within physical, monetary, and time constraints.
Let’s take a deeper look at how to determine what a network’s requirements are, factors that may eventually impact or change those benchmarks, and how network topologies address client requirements.
If you are planning to put in a wired network, expect your installer to conduct a needs assessment. This assessment is tailored to each client and project, but here are nine of the standard points that network needs assessments address:
Data needs and user applications
Because it is the job of the network to carry data, first you’ll need to determine how much data your establishment typically uses, and how much it uses at extremes.
This information is also connected to the applications used by the end users of the network–things like email clients, web browsing, voice over internet, web browsers, graphic design programs, or rendering engines.
Is there any network-related infrastructure already in place? These can be things like cable runs, cable cabinets, ports, and switch plates. These elements can either be modified for incorporation into the new network layout, or removed for repurposing.
Make an overview of the physical environment the network will inhabit. Walk throughs, photos, and even radio frequency site surveys are helpful in detailing the built environment where the installation will take place. Focus on:
- Building floor plan
- Construction type and materials
- Possible data port sites
- Potential access points for cabling
- Pain points where special tools may be needed
How much area will the network need to cover, and what spaces don’t need coverage? For example, offices and conference rooms will most likely all need to be wired into the network, but stairwells, elevators, and storage areas do not. Pinpoint where the network really needs to function in order to avoid wasting time and money on installing it somewhere superfluous.
Security and sensitivity of information
Data security is important in business, even more so if the company in question deals with sensitive information. If your company has existing wireless security policies, make sure you provide the network installer with that information. All client devices on the network should be outfitted with encryption and authentication. If necessary, ask your installer how to make your network more secure with specialized network design and/or hardware.
Take an inventory of existing devices–laptops, VOIP phones, computerized equipment–their operating systems, and any other technical specifications. These devices may need to be replaced for optimal network function, but in many cases they can be modified and incorporated into the system with enough lead time and know-how.
You may not always have a hard ceiling for budget on a network installation, but a rough idea is often helpful. Ask your installer for an estimate based on “essential” network coverage in a certain area of your facility, and optional coverage add-ons for extra functionality.
Talk to your installer about when you can expect a design for your network, and when you can expect the installation to be completed by. If an old network is being replaced by a new network, plan ahead so that you can schedule around any installation-related service disruptions.
Scaling Up: Factors to Consider
Your network needs may expand in the future as your business does! When designing and implementing a wired network, think about some of the ways that network can be primed for future potential scaling.
Bandwidth is the network’s capacity for carrying data. If your business may one day need more bandwidth to carry out its daily tasks, you may want to install more cables than you strictly need up front. Or, let your installer know that you may increase cable capacity in the future, so they can take that into account as they place cables, cabinets, switches, data ports, and other hardware.
In order to provide connectivity to a greater area, a wired network must be physically expanded into that area. As you acquire more space, or make additions or changes to your building’s layout, think about how you can make future installations as easy as possible–hollow walls, drop ceilings, etc. How many access points do you need now, and how many may you need in the future as you add more equipment or devices?
Specialized software or hardware requirements
Future scaling of a network may require new hardware or software. In order to make sure that your new devices and programs dovetail with the old, document the hardware, software, and devices that are configured in each version of your network. This will also make network maintenance much easier in the long run.
Use a Network Topology Map
A topology is a way of visualizing how a network connects its devices, server, and modem.
Network designers use topologies to interface client needs–such as high data speeds or robust data security–with the functional requirements of a network.
Physical network topology is the actual physical arrangement of the hardware, cables, and devices that collectively form the physical part of your network.
Logical network topology describes the IT processes by which your network exchanges information. This includes any software as well as how that software is configured.
The goal of network design is to identify and adapt a topology that will give each client a high-capacity, high-performing network at greatest cost efficiency.
Network installers also use these topology maps to help diagnose, troubleshoot, and fix possible problems like slow throughput, speed lag, or bad connectivity.
Common Network Topologies
Connects all devices to a central switch. It’s easy to add new devices to this network, and it uses cabling very efficiently, but it is imperative that the central switch is regularly inspected and maintained.
Every device is connected to every other device. This provides a robust system with high-speed data transfer. This type of network is highly reliable thanks to a large number of redundancies, but can also be expensive because it requires large amounts of cable and data ports.
This arranges nodes in a hierarchy, with different levels of “branches” of devices arranged up and down a “trunk” or central connection that links together each of the different branches. This topology has high functionality for many businesses thanks to its high-speed data transfer and easy fault identification and maintenance. But it does require a fair amount of hardware, and in the event that the “trunk” fails, the network will go down.
Still Have Questions?
If you have questions about network installation requirements, contact us today for an expert consultation. We’ll walk you through what you need, what you don’t need, and how The Network Installers can help streamline the network installation process.