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Computer & Electronics, IT

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Network design

Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:22 am

When designing a new computer network, whether for five people or 500, it's important to weigh the needs

Connectivity and Security

Network connectivity today means more than Ethernet cables and wireless access points. People today are more connected while mobile than ever before and many of them want access to company email and data while they are out of the office. Balancing those needs while maintaining security is a challenge that needs to be addressed in the design phase of any network. This includes where data is stored, either in-house or offsite with cloud-based solutions, what types of information should be accessible, who should be able to access it, and which types of devices should be included. Firewalls and access servers need to be secure without slowing down operations.

Redundancy means having backup devices in place for any mission-critical components in the network. Even small organizations should consider using two servers. Two identical servers, for example, can be configured with fail-safes so that one will take over if the other fails or requires maintenance. A good rule of thumb is to have redundant components and services in place for any part of a network that cannot be down for more than an hour. If an organization hosts it own Web servers, or cannot be without Internet connectivity, a second connection should be in place. Having an extra switch, wireless router, and a spare laptop onsite is a good practice for ensuring that downtime is kept to a minimum.

Standardization of the hardware and software used in a network is important for ensuring the network runs smoothly. It also reduces costs associated with maintenance, updates and repairs. Conducting a full audit of the current computer systems, software and peripherals will help to determine which should be standardized. A CEO or director may require special consideration, but if 90 percent of the employees use the same notebooks, with the same word processing and email programs, a software or hardware patch across the organization can be conducted much less expensively than if everyone used a different computer model with different software installed on each.
Disaster Recovery

A detailed disaster recovery plan should be a part of any network design. This includes, but is not limited to, provisions for back-up power and what procedures should be followed if the network or server crashes. It should also include when data is backed up, how it is backed up and where copies of the data are stored. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan includes office disasters, building disasters, and metropolitan-wide disasters. In most cases, important data should be backed up daily. Many organizations do a full weekly backup, with daily incremental backups that copy any files that have been modified since the last weekly backup. Backup files should be stored in a secure location off-site in the event of a building disaster, such as a fire.

While it is not always possible to anticipate how large an organization may be five years in the future, some allowances for future growth must be built into the network design. For example, Microsoft Small Business Server can be an excellent choice for many small organizations. However, if your office already has sixty employees, Small Business Server could soon be a wasted investment, as it has a limit of only 75 users. Network design should factor in at least 20 percent growth per year, including everything from switch ports to data backup systems.
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