A company’s IT network is the backbone of its business as it connects all its computers and related devices together, allowing staff to work more efficiently across the organization. With something so mission-critical it’s crucial it is designed and set up properly. If you’re wondering how to design a network, this blog aims to help you understand the basics of good network infrastructure design.
Network design is the planning phase a company’s IT infrastructure must go through before it is implemented. It involves evaluating and understanding how all the elements of the network link together (from routers, switches, and servers to desktops, laptops, and printers) and how they can be made to run as efficiently as possible. A well-designed network can bring increased operational efficiency. Network design is a task that is usually performed by network designers, IT administrators, and other related employees.
To help with the physical implementation process, the network design should be drawn out as a network diagram, which then acts as a guide for when the engineers come to install it (to find out more about network diagrams and the tools you can use to help create them, read this blog Why You Need a Network Diagram Tool).
There are a number of details your network infrastructure design should show, these include:
To ensure you deliver the best network design possible, here are five network design best practices to help ensure your network will run well, be able to scale with your business, and ultimately help the company perform better.
When you’re initially looking at network planning and design you might think it’s pretty simple to link all your devices together. That might be true if you only have a handful of things to connect, but everything that is added to or removed from the network will affect your network’s performance, so as you have more devices it becomes more complex and more important that you get things right. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when building networks is to neglect to look at the whole picture. You can’t just build the network from your head; you need to have a physical plan and structural diagram. This will ensure you have the most efficient network and can also plan for new deployments and equipment.
A key part of network planning and design is selecting systems that will grow with your business. Being able to visualize the current infrastructure as well as generally outline any new hardware and software you plan to adopt is crucial to help ensure you don’t end up with an inefficient Frankenstein’s monster of a network a couple years down the line.
This links nicely to a second point here, and that is that network infrastructure design is not just about planning the hardware! Every new application or piece of software you deploy will impact the performance of your network as it will require processing power, electricity, support, and space for storage. So when you are considering any new software, spend time setting out how it is likely to impact the network. For example, if your new software is mission-critical, does it need high-speed, solid-state drives to achieve the highest performance?
The final part of any future plans should be about bandwidth growth. As we continue to embrace technologies like the internet of things (IoT), video conferencing, and collaboration tools, network bandwidth demands will also keep growing. You need to think about these future scenarios and plan accordingly.
Network security is no longer something that can be considered as a bolt-on or afterthought. It is instead something that needs to be embedded at the very heart of your network design. On top of this, it must have clear guidance and policies for how it is enforced. Some network security design best practices include paying particular attention to the edge of your network. This is the point at which users and devices—including mobile and IoT—look to gain access, because this is where they can be identified, authenticated, authorized, and stopped if necessary. Something else you should carefully consider is how your network is segmented. For example, keeping areas that link your operations, employees, suppliers, and customers separate means that you can help prevent any potential attack from spreading across your whole network.
There’s an old IT truism: You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken—or even what is about to break. This applies as much with networks as it does with anything else that fits under the IT banner. So when designing your network, make sure to plan for network monitoring so you know exactly what is going on. This will help you see problems—often before they occur—and ensure nothing compromises either the performance or security of your network. So think carefully about the systems you need to put in place to do this.
Finally, while the initial design process will get you up and running, the job of building a solid, reliable IT network that helps support a business in delivering its goals is an ongoing process. As technology evolves, what you may have seen as a great solution when you did your initial network design may be much less appealing further down the line. While you shouldn’t change direction every time a new technology comes on the market, you should design your network to be flexible enough to be able to quickly adapt to what you see as useful new tools, so you can take advantage of the benefits sooner rather than later. That way you can ensure that your network becomes a competitive advantage for your organization.