Questions Your Network Plan Should Address
In addition to the basic questions of why you need a network, what kind of servers you need to provide, and what kind of infrastructure your network will require, your network plan should address the following questions:
Does it allow for growth? What growth areas do you anticipate over the next few years? Does this network plan provide for such growth? For example, if you currently have 20 devices on the network, a 24-port switch may be adequate for today. But you should consider a 48-port switch instead. It will cost more now, but will simplify your expansion down the road.
Similarly, if you anticipate that each office will have just one employee, consider what you’ll have to do if you run out of offices and end up putting two employees in each office. If you run a single cable to each office now, you’ll have to pay to have a second cable run later. Better to spend a little more for extra cable and have the installer pull two cables to each office. (Better yet, have the installer pull three cables to each office: When you move a second employee into the office, you may also put a printer in there.)
How will you secure it? What kind of safety precautions will you take to keep unwanted visitors off of your network? You’ll need a strong, well-configured firewall to keep intruders from breaking in to your network via your Internet connection. If you’re installing wireless access points, you’ll have to take precautions to secure the wireless networks. And you’ll need strong password policies to prevent hackers who do manage to get on to your network from getting at any valuable data.
How will you back it up? You’ll need to include a solid plan to back up your servers and the data that resides on them. That plan will probably require additional hardware, such as separate disk storage to hold the first level of backup data, as well as a means to get the backed up files off-site so they can survive a true disaster such as a fire or flood.
You’ll also need to be certain that you provide adequate network disk storage so that all users can put all their work on the network, where it can be backed up. In lieu of that, you’ll need a plan that backs up not only your servers, but also the client computers.
How will you recover from failures? Make sure you have a plan in place that will protect you from the commonplace maladies of daily life such as occasional power failures, as well as from the unforeseen, such as vandalism, theft, or fire. Every device on your network, no matter how insignificant, should be protected by battery backup. When possible, you should have spares of critical components.