Computer networks have become an essential part of modern business. At a glance, engineering a local area network (LAN) seems relatively simple. Technically, all that’s required is a couple of computers, a router and an Ethernet cable. But there’s MUCH more to consider if you’re designing a larger enterprise network. The stakes are substantially higher, with failure often resulting in workflow disruption, loss of business and ultimately, loss of revenue. Daunting stuff, to say the least!    

 

There are plenty of factors you’ll need to consider before attempting to connect multiple computers, share files, stream multimedia and control data access. Successfully designing a business-caliber LAN is a complex task but these tips can simplify the process and ultimately, mitigate the risk of disaster.

 

An Evolving Problem

Business networks can often be a mess. Rather than this being a product of ignorant or irresponsible practices, it’s most often the result of an organization’s organic growth, where the original network infrastructure relied on consumer class software. As companies scale up, erratic documentation, nonexistent network management tools and missing redundancy contingencies can leave networks vulnerable to attack and failure – growing pains with very troubling implications.

 

Security

Prevention is the best way to avoid network-related disasters. In the ongoing effort to improve your bottom line, it can be tempting to purchase Consumer Grade firewalls but this isn’t the time to cut corners! Consumer Grade firewalls don’t have the ability to intelligently scan incoming data. Since they’re only looking for specific threats to your network, viruses and malware can often slip through the cracks. When you’re using Consumer Grade firewalls, a hacker can do something as simple as Googling your default network settings to breach your system. Business Grade firewalls scan everything coming through your network. Be smart! Forewarned is forearmed.  

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Redundancy

Most often employed in business networks, redundancy provides an alternate source for network communications. Essentially, it’s a crash mat that functions as a backup mechanism, enabling the rapid shift of network operations onto redundant infrastructure in the event of an unplanned network outage. How is this achieved? By adding alternate network paths via redundant standby routers and switches – contingencies that can be deployed at a moment’s notice with minimal downtime, should you encounter a serious problem. Network uptime is becoming increasingly important. Even the most redundant physical networks will fail if they’re not configured for Layer 3 IP Default Gateway redundancy. Utilize dual fiber-optic uplinks to ensure that chassis-based core switches have dual CPU cards. Double-up! It’s better to be safe than sorry!    

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Maintenance

One of the best things about Business Grade firewalls is that they come with enterprise level service and support from certified professionals who know how to identify problems and provide effective solutions. Consumer Level firewalls don’t come close to offering the protection required to keep your organization’s online presence safe from harm. Often, businesses find themselves quarantined because their accounts are compromised by malicious code. Getting off this blacklist can be a long, arduous process, during which your outgoing emails are rejected, effectively killing your capacity to communicate with partners and clients. Having a Business Grade firewall is the difference between profitability and expensive problems. Invest now and you’re saving in costly corrections later. It pays to be proactive!

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Standardization

To simplify configuration and troubleshooting, enterprise networks should be standardized across all devices, rather than having different switches for every wiring closet. This enables you to keep cold spares for each device with next-day maintenance, enabling speedy responses to failures. Network management tools are also valuable for maximizing network uptime, implementing periodic backups and avoiding network outages. Cover your bases!

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Employ these tips on your next network build and you’ll always LAN on your feet, no matter what fate throws at you.

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