How to Navigate a Network Refresh Without Blowing Up the Budget, Part 1

Suppose you decide to remodel your kitchen. The project is supposed to take six weeks and cost $25,000. Then the contractor finds mold and termite damage behind the walls. You planned to remove a wall but discover it was load-bearing, so you have to install a steel support beam. Every inspection uncovers a new problem that the contractor missed.

Before you know it, that six-week, $25,000 project turns into four months and $60,000. And you’re still living with your in-laws.

A network refresh can turn into a far more expensive nightmare for a large enterprise. Without careful planning, budgets are blown. Timelines are thrown out the window. The project isn’t properly executed. Not only do you suffer a major financial hit and significant business disruption, but the time and money you invest result in a network that doesn’t meet your expectations.

Given the complexity of a network refresh and the consequences of poor planning and execution, why would you undertake such a project? In many cases, the consequences of doing nothing and clinging to an aging network are more severe.

Today’s networks automate previously manual tasks. As the software-defined model continues to emerge, organizations are relying on automation and orchestration to simplify management, reduce errors and improve business agility. Bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive applications such as video and big data analytics are becoming more widely used. This will continue to drive growing demand for wireless bandwidth and increase the urgency to adopt new WI-FI standards.

Of course, the shift to the cloud shows no signs of stopping. It’s just a matter of choosing which tools and services to migrate to the cloud and which cloud model to adopt. Expanded use of the Internet of Things will move more computing to the network edge, which will reduce the data burden on the network but require the purchase or upgrade of edge devices that can accommodate heavier demands.

A network refresh could very well be a business necessity at this point. Overcoming the pitfalls that often send these projects off the rails requires preparation and research before you start developing the network refresh plan.

The first step is to determine what your organization will need from the network during the next five years. Do you expect to expand your business and open new facilities? How much more bandwidth and storage will you need to support the increase in traffic? What security and compliance requirements must be satisfied now, and what new regulations are on the horizon? Will your IT team increase or decrease in size or stay the same?

The next step is to document your inventory. List each piece of hardware and software, as well as their location, purpose, utilization and licensing information. How much does it cost to maintain your current network infrastructure? Be sure to account for licensing, power consumption, support and staffing. Infrastructure should also be categorized and mapped, which will make it easier to develop your network refresh plan.

Using this research, you can begin to evaluate solution providers. What services and tools do they offer? Are there any compatibility issues? Where will applications be hosted and how will this affect performance and cost? What hardware and applications should be kept, upgraded or replaced? You’re likely to find that your team will need training, so determine who will provide the training and how much it will cost.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss your network refresh plan, execution of the plan and the value an experienced solution provider can bring to the table.

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