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Network Design:

Things to consider when planning or upgrading your network.

Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) are increasingly reliant on their business network to supply connectivity to their needed applications and files along with the vast intellectual resource that is the Internet. With proper planning, intellegent design and consideration of the needs of the business a network can provide resilient, secure connectivity to all the resources that make business possible.

Connecting to the Internet

There are often many Internet options in an area and choosing between them can be like untangling the nest of cables that populates most network closets. The first things that should concern any business is what are their bandwidth needs. There is a great easy to use resource called BandwidthPool.com Bandwidth Calculator that gives an idea of the minimum speeds that are needed to conduct business and another is Integra’s Bandwidth Calculator that gives more detailed analysis of the types of services used. The next important consideration is cost to value proposition – how much internet can the business afford within the point of diminishing return? If possible get at least three quotes from local providers for service and a great way to find out who is available and what actual speeds people are getting is Ookla’s Net Index Explorer which utilizes a drill down map to show providers in the area. The final two pieces are the Internet Service Providers (ISP) terms of service and the kind of customer service that can be expected from them. As with any contract read the fine print of the terms of service to find any data limitations or caps that could possibly cripple business at a critical time or any restrictions on traffic that could limit remote connectivity. Always do your homework and consult other local businesses to hear from them who they use for Internet service to see how they feel about the customer service they are receiving.

Optimize Current Network

There have been many horror stories heard about a tech firm being hired to take on new customer then they immediately set down a long, expensive list of upgrades needed. This standards-based approach to network management only takes into account ease of management for the tech firm and ignores the customer’s bottom line. Farmhouse Networking takes a balanced approach that uses what the customer already have and provides a technology plan to guide future replacements. The current hardware settings are optimized to meet industry standards and compliance needs then is replaced with business-class hardware in accordance with the agreed upon technology plan.

Trade Analog Phones for Digital VoIP

The aging analog world is slowly dying as telephone companies like Verizon move from old copper lines to fiber optic for all their services and cellular carriers are moving from standard voice transmissions to digitally sending them over the advanced 4G LTE network. If the company phone system is still based on analog copper lines with expensive components that are hard to find and no one knows how to fix any more – then it is time to switch to digital Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or cloud based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. Loss of connectivity was once considered a major reason why old copper lines were popular up until now. In the past if power was out then business phones were not working on a VoIP system, but with the advent of cloud based services this is no longer an issue as calls can be routed to any other device including cell phones with no difference seen by the customer. This feature is also great if there are remote or mobile users who need to stay connected to the company phone system – they will be treated like any other phone extension in the organization. These VoIP systems can also be easily expanded with software update to add features and more bandwidth to handle additional physical phones onsite. The final argument used by most to not replace old copper systems is the 911 call handling, but with E911 this is no longer an issue as your physical address is mapped to the handset called from.

Plan Future Growth

There comes a time in every successful company when growth has to take place and technology must match that growth for the company to stay agile. Company growth can happen in a variety of ways – expansion of current offices, moving to larger facility, adding a mobile workforce, starting a remote office, etc. The best way to handle future growth is to plan for it. Farmhouse Networking with consult with management to discuss the future and build into future replacements the capabilities needed to expand with the future growth of the company. This makes growth both budget-able and much less painful when the time comes.

Take Your Show on the Road

For small to medium businesses (SMBs) the need to take business with them as they travel to client sites or work from anywhere along the way has become an essential. The defacto standard has been to use remote connection software to gain access to company resources and over the years these standards have evolved to several distinct options today. Microsoft Remote Desktop and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure uses on premise or cloud servers to create the highly customizable desktop experience that users are used to while centralizing management of applications and consolidating data. It can also be used to centralize Line-of-Business (LOB) applications that can then be deployed to remote users and available from anywhere. Another more secure option is to connect remote users to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which provides an encrypted tunnel from their workstation to the office network. This keeps them securely connected, compliant and effectively working from any device everywhere. The cloud has become secure and reliable enough to be considered a viable means for agile businesses within reach of their data from any internet connected device. Software vendors have slowly been moving their products into the cloud and have made transitioning data into these web based solutions easier than might be be expected.

Equipment Lifecycle Management

Planning ahead for the end of equipment life can help keep the company’s bottom line looking good. The decisions that need to be made about acquiring, managing and disposing of technology can be daunting (if not a waste of managements valuable time). Using industry standards, Farmhouse Networking will do the heavy lifting by creating a technology plan and budget. By planning ahead a company can budget for capital expenditures properly, get the most value from asset depreciation, have expected downtime for the replacement of aging hardware, and dispose of sensitive information properly.

Server Virtualization

An old practice in IT was to have one server dedicated to a single application or network role like mail server, file server, DNS server or Domain Controller Server. This made server closets quite large and the expense was often prohibitive for smaller companies. Then came the ideas of server virtualization and server consolidation which changed the way servers were created. A single piece of hardware could virtually “host” multiple servers and those large number of old servers could be virtualized onto one piece of hardware. This cut down on the expense and the space needed to have multiple servers on the network. Now with the advent of cloud computing there is no longer a need for server closets at all as they are virtually “hosted” on servers in large datacenters around the globe.

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