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Network Planning Overview

How should you go about planning your network? The short answer is by using planning best practices: Plan, Design, Implement, and Tune. Here comes the longer answer.

An old saying claims, “Change is the only constant.” If you’ve ever doubted this cliché, look at the changes that take place in a computer network from month to month or even week to week. The rate of change is so rapid it’s difficult to plan for the future. Consider the evolution of the Internet, particularly the World Wide Web. We’ve witnessed the dot-com boom. We’ve seen a seesaw battle from the various net- work operating system companies as each software giant seeks industry dominance. Throw into the mix open source possibilities, such as Linux, and it’s easy to understand why it’s difficult for the network professional to keep pace with this ever- changing industry.

Although keeping up with change can be a big challenge, it’s a necessity when dealing with the dynamics of computer networks. Being aware of the emerging products and technologies will allow a network manager to make selections leading to lowering networking costs. In the hope that I’ve convinced you of the values of staying educated, developing plans, and using best practices, let’s look at some strategies for dealing with change.

If you were building a house, would you start nailing boards together willy-nilly, or would you work from plans? You’d probably work from plans. If you didn’t, you might get a house...or you might not. Even when you do have a plan for a house, you can face spur-of-the-moment issues pertaining to the latest building materials as well as construction techniques you want to place in the plan as building is under way. The desire to make changes is always a temptation and sometimes a necessity.

That’s what building or upgrading a computer network can be like. When you’re creating or enhancing a network, because of the rapid steps in technology, it’s especially important to ensure you follow a logical process. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a technology that no one can make sense of.

The suggested process can be simply stated as plan, design, implement, and tune:


Plan your network from a user perspective Stating the obvious, know what your network must do to aid its users! It sounds simple, but if you don’t know why you’re building it, you’re not likely to reap much benefit from it. Be careful here. It’s not uncommon for highly trained technicians to create a tech- nically elegant network without a lot of input from the user community. More than once, I’ve heard, “That’s not what I wanted!”


What is design? One definition is that it’s taking a beautiful idea and proving why it won’t work. Competent engineers don’t look for successes during the design process; they look for potential points of failure. That’s a good way to look at designing a network. It must be capable of doing what you need it to do without breaking down at every turn.

Network design includes a variety of tasks. The chief task is capacity planning, or figuring how much your network will grow and trying to ensure you have enough capacity to deal with this growth. But the main trick to successful design (of any type) is to look for what doesn’t work and to solve problems before you implement the design. Another word of caution: It’s usually quite difficult to redo a network once it’s up and running. Therefore, don’t hurry the design phase; insofar as possible, take your time.


Implementation is the process of physically realizing the design. Most likely, the design process will miss something. One approach to address this situation is to take a phased, step-by-step approach to implementation. By this, I mean testing individual components first and then piecing them together into a larger whole. This practice allows you to verify the soundness of the hardware and software configurations and to isolate problems for their proper identification. .


Implementations always leave some loose ends. Tuning is the part of the process in which you try to rectify the small flaws in your creation. Note that tuning isn’t intended to compensate for fundamental design flaws. Don’t try to patch a network with a flawed design. If you do, you’ll likely end up with an automated mess on your hands.

Also, bear in mind that when mapping out your network requirements there are a number of network planning questions that you should be asking.

Published on Fri 21 May 2010 by Adi Wagstaff in Networking with tag(s): planning networks