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Network Planning Questions

When planning your network, you will need to judge what a network must do to keep your company competitive, serve your users, and not break the bank in the process. If you’re going to be responsible for capacity planning for a network (and if you’re the person building the network, this is almost certainly the case), answer the following questions. They represent a starting point for your reflections. As you work through these questions, take notes and add questions of your own.

1. How many workstations (computers) does your current network have?

If your network has 5 or 10 workstations, planning should be relatively simple. If, on the other hand, you have to support 500 workstations, you’ll need to structure and plan in more depth. Large networks are a challenge because they require the delivery of high-quality services to a variety of users. Most of these people can’t be supported in an ongoing, one-on-one basis.

2. How many workstations will your network have a year from now?

This question follows on the heels of the first question. The degree of expected growth can help determine what equipment you initially roll out. A 5-workstation network that will have 10 workstations the following year requires less overall power and flexibility than a 5-workstation network that will grow to 25 or 50 workstations during the same time frame. Clearly, if your network is growing at a rate that outstrips the ability of existing staff to service each user and each request manually, there will be a strong need for the services mentioned under question 1.

3. Do you or will you provide file services for your users?

If you do, you have to make provision for a file server. File servers tend to be overbuilt; if you can afford more power than you need now, get it. If you centralize data storage, you need to plan to back up that data adequately—otherwise, your users will lose confidence in the shared network storage and will not use it. They’ll resort to building their own set of databases and files, which can easily morph into a situation in which your company has conflicting data.

4. Will you provide Internet email services for your users?

If you do, you will need a mail gateway. You will need to contract with an Internet service provider (ISP) to handle your bulk mail, and you’ll probably need to register a domain name on the Internet.

5. Will you provide other Internet access (the Web, File Transfer Protocol [FTP], Telnet services) to your users?

If you’re going to provide Internet access for your users, you need routers, servers, and firewalls. You can also roll the email server into this system. Chances are, you’ll also need to go to the ISP marketplace and select an ISP that can provide you access across a high-speed line (a T1, digital subscriber line [DSL], or other high-speed access).

6. Are there other services you’re providing to your user base? And are your users utilising services “hidden” to the IS staff?

If you’re providing other services to the user community, make sure any changes (additions and deletions of hardware and software) consider these services. Another important question: Are your users employing services you’re not aware of? You might respond, “How am I to know?” Some advice: You had better find out! Before making wholesale changes to your computing and net- working environment, it’s a good idea to canvas the user community to let them know these upcoming changes might affect their “private” (supposedly) standalone packages. The last thing you want is for an important user depart- ment to come to you after implementation and say, “Look what you’ve done! I can no longer run my application! What happened to my chat service? Where are my movies?” To forewarn your users is to forearm your position—not to mention your job security.

7. Do you now provide centrally administered remote access for your users? Will you ever have to provide centrally administered remote access for your users?

Remote access is generally best provided by computers dedicated to the task of providing remote access. In most cases, this means implementing a server computer with virtual private networking (VPN) capabilities.

Se the following article for more information on a network planning overview.


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