A truly agile network can only be achieved when a business has got the fundamental modern building blocks in place.
Everything is agile, or at least it needs to be. Workers are demanding more and more high bandwidth applications, customers expect responses to their enquiries and other interactions almost immediately and new software and services come down the proverbial pipe at an ever-increasing speed.
All of this, and more, places a huge strain on the network infrastructure of a business, an area of the IT landscape that often gets a little bit overlooked, when compared to that of other capabilities.
Without a network a business’s IT operations will not work. It is the central nervous system over which every last email, file and transaction is passed and it needs to be as agile in its design, operation and management as the applications that are running over it.
It would be safe to say that many networks, as SCC has found, can still be running on hardware that is more than a decade old. The structured cabling infrastructure that interconnects the networking equipment is often also in need of modernisation. These things need to change if a business is genuinely going to obtain the productivity benefits of the latest software; if not then the software and services run slowly leaving users disgruntled.
Networks once defined the perimeter of a business. They were the boundary between a business and the wider world. Those boundaries are now increasingly permeated, as a business takes on such technical initiatives as cloud, meaning that entry points into a network are now almost limitless.
To counter these challenges, whilst providing the necessary services with suitable bandwidth, a business should take a root and branch review of its network estate to introduce greater agility.
Get The Basics Right
Before being distracted by the exciting and enticing next generation software based networking equipment that leading vendors such as Cisco are offering, a business would be wise to first examine and audit one of the most overlooked but critical elements in its network infrastructure – cables! Those lengthy stretches of optical fibre and copper that criss-cross departments, buildings and locations. The bandwidth use of all users has grown almost exponentially in recent years, from streaming HD video, through to the movement of large files, cables need to cope. Without cabling at Cat6e standard, even the best designed software stack within a business will slow down. In essence to create agility, start with the basics and get the cables right.
Security continues to be a high level concern for a business as the current wave of cyber crime shows little sign of abating. As old styles of security used to rely almost on a gatekeeper model with all traffic being routed through a firewall and related appliance style devices, how can security adapt?
A modern agile network now takes an ‘entire network’ view of security. It will monitor traffic, including encrypted traffic, as it passes through and across the network. If at any point that traffic becomes suspect, the network itself will generate an alert. Security has moved from being a silo style approach, to a constant.
A Secret About Users
How many users does a network have to support? In many cases that can be thousands, and every one of those users will believe that every bit of the data that they push across the network is ‘priority 1’, but here’s a secret – it’s not.
With modern segmentation, access control and bandwidth shaping, an agile network can intelligently prioritise network traffic. If an email arrives a few seconds later does that really matter? No. But if a video conference from the board room freezes, it does matter! When designed in, the network can make intelligent decisions about what traffic really is ‘priority 1’. Leading to a far greater user experience.
Just A Few Considerations
Cables, security and segmentation are just a few of the basic considerations that underpin a modern agile network. The fact is that, once implemented, very few users will actually notice the benefits as these technologies become almost transparent in their operation and simply just work. And if a user is unhindered in their productivity by the network, then they will operate in a far more agile way. Result!
SCC works with leading vendors across both traditional networking and Cloud managed networks.