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Network
infrastructure
assessment:
upgrade or rebuild?

Author: Heidi Vella

Disruptive events can often highlight gaps in key infrastructure and business processes, prompting the need for a rethink about how to approach managing your networks. During this period of unprecedented change, many businesses might be feeling that now is the right time to go ahead with that long overdue network infrastructure assessment. In times of uncertainty, the need for safe, reliable, resilient and efficient operations is paramount.  A modern resilient network is integral to launching future digital strategies to support the flexibility that is needed for doing business in challenging conditions.

What does a network infrastructure assessment involve?

In simple terms, a network infrastructure assessment is a detailed analysis of a company's network; generally including overall management functions, security, processes and performance. Like a car inspection, it will measure the network's actual effectiveness by identifying gaps, highlighting where a system could be tuned and expose IT network and security problems to give a comprehensive view of the assets. Done carefully, all of this will result in more informed and strategic decision-making, especially in regard to how to improve network infrastructure. In fact, a business likely won't want to proceed with a full network configuration without gaining the understanding a thorough network assessment can provide.

At a high level, network infrastructure assessments typically follow three stages:

  1. Assessment planning
  2. Performing the audit or assessment
  3. Post-audit analysis

Before embarking on the planning process, companies should decide if they want to do the assessment in-house or opt for a managed service. The latter approach will provide access to experienced consultants who use proven best practices and advanced tools. This can be particularly beneficial during the post-audit analysis. This will include fine-tuning and assisting with technical decision-making. After all, data acquired via the process is only valuable if it's understood in enough detail to derive actionable insights. The greater the understanding, the better the insights.

What should you consider?

During the planning phase, some of the questions that the project team should be asking include: What is the scope of the project? For example, will it cover bring your own device (BYOD) policies, cyber security vulnerabilities, bandwidth demand, network upgrades and so on? The answer to these questions will likely depend on the company's end goal for its business and the assessment.

A business may want to identify apps employees are using that the company is not aware of or that might not meet compliance policies. A primary reason for conducting a network infrastructure assessment may be to discover "shadow" inventories of these devices.

Furthermore, companies may want to do a gap analysis. This is a process that compares actual performance of the network with what is expected or required. This can be a useful tool to understand how to get more from the existing network elements and to identify areas for improvement. Once a gap analysis is conducted, a managed services provider can remap the network architecture and develop a roadmap to make the most of the existing assets and plan for augmentation and upgrades if needed.

Lastly, before embarking on any network infrastructure assessment, it is important to ensure support for the project from all stakeholders, in particular the management and technical teams. This can help guarantee a smooth process and ensure the business gets the most out of the assessment. 

How to improve network infrastructure: upgrade or rebuild?

The assessment itself typically takes a few hours or days, depending on the network size and complexity. Once the network assessment and analysis is complete it will result in two important artifacts: a comprehensive report of the current state of the network assets, as well as actionable insights and recommendations for improvement. What happens next depends on the findings and what the ultimate goal for the assessment is. A company will need to make a decision on how to improve network infrastructure. Most likely, the best way to achieve network infrastructure improvements will depend on the decision as to whether to invest in a network upgrade or in a complete rebuild.

Given that the advancement of IT infrastructure can mean that corporate networks are often a mishmash of new and legacy hardware and software, this can be a challenging decision that requires a delicate balance of expertise in networking and a good understanding of the business goals and objectives of the company. Here is where a managed service provider can be most helpful in guiding that decision, since they can expertly understand the assessment's findings and provide tailored advice on the best course of action.

If the company's goal is to look to the future and take advantage of the latest innovation and technological advancements, and be able to take advantage of automation to have a highly agile environment to drive efficiencies, it may find that rebuilding the network infrastructure rather than upgrading, will provide the very best foundation to achieve this vision.

However, if the business is expanding but the application environment is staying the same, the company recently made a large infrastructure investment, budget constraints do not allow for a full network transformation, or the gaps in the network are not too great, then a feature upgrade of the existing infrastructure might be the more prudent option to consider. A managed services partner can help assess and provide additional insight, outlining the building blocks to design, plan and manage your network solution, delivered either as a service or stand-alone.

Whatever an enterprise decides is right for them, it's true that keeping up with the fast-changing field of IT network infrastructure is not easy. Fortunately, a network infrastructure assessment can be an extremely valuable tool for IT departments to get a granular view of the infrastructure and find the insights needed to identify and reach company targets with maximum cost-efficiency. Doing so can help businesses stay at the forefront of the digital curve and achieve a competitive advantage.

Explore how Verizon's network infrastructure services can help you optimize your network.