Most of us agree “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, this mindset can cost you dearly when it comes to your network. Like many small businesses, you probably don’t think about the network until something goes horribly wrong. Suddenly you are fighting fires when you could have been strategically planning. (And we all know which of those scenarios is least expensive!)
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
“A good beginning makes for a good ending.”
These sayings have become cliches because it”s human nature to push off planning. The path of least resistance is always easier until you encounter the inevitable failure. Network planning is critical. Look around right now; has your network grown “organically” with your company (adding on pieces here and there)? Have you put off investing in technology because of the economy? If so, you are definitely not alone, but you want to act. Based on my conversations with customers who have been hamstrung by their communications I’ve written my top three do’s and don’ts for small business networks.
1: Do Invest in business-class products
Off-the-shelf products seem like a bargain up front, but they aren’t designed for business use. Intended for home use, they don’t provide the features businesses need such as the ability to scale for growth or add new technologies at a later date (VoIP, Storage, Remote Access). Off-the-shelf products also lack management and security features required for business use. Routers, switches, and other core networking products built specifically for small businesses will provide a secure, scaleable and reliable foundation for your business. For more information on selecting business class networking products check out this article:
- Cisco Article: Building a Small Office Network: Getting Started
2: Don’t ignore bandwidth needs
When planning network equipment purchases, you should estimate your company’s future network use. Think about technologies you may want to implement such as voice, video or remote access. What are your growth goals? Knowing your bandwidth needs will help you select the right network products to support your business and avoid future bottlenecks. A trained partner is your best resource for planning. Whatever your situation, a partner has “been there, done that!” They can provide advice based on experience and expertise.
3: Don’t wait for something to break
Even a minor network glitch can bring your business to a standstill, and this downtime can cost you plenty. How much money would you lose if you closed your business for an hour or a day? How many times will your customers try to contact you before they decide to go to a competitor? If you’re customers can’t reach you, you’re losing revenue.
Planning is the best prevention, but sometimes things happen. Many partners and service providers offer managed services and hosted solutions to small business. Check into these solutions. Not only are they cost effective, but you get access to all of the partner’s expertise (which typically includes networking and desktop certifications) and they offer remote management and monitoring (another benefit of business-class technology). Remote management allows minor issues to be resolved before they become major problems. Service and support contracts can guarantee replacement of failed equipment within a previously agreed upon timeframe (anywhere from 2 hours to whatever you are comfortable with). Best of all, if you take advantage of these solutions your network costs will be predictable!
Let’s learn from each other’s experiences. What’s been your worst network surprise? How did you resolve the problem? Did it change the way you plan for network upgrades?
Just to show we have a sense of humor, we spent some time thinking about what goes on when the network is down. The guy with the tennis racquet is my favorite. How does he do that??? Take a look: