Spring clean your network: 10 key priorities

By Adrian Thirkill, UK MD, Easynet Global Services

“Spring brings a boost of energy which we often put to cleaning, but new research shows we can use this energy to improve other areas of our lives too” says Queen of Clean Aggie Mackenzie, of Kim and Aggie fame. She recommends we use this lighter, brighter time of year to chase away the dust and get rid of whatever we don’t use.

Her wise words are apt when it comes to our corporate networks. Overloaded, tangled, inefficient networks inhibit business growth, restrict innovation and impact customer satisfaction, but they’re an unfortunate sign of the times:

  • M&A activity is on the up - 2014 is forecast to be a strong year for M&A, and different businesses in different locations are under pressure to integrate a web of networks, systems and processes
  • Traffic is increasing dramatically - network traffic  is forecast to triple to 7.7 zettabytes annually by 2017, equal to 107 trillion hours of music streaming.
  • Enterprise mobility is snowballing – Gartner says 38% of companies will stop providing business devices to employees by 2016; staff are using their own devices to access their own applications across a corporate network, adding to the strain, and over the next four years, global mobile traffic growth is expected to overtake global fixed traffic growth by a factor of three
  • Businesses are migrating to the cloud but forgetting their networks –more than two thirds of businesses moving to the cloud experience application connectivity disruptions or outages during data centre migrations
  • Shadow IT –business managers and employees are increasingly making their own choices when it comes to IT, creating risk and adding stress to a network

Emerging fusty and pale-legged from a long winter, our networks are suffering from the unpleasant sounding ‘bloat’, according to 73% of IT directors questioned recently. Some of the functionality of on-premise applications is surplus to their requirements, they say. 48% of IT decision makers feel their business has more applications than it needs, with 73% feeling that at least a fifth should be retired or replaced.

It’s time to beat the bloat, to battle the bulge, and to refresh our infrastructure. Here are my Top Ten priorities for spring cleaning your network.

  • Know your business objectives: what are your priorities? Company expansion, cash generation, cost savings, business integration? Once these are set in stone with key measures of success in place, they form a framework for your network refresh, and you can identify your budget and the extent of what you want to achieve –quick network upgrade? Total IT transformation? Whichever you choose, your network needs to enhance business value
  • Talk to your staff:  ask staff for feedback on network and application performance; ask them which applications they use and when, and how critical they are to productivity;  and ask them if there are other applications they think would be of value to their role in the business
  • Place your network under the microscope: take a long, hard look at your infrastructure. What’s really happening?  Does poor application performance peak at certain times of the day, and could it be due to activity such as a regular software update or data back-up, which could be shifted to out-of-hours? Are business critical applications actually getting through?  Researchhas shown that business critical applications most frequently suffer performance problems with 34% of respondents saying they top the list. This  affects productivity and ultimately impacts your bottom line
  • Act on the intelligence you receive:  Are you planning to keep, remove, upgrade or update certain applications? How much do they cost to run and maintain? How secure are they? Do they represent a risk? Can they work with different operating systems in the future?  Are you migrating any to the cloud? Are there any changes you can make to improve your network performance based on the information in the audit?
  • Shake up your network security: think about the worst-case, high-level security threats, and make sure your routers, firewalls and switches help minimise risk; look at your firewalls, patches and updates, physical security measures, encryption, filtering
  • Update your performance measures: are you relying on users reporting issues? Monitoring server response time? Application response time? Transaction response time? Jitter or packet loss? What else could you be doing to monitor performance more effectively?
  • Think about bigger and bigger data, and the bandwidth it’s going to require:  84% of respondents in an international survey said their bandwidth requirements are growing at least 10% per annum: make sure your network is structured to cope, not just by increasing bandwidth but by bringing in measures to make it work harder, such as Application Performance Management
  • Consider your organisation’s approach to mobility: who needs to access what, from where? Is this likely to change? Can your network cope with this? Are the correct security measures in place beyond the network perimeter?
  • Future proof your network:  if your business is growing, are you going to need more collaboration tools? Will your network be able to cope with pressure from Unified Comms – videoconferencing, VoIP, Office 365? Are you like to have to integrate different systems if your business is in M&A mode?
  • Make sure your business has a social media policy in place:  several hundred staff simultaneously checking Facebook,  YouTube, Tweeting and Instagramming will stress your network;  make sure there is a usage policy so you can forecast network requirements
  • IT is a differentiator for your business. It drives change, boosts performance and improves productivity, and the network has the lead role. 

    It’s time to spring clean your network, without a Marigold rubber glove in sight.  At least, not in the office – what you do in your own time is up to you.    


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