Most small companies invest in the very best networking equipment they can afford when they first build their network, choosing a router, a switch, and a server that will support the business they envision growing in the near future. But has that future come and gone for your company? Even the best small business networking gear needs to be upgraded at some point—the trick is knowing when that time is.
Here are six questions to ask yourself about your network. If your answer to any of the questions is “yes,” then it may be time to upgrade.
This is pretty obvious but still worth mentioning. If your computers and laptops are constantly causing problems that impede productivity, or are too old to support modern operating systems and other software, it’s time to invest in some new computers.
Depending on what employees are connecting to on the Internet, your connection may no longer be sufficient. Have you added cloud-based services or use voice over IP (VoIP ) for your phone system? Data-intensive services like these will require you to upgrade from a DSL connection to a broadband connection or even to upgrade your broadband, if employees are generating enough traffic. (Just make sure the increased traffic can’t be chalked up to streaming YouTube videos before you embark on this upgrade.)
If everyone in your office is now hitting your wireless network with a Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone or tablet, they’re likely generating more traffic than you originally planned for your wireless network. When mobile clients slow down, a wireless access point (WAP) upgrade may be in order. Adding one like the Cisco AP500 Series lets you beef up your wireless security while also extending the range, coverage, and speed of your wireless network.
This may seem like a no-brainer upgrade, but cloud computing gives small businesses more options than ever. If you need more capacity, you may be able to slot more memory into your current storage server. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a stand-alone solution or opt for an online data storage service such as Mozy. Keep in mind, you can combine the NAS unit with an online backup solution as part of a disaster recovery plan.
If your company will bring on new hires, will add new technologies and applications, or will begin offering new products or services to your customers, you may need additional networking equipment to handle the increased workloads and traffic. You may need a switch with more ports to support an increased number of users, or maybe you need to upgrade from an unmanaged switch to a managed switch to exert more control over data traffic and improve security.
Some small businesses took a patchwork approach to building their networks initially. They may have installed networking equipment from multiple vendors or are running different versions of operating systems or software—or even different operating systems. If this sounds familiar, you know how difficult it can be to manage a mish-mash of software and hardware. You may want to standardize on one operating system and the same versions of your business software on all systems as well as one vendor’s equipment to make management easier. You can make this upgrade more affordable by taking small steps—choose your preferred vendor and know which operating system and software you want to standardize on, but don’t try to replace everything at one time. Phase the upgrades in as your budget allows, starting with the most important pieces first.
If you’re not sure where to start upgrading your network, a local Cisco reseller can help determine which of your equipment is outdated, what still has plenty of life left in it, and how to most strategically future-proof your network.
How do you determine when it’s time to upgrade your network?
This post originally appeared on the Cisco Blog.