A Step-By-Step Guide to Refreshing Your Network

We designed this network refresh guide to help you more easily capitalize on opportunities, find innovative solutions based on your budget, and ultimately make the best possible decisions for your network.

With that said, here are the four steps in this process.

Step 1 The Deep Dive
Step 2 The Research
Step 3 The Plan
Step 4 The Refresh

Each step is broken down into subcategories to help you best prepare for your network refresh. Let’s begin.

Step 1 The Deep Dive

Sometimes we talk to professionals who simply want to swap out a few outdated switches for new ones, update some IP cameras, install some new access points, and call it a day. It’s essentially a patch. Others need to take approximately 10% to 40% of their oldest hardware and update it with the most appropriate replacements. Depending on the size of the organization, that could mean anywhere between 5 and 500 switches. It’s a big undertaking and a large part of why it’s so important to make the right decisions along the way. No matter what, your network refresh should serve your current, short-term, and long-term needs. Think about what they will be over the next several years as you answer the following questions.

  • Are you expecting your IT staff to increase or decrease?
  • Will your network need more bandwidth to support more traffic?
  • Is your business expanding? If so, how and where? Into a new building? A new region?
  • Will you need more storage or be able to access it faster?
  • Will your network need to support mobile technology and/or remote workers?
  • Will you be implementing a BYOD program or do you expect a current one to grow?
  • What security and compliance demands are you currently supporting?
  • What future changes and requirements do you anticipate?

With those answers in mind, continue with the rest of Step 1.

Create an Inventory of Your Network
Before you can identify the gaps in your network, you need to have a good idea of what you already have. Record the number of servers you operate and note the following for each:

  • Name, manufacturer, model and its type, such as physical or virtual
  • Operating system, and security and warranty status
  • Processor type and number of cores
  • Amount of memory and storage, in gigabytes, including physical servers, on the network, or local
  • Location
  • Applications running on the server (version and number of users), including:
  • Average utilization
  • Storage utilization trends
  • Network utilization trends

Create a List of Your Software
Whether it was created in-house or purchased, make a list of all of your software. Include any software used for databases, CRMs, accounting, sales, marketing, and any other solutions you support.

Categorize Your Infrastructure
It’s important to have a high-level view of your network before you can dive into the finer details. Organize your equipment into categories based on similarities.

There’s no right way to group them, but you should focus on groups that help you plan your refresh. For example, you could place switches that are older than four-to-five years in one group, switches that specifically support IP cameras in another, and products with expired warranties in another.

If you find there’s overlap, use Venn diagrams to highlight equipment placed in multiple groups. You can also use this as a resource when presenting your proposal.

Create a Networking Infrastructure Map
If you already have a diagram of your network and its infrastructure, use this step to update it if needed. It not, create a new one to use for this and future network refreshes.

Breakdown Your Costs
Your existing network will become less efficient and more costly to maintain as it ages. To help plan your refresh, determine how much it currently costs to maintain it. You can guess if you need to, but try to use a number that’s as close as possible. Search through the trends over the last year to give yourself a better estimate if it helps.

Make sure to include the following costs:

  • Software licenses
  • Energy use/consumption
  • Support and maintenance services
  • Colocation costs (if applicable)
  • Staff training

Step 2 The Research

Using the information you gathered during Step 1, you can now identify the potential solutions and vendors that can help you meet your business goals.

Use the Gaps in Your Infrastructure as You Compare Vendors. You already know what you need to upgrade and replace, but what are you missing? Identify the gaps in your network by assessing what you need to meet your goals. Use them to guide your search for vendors and solutions.

While you’re researching and/or contacting vendors, ask about what else they provide. Many vendors provide packaged deals that include extra services such as custom designed solutions, installation, customer service, extended warranties, support, troubleshooting, and more.

Focus on potential problems with:

  • Power loads
  • Operating systems
  • Databases
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Storage
  • Anything else you’re concerned about

Upgrading one server or switch may require increasing power or updating operating systems. Adding cameras may require more bandwidth or storage.

D-Link offers high-performance switches that often easily integrate into infrastructures with a mix of products you already have installed, and we’ll work with you to design custom solutions.

Identify How You’ll Host Your Applications
Where you host your applications (physical, virtual, or cloud server) affects the rest of your network, including the solutions you need, its performance, and its total cost. Ask your vendor about how potential solutions will affect all of these.

Determine Which Applications Should Be Upgraded
As you talk about your applications with vendors, determine which ones you’ll need to upgrade and whether or not that will affect the solutions you’ll need to host them. Start looking at applications that have expired warranties and move on from there. If you do need to upgrade, ask about the hardware you’ll need to support them.

Determine Which Hardware Components You Want to Keep, Upgrade, or Buy
Newer applications and software usually require more performance, and your older servers might not be able to provide the performance they need. That doesn’t mean you need to ditch them. It only means you need to determine what you need to support your software and business goals.

This step is also good for further supporting your reasoning behind the solutions you’ve chosen and backs the importance of their performance, scalability, energy efficiency, and security.

Evaluate Your Staff Training Requirements
Adding new tech means training people how to use it. Assess your team’s knowledge and skill level with each new application and solution you add. Use that information to ask your vendor about available training materials. Make sure to ask about who can provide training, how much it will cost, and the best time to schedule it.

Step 3 The Plan

Now that you know what you need, it’s time to plan your network refresh. This includes checking your numbers and scheduling the time needed. You’ll want to consider your site, applications, storage, infrastructure, business needs, staff, and other requirements throughout this process. A few things to plan for include:

  • The best time to start
  • Downtime
  • Delays, interruptions, and unexpected problems
  • Contingency plans for problems and any additional time required
  • Anything else that could interfere with your implementation (e.g. holidays, PTO, weather)

Evaluate Your Site’s Ability To Host New Hardware
Before you remove old hardware or upgrade to new hardware, consider the limitations and requirements of your physical site. Make note of the electrical outlets you have available and might need, plus any power and cooling requirements.

Assign and Reassign Applications and Hardware
Pair your new and older applications with the hardware that can handle the requirements for each. Reassign old servers and switches for testing or development, if you want.

Create a Network Architecture Requirements List
Take a look at your network architecture requirements and jot down the following details, when applicable:

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) creation
  • Router and/or server assignments
  • 1GB and 10GB network upgrades
  • Existing and needed Cat 6 cable upgrades
  • Locations and lengths of wires

Calculate Your Storage Requirements
Consider your storage solution needs, including:

  • Server assignments and all separate hardware needed
  • Backup storage hardware
  • Data growth rates
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) upgrades

Determine Your Network’s Capability
Compare your proposed network to your business requirements and determine whether or not it can support your needs now, next year, and three years down the road. Make sure to factor in your expected business growth. 

Create a Project Plan Timeline with Projected Costs
Map out a timeline of everything that needs to be completed during your network refresh. Plan for each step, including the order, projected dates and durations, and how much everything will cost. As with the other steps, create contingency plans for unexpected problems and potential risks.

Step 4 The Refresh

With everything else set, it’s time to refresh your network. This includes training your staff, notifying everyone affected by the changes, configuring the products, testing them, and deployment. Once you finish, it’s time to start planning your next upgrade.

Make sure you have a clear plan and process in place before starting, and make sure everyone understands their role and responsibilities. The clearer the instructions, the smoother the everything should go.

Configure Your New Hardware 
When you buy packaged solutions, your server configuration is often completed for you. If not, your vendor or IT team should be able to take care of everything for you.

Install Your New Operating Systems and Applications Before you make any changes, inform everyone who will be affected so they can prepare for any downtime.

Test The Functionality
Choose a few people or a large group for an initial test. You can make the testing period as long or short as you need to ensure everything is working properly.

Create a Clear Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan
Do not overlook this step! Make sure your network and infrastructure are prepared for any potential problems, including natural disasters. Set up backup and disaster recovery solutions and include a clear action plan to address each risk.

Test User Acceptance
As you test everything, remain attentive to user comments and feedback. Use their comments to make adjustments as necessary. Again, the length of the testing period is up to you. 

Train Your Staff 
Schedule a time to provide the appropriate training for every member on your staff. Ensure they have a strong grasp of any new applications and products.

Release It
You’ve planned, implemented, installed, tested, and configured as much of your network as possible. It’s time to release it.

Plan For Your Next Upgrade Cycle

Keep the materials you created from this checklist someplace safe and organized for your next refresh. Use them to note any updates to your network and equipment, plus any licenses and warranties that either expired or you purchased/renewed. Update your networking maps, infrastructure, and any training materials as needed or when you have time. All of this will help simplify your next cycle refresh.

D-Link Can Help You With Your Network Refresh

Now that you’ve made it through the guide, we’re here to help. As we said before, we’ve helped thousands of professionals like you build, refresh, upgrade, and expand their networks. That includes custom-designed solutions, too. Even if you’re still not sure where you want to start, or you just want to ask some questions, give us a call or send us an email.