Over the past few years, small and medium businesses (SMBs) have ramped up their usage of the cloud, embraced hybrid work, and increased adoption of bandwidth-hungry applications like big data storage, video and hybrid work environments. Networks at many organisations are straining to keep up with the demands of this digital-first world where traffic and users are growing on a steep trajectory.
Just a few examples of the networking headaches SMBs are facing as a result include:
Legacy networks that are expensive to maintain and manage;
Slow or unreliable connectivity leading to poor customer experiences and employee productivity;
Security gaps that leave the business vulnerable to breaches;
An inability to support the latest digital tools and technologies; and
Difficulties in scaling the network as the business grows.
A more agile, modern network can overcome these challenges. Here are some factors to consider if network modernisation is on your agenda.
To determine which network architecture is best for your business, you will need to consider what your employees do and where they work. A network designed for a business where most people work from a central office will look different to one for a company with several smaller distributed branches or another with a large mobile and remote workforce. But some principles to keep in mind include:
Your IT reseller or systems integrator should be able to help you design a network in accordance with the latest good practices.
Even for small branches and companies, enterprise-grade switches and routers will deliver higher levels of performance and reliability than consumer-grade equipment.
High-speed Wi-Fi 6 wireless access with no dead zones and minimal congestion is key to the end-user experience, especially in environments like hospitality where customers might use the network.
It might be necessary to replace older cabling with Cat-6 cabling to future-proof your business.
How will you secure your business network?
SMBs are looking for networking security solutions that are simple and effective to ensure compliance with laws such as POPIA and to protect their systems and data. Most companies will want to seek out vendors that offer network-to-cloud security—including firewall, endpoint, email, and application security—in an integrated tool stack.
This will help close the holes that are present in a more fragmented environment and simplify administration. Another trend to watch is the move towards Zero Trust. This is a model where all traffic, users and devices on the network need to be verified authorised, inspected and secured. With this approach, users only have access to the network resources they need to perform their duties.
Who will take care of maintenance and management?
You will need to constantly maintain and manage your network to ensure peak performance. Because they tend to have small or non-existent IT departments, many SMBs choose to outsource this to an external network solutions provider. If you decide to use your in-house resources, ensure they get the training needed to support your new infrastructure. Look for networking solutions that are easy to install, manage and monitor—for example, many modern Wi-Fi solutions can be set up from a browser with a few clicks and managed from your phone.
What can you do to ensure redundancy and resilience?
Redundancy and resilience are key requirements for your network, especially with South Africa’s high levels of load shedding. Design your network so that you can keep running through power outages and other interruptions. Ensure that the architecture is designed to bounce back quickly after unplanned events.
Can your network grow with your business?
It’s important to plan and deploy a network that will grow with your business. This means not only planning for growth in end-users as your workforce and customer base grows—but also anticipating how trends such as increased use of artificial intelligence, the road to 8K video, and a proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices will impact your network.
With a network upgrade, you can accommodate more users on your network, address network quality and reliability issues, future-proof your business, and achieve a lower cost of ownership. These technical benefits translate directly into business benefits such as higher productivity, better customer experiences, and increased business resilience. Improving your network capabilities can help you to grow your business and become more profitable.
To learn more about the networking solutions available from Tarsus Distribution and how they can benefit your business click here.