A Network Assessment Should Include More Than Technical Aspects
When you consider what’s involved in a network assessment, you’re likely to categorize the entire effort as a technical check-up. It’s true that a major component of a network assessment is examining the technical aspects. This involves a complete evaluation of cabling, firewalls, access points, switches, routers, VPNs, firmware, hardware, traffic, workstations, security vulnerabilities, devices, sources of interference and so on. But as important as this technical side is, it’s not the only consideration in a network assessment. There’s a vital business element that you must address in order to ensure a top-performing network.
To understand why the business piece is so integral to the entire network puzzle, it’s essential to view the circumstances through a productivity lens. The very existence of your network is an outcome of your organization’s need to facilitate productivity — and that’s a business function. All of the technical features don’t mean anything if they’re not related to the overall success of the business.
In this article, you’ll discover various reasons why the business side of a network assessment is so critical, and come away with a better understanding of why there’s much more to consider than just the technical details. Be sure to take advantage of this insight by utilizing our free network assessment tool.
Growing Business = Growing Number of Devices
As your enterprise scales, so must your network. If your business is growing, the amount of devices connected to it is bound to grow as well, and this is going to have a major impact on your network. With a greater multitude of devices clamoring for connectivity, the demands on your network will intensify. This could cause rippling effects, and you may end up dealing with issues like sluggish performance, user frustration and security vulnerabilities.
Therefore, business growth should absolutely be a consideration in your network assessment, as it will directly influence the recommendations for security and bandwidth. For instance, some of the following questions will need to be addressed:
- Is your network’s bandwidth sufficient for your growing business, or does it require an upgrade?
- Do you need to increase the number of access points in your network infrastructure?
- Will your cabling solution carry your network through the next 5-10 years or become obsolete much sooner?
- Do you need to beef up security measures?
Yes, these questions are technical ones, but they are based on business fundamentals, and the answers will depend largely on an assessment of your business strategies, operations and goals.
Surge in BYOD: The New Normal
It used to be the standard that all work-related devices were owned and managed by a company’s own IT department. If employees were accessing the network to carry out their roles, they were doing it exclusively via corporate devices. But this is no longer the reality for most businesses today. Employees want — and are granted permission — to use their personal devices for work. Because of the advantages BYOD brings to both employers and employees, the movement has become the new normal.
Of course, with any progressive change like this, there are going to be challenges. While BYOD offers a number of benefits for business, it also presents network complications. You’re dealing with personal smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables — all running on your network without being directly managed by IT. It should be no surprise that this situation poses a number of security risks and can hamper network performance.
This means that an integral aspect of your network assessment involves taking a look at your company’s BYOD policy and confronting the complexities it creates. Many of the recommendations and solutions will be technical ones, but you’ll also need to assess the policy itself and determine whether any revisions should be made to protect and strengthen your network.
Helping Your Help Desk Stay Above Water
A network assessment should be taking into account your company’s help desk, including the burden any potential business and IT changes can place on this department. For instance: “New IT issues can arise as a result of BYOD, such as network connectivity, bandwidth hogging, application compatibility and inaccessibility of shared devices, and the help desk team is likely to see an increase in ticket count as an upshot.” (TechRadar)
Cloud-based applications and databases, an increase in network devices and other issues can cause a previously sufficient network to slow down and result in user complaints. As a result, your network assessment may produce a recommendation for upgrades that alleviate the pressure on IT staff and make their jobs more efficient and effective. Fixing your network is likely to be much cheaper than paying additional help desk staff to field complaints about slow response times and other network problems plaguing users. This is another business component that will need to be assessed in unison with the technical aspects.
Addressing the Employee Stress Factor
If someone were to claim that employee happiness should be incorporated into an enterprise network assessment, you might balk at the idea. What could the emotions of your staff possibly have to do with your network? The connection is made when you factor business productivity into the equation.
“Recent research hints there’s a link between employees’ happiness and their productivity at work. Some companies are taking note — and already seeing the payoff. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, ‘We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.’” (Fast Company)
So if we’re keeping the lens focused on business productivity, and data shows that employee contentedness has a direct effect on that productivity, it stands to reason that employee stress caused by network insufficiencies can lead to a loss in productivity for the company. Therefore, a network assessment should include an analysis of how well the network enables users to complete their work without creating continual frustrations that cause a sense of unhappiness.
In the end, all of these efforts are about identifying ways to make your network work for your organization. Don’t jeopardize the company’s success by failing to acknowledge the business components of a network assessment.
By Craig Badrick