Laboratories are dynamic. New instruments are added regularly to enable new tests. Space is reconfigured to adapt to new ways of doing things. Once something is no longer useful, it is removed and replaced with something better. Museums are static. Their purpose is to preserve the past. Even when new exhibits are added, they look backward, not forward.
When we begin working with a new client, we perform an assessment of the existing network infrastructure. Not only is technology dynamic, but so are the needs of your business. The tools and processes that helped your business move forward five years ago may be holding it back today. As the past year has shown, an agile and modern network infrastructure can help businesses react to changes in how and where employees work with each other and how and where customers interact with the business. During our infrastructure assessments, we find a lot more museums than laboratories.
Is your network infrastructure a laboratory or a museum? Let’s look at some of the key areas from our assessments.
Remote access has received a lot of attention in the past year. Even before the pandemic, most businesses had some sort of remote access solution in place. What we find, however, is that these solutions are not a true Virtual Private Network (VPN) and lack the security and scalability a modern business requires. Some businesses have used remote control solutions such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC to allow employees to gain access while working remotely. While easy to use, these require a physical PC to remain in the building for each employee to connect to, plus a PC that is with the remote worker. Licensing fees can add up quickly as you increase the number of remote workers. Some businesses have a VPN based on the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). While easy to use, this solution has serious security problems and should not be used. Clare Computer Solutions uses the latest VPN technologies to enable remote access solutions that are secure, scalable, and cost-effective. When it comes to allowing access to the digital heart of your business, can you really afford to have a remote access solution that belongs in a museum?
Network segmentation is another area where we find a lot of museum specimens. Many companies will have a flat network topology, with all devices on a common subnet. Think about it: should the PC in the lobby really be on the same network as the servers running your business? Not only is this a security issue, but it also leads to performance issues. Modern network infrastructures use virtual LAN (VLAN) technology to isolate portions of your network to improve security and performance. A simple example of the security benefit is your guest network, which should allow guests to access the internet but block them from accessing any business resources. A VLAN is created for the guest network which connects to the internet but isolates from the rest of the business network. VLANs should also be used to isolate the manufacturing network from the sales network. By restricting access to only those devices that need access, you reduce your security vulnerabilities.
VLANs can also be used to improve performance. Voice over IP (VoIP) calls require data to be delivered at regular intervals to maintain good sound quality. If the network is saturated with large file downloads, voice traffic may be delayed, resulting in garbled audio. By placing VoIP traffic on a separate VLAN, it no longer needs to compete with non-voice traffic and better sound quality can be achieved. This can also be used in a manufacturing environment where tools need fast access to servers, or in engineering environments where workstations need fast access to design files on a file server. By isolating these departments, the data is only exposed to those that need it and the users don’t have to compete with other departments for the bandwidth to access those resources.
Would you believe that we see more wireless network museums than laboratories? Wireless network standards are constantly improving. When the Wi-Fi standard was designed about twenty years ago, it envisioned a handful of PCs on each access point. Today we have dozens of PCs, plus tablets, phones, smart watches, and even thermostats, all competing for bandwidth. We are running video conferencing that uses higher bandwidth and requires consistent delivery to maintain quality. We find many wireless networks that are architected using older standards and lack the necessary network infrastructure and segmentation to support the higher wireless bandwidths that are required today. One of the services we perform for new customers is a wireless infrastructure assessment to ensure this critical resource is operating at its full potential.
The shift to cloud computing has been a game-changer for most businesses. The ability to easily scale while only paying for what you use has changed the financial dynamics significantly. With traditional infrastructure, IT would not only invest in the necessary servers, but also in redundant servers so that when there was a problem with the primary server, business could continue on a backup server. Now with the shift to the cloud, the cloud service providers handle server redundancy. Rather than eliminating the need for redundancy within the corporate infrastructure, it has shifted it. What happens to your cloud-based business if your internet connection goes down? Yes, you have redundant servers in the cloud, but when you can’t access the cloud it doesn’t matter. In a cloud-based economy, businesses that don’t have redundant internet access capabilities are museum artifacts.
When we engage with a new client, our experts perform an assessment of the overall network infrastructure already in place. We look for key issues like these, and others, to determine which aspects are holding your business back from its full potential. We prioritize the issues so we can address the most important elements first, and then propose an infrastructure improvement plan to systematically convert your network museum into a robust, dynamic laboratory. Whether it’s your remote access solution, your network segmentation, your wireless infrastructure, your internet redundancy, or all of them, we can help put your business on the path to having a constantly evolving network infrastructure that delivers the security, performance, and stability that your business needs to be successful.