As your company grows, so does your IT infrastructure. Over time, even experienced IT leaders will find that they no longer can account for what’s going on in some parts of their ecosystems.
Maturing networks experience growing pains that will present challenges that many IT professionals haven’t encountered before; issues ranging from unexpected data shortages to unexplainable data loss and security breaches can be difficult to address when they pop-up unannounced. Even well functioning networks will need regular upgrades, especially for companies looking to use the cloud to prepare for recovery in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Partnering with an outside resource to conduct a network assessment can help overtaxed IT departments at small to mid-size companies get a grasp on their network when it’s grown to the point where you can no longer comfortably keep tabs on everything that’s going on.
Not every company needs a assessment, though. Hiring a partner to do a full scale assessment costs money, and preparation for an assessment can divert your IT resources away from day-to-day business. How do you know when a network assessment is worth buying? Here are some guidelines.
Before we start, what exactly is a Network Assessment?
A network assessment is an organized review of your existing IT infrastructure from an analytical processing and planning standpoint. This assessment organizes all aspects of your network functionality, security, and performance into one holistic overview, then provides oversight into how to improve efficiency, bolster security, and prepare for substantial future growth and changes. Depending on the state of your network, that can include:
- Resource allocation. Some departments will naturally use more resources than others - no network is perfectly symmetrical. But what if your network isn’t designed to distribute that bandwidth based on need? A network assessment can help you determine who needs more resources and help minimize waste in your network. Better allocation can free up resources to use the data you have on hand smarter, too.
- Performance and bottlenecks. When performance is down, everyone knows it. IT professionals often will seek out more bandwidth to compensate for data hungry streaming, video, and complex software applications. In many cases, the existing bandwidth is more than adequate though — it’s just trapped upstream. Finding bottlenecks can open up network capability and boost performance without the need for additional resources. You can often locate and fix some bottlenecks yourself, but network assessments do a full scale analysis to locate them all.
- Aging out. If you are planning major changes to your network, such as shifting functions to cloud-based services or implementing a new CRM, old software and infrastructure can create major connectivity issues. A network assessment can not only pick out software that’s aged out, it can also help you plan for future upgrades by pinpointing software that will need future replacement, which helps you plan for purchases or front and back end development.
- Security. A network that’s riddled with malware isn’t secure for your employees or your customers. Holes in your network can create major security issues, especially because it takes only minutes for sensitive personal information or customer credit card numbers to find their way onto the dark web. Network assessments perform a deeper dive into network security than your standard firewall software to find weak points. They can also help you center your priorities on the three P’s of smart network security.
For your employees, upgrading after an assessment means more consistent performance, as well as cleaner connections between departments (between your consumer-facing web presence and fulfillment infrastructure, for example). For IT professionals, it means fewer hiccups when implementing new software, transitioning to the cloud, or rolling out new products, plus fewer support tickets.
Who benefits most from a Network Assessment?
Small to mid-sized companies benefit the most from assessments. Large Fortune 500 size companies usually have enough IT staff on hand to regularly monitor factors that make network assessments appealing, but smaller guys more often don’t have the resources to keep this variety of infrastructure running.
Most small startups, on the other hand, don’t have a mature or complex enough network to warrant the expenditure. Network Assessments are great for companies between 1k and 10k employees who are planning for a major upgrade or experiencing less-than-optimal network performance.
When is a Network Assessment worth buying?
Network assessments are a worthwhile investment when you find that you don’t fully know what’s going on in parts of your network, especially if you’re concerned that your lack of insight may be compromising your security or performance.
If you’re about to make a big infrastructure change, installing new communications software or migrating operations to the cloud, assessments are also very helpful in the planning phase and can make your implementations considerably more efficient. Sometimes, it’s just nice to get an update on your network and make sure everything's up to date and running smoothly, especially when you have a big rollout on the horizon. All of these scenarios present a great opportunity to invest in a network assessment.
When is a Network Assessment not worth buying?
If you recently had your network assessed, chances are good that you don’t need another checkup right away. Assessments are usually pretty hassle-free, but they do require time and resources to undertake. Scheduling regular-but-infrequent assessments with the right partner is important for a healthy network, but don’t go overboard and get one every few months. You should get one about as often as you have a checkup with your dentist.
Looking for a partner to perform a network assessment of your IT infrastructure? Contact us today.