In many organisations the network has naturally grown organically in response to business demands and imperatives, configuration and design driven by tactical needs for urgent deployments, moves and changes.
As a result the documentation may be high level only and not presenting any substantive record of what is operationally deployed. This presents risks for the operational status of the network and limits opportunity to adopting a more strategic plan for development of the network.
The lack of detailed operational record documentation means that the support of the network will depend on the knowledge and recollection of the IT staff who ultimately maintain the network.
The lack of detailed documentation also means that when new services are required it is not necessarily clear how this will impact the network and what will need to be done to uplift the component parts and configurations to satisfactorily support the new services.
As networks are called on to support more systems the need for a dependable and high availability utility infrastructure increases exponentially.
The network (wired and WIFI), in addition to normal data services for desktop and servers, will normally be required to support VoIP / IP Telephony, Video Conferencing, IP TV, Skype for Business, BYOD, CMS, security CCTV and access controls, Building Management Systems and will need to be able to deliver Cloud delivered services such as desktop Software as a Service (e.g. Office 365), Infrastructure as a Service (remotely hosted servers remotely hosted applications), Voice as a Service, WIFI as a service and others diverse services and facilities.
The availability and reliability of the network, while previously being important, has now become business critical. Even an outage of 45 seconds caused by traditional switched network resilience protocols will drop voice calls, video conferencing sessions and prevent access to remote services and software.
Availability and reliability requires a systemic plan for the network, where resilience is built in, impacts of faults and misconfigurations are mitigated and minimised, resilience operates consistent with service (i.e. VoIP / IP Telephony) and business continuity / DR needs.
Documenting the network completely is the first stage in baselining the network for supporting any or all of these services.
Once documented it is possible to develop a strategic plan for configuring the network to provide new services, using a best practice standardised design against which the network can be measured and tested, maintained and further developed.
The process of documentation can highlight fundamental configuration or topology issues which can be tactically remediated to immediately improve network operation and performances.
A standards based design approach and strategic plan and roadmap for implementation and development going forwards will provide a sound basis for a functional network as a functional essential utility for supporting business performance and growth.