WOOF! Newsletter

October 27, 2013

Is It Time to Upgrade Your Network? – Part 2: Things You Need to Know

So you've determined that you need help with your network. In order to save time and money, it's best to have some technical information on-hand when a networking consultant arrives. What kind? That's what our checklist will help you with.
By Bill Wester, Networking Consultant

If you've read Part 1 of this series, you'll know there are many factors that go into a highly-functioning network. When it slows down and starts breaking, you know you need some help.

When it's time to call in a networking expert, you’ll need some information on hand. Before they even start work, an IT consultant needs information about the network’s layout & operation, how computers connect to it, and what kind of Internet access you have.

Can’t they figure it out themselves? Sure. But, if you know the network’s structure ahead of time, the consultant doesn’t have to spend time mapping things out, before they can do any work. That saves them time, and you money.

What kind of information should you collect? This list will help you determine that.

Things to Know: The Network Upgrade Information Checklist

  1. What is your external connectivity like? Details on what this involves include:
    1. What ISP does your organization use (how do you connect to the Internet?)
    2. Contact information for your ISP and the associated circuit ID.
    3. Static IP or Dynamic IP?
    4. How many external IPs are in use?
    5. Do you have any external routing protocols vs. static routing?
  2. How happy are you with the network’s performance? Does the network experience slowdowns?
  3. Do you have a network diagram of each element, and the physical connectivity of those elements mapped out? (If you had a consultant set up your network, they probably documented this for you. If not, ask a consultant to do this first!)
  4. Do you have a logical diagram of your network? Do you know how your network logically flows (how information passes from point to point), both internally and out to the Web?
  5. Do you have a list of devices in your network? Do you know when they were purchased? A device is any item through which network traffic flows. These can include:
    1. Firewalls
    2. Switches
    3. Access points
    4. Routers
  6. Do you have login information for all the devices in your network? (So the consultant can log in, to make any changes needed.)
  7. Do you have support logins and support contracts to call vendors if there was a problem with the equipment you currently have installed?
  8. How are your network services delivered today? Do you use web-based email, or is your email server in-house? Other network-based services (such as DHCP and DNS) are handled by what - Microsoft, or a router?
  9. How does your organization handle file sharing and backups? When was the last time you verified that your backups were running and restorable?
  10. Do you have any saved documentation or configuration files available for professional review?
  11. What is your plan for the future of the network? How/where do you see your network growing in the next 24 months?
  12. What are the 3 things that cause you the most problems with your network right now? (If they are errors, we can fix them. If they’re design issues, we can resolve them by modifying the network’s design.)

How to Collect Network Information

The following sources can help you assemble answers to this checklist. You should have at least some available.
  1. Current technical documentation
  2. Asking your current IT staff
  3. Asking previous IT consultants for documentation they made during work on your network
  4. Reviewing server logs
PlanetMagpie's IT consultants would need this kind of information in order to properly diagnose network troubles. Without it, we’d have to hunt through your infrastructure, mapping the way out as we go. If you know the way beforehand, it saves time and money all around.

This is Part 2 of our "Upgrading Your Network" content series. Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list to be notified when our continuation, "Time to Secure Your Network? Part 1: Protecting Trade Secrets from Employee Theft" is published.

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Bill Wester is a 20-year networking expert. He's worked for major Silicon Valley companies like Extreme Networks and Sun Microsystems. Currently he works with PlanetMagpie as a Networking Consultant, architecting networks, upgrading Internet connections, and improving network security. Bill received his B.S. in Computer Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and his Executive MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, Haas Business School/Columbia University. He can be reached at 510-344-1200 or ITconsulting@planetmagpie.com.