As our networks become more distributed, we’re building out smaller locations with basic network requirements. In this video, you’ll learn about basic network technology requirements, environmental limitations, basic network compatibility, and much more.
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If you’re responsible for implementing a basic network– this would be one that is not quite as big as something you might see in an enterprise data center. In fact, it has some very specific requirements that are designed because it is a smaller network. It’s not going to have the same infrastructure. Going to have a different source of power. The size of the network will be different. The speeds of the network will probably be different.
There’s also going to be a number of financial trade-offs. Since these are normally smaller environments, you’re not going to have a very large rack-mounted switch. You’re instead going to use one that costs a lot less. It probably has fewer ports on it. And it’s probably also going to have fewer features available because of its lower price point.
But all of these things don’t have to be the cutting edge. After all, these smaller locations aren’t transferring huge amounts of data. We don’t have the same requirements that we might have in a large data center. And if we do have something that fails, or we need to replace it, it’s going to have a very small impact to the overall bottom line.
If you’re working on one of these remote sites and it has this smaller network, one of the challenges you have is that there’s no IT staff on site. It’s usually the core group of people that handle business at that location. They don’t have high speed networks set up. They usually just need the basic application access. You need clients running on a workstation. You might need a browser for access for the web-based applications. There might be a VPN requirement, because those people go home at night and they still need access to the corporate network. In some cases, they are using a VPN connection going back to the corporate office. But occasionally, you may have to have a VPN connection going back to the smaller remote site.
Then, you’re also going to need some type of data sharing. Of course, all of this information has to go back and forth to corporate. You’re going to have to collaborate with other locations that you have in the organization. And, of course, you will need backups. Just because they are a remote location doesn’t mean that their data is any less important. So there has to be a standard process in place to make sure all of the data is always available.
The internet connection at these smaller locations may be very similar to the internet connections you have at home. Might be a DSL connection or cable modem connection. There may be differences in the service that you’re getting from the provider, especially when you run into problems, you’re troubleshooting, and the response time may be faster for a business class connection. This is going to provide you with your internet connection. The ISP is, often, even providing the router themselves so they can configure and manage all of the router connectivity. And they’re providing the network address translation so that anybody at your location can properly access resources on the internet.
These internet routers may also be configured to provide that VPN connectivity. So instead of connecting back to corporate, you can connect back to this remote access modem or router, and be able to provide access to that small office. These devices will commonly also provide additional capabilities. They may give you the wireless access you need for that smaller site. These might have intrusion prevention built into the device. Might also do content filtering, so that you can manage what people are able to see inside of their browsers.
Depending on the size of this remote site, you might need an additional ethernet switch. Or, you might use the switch ports that are available in the wireless modem provided by the ISP. If you are providing your own ethernet switches, the main office may decide that you need a managed switch versus an unmanaged switch. It will depend on the level of support they need to provide for that switch at that location. You may get some enhanced capabilities depending on the switch that you implement. You might get VLAN capabilities. Or you may have some higher speeds available, depending on which switch model you decide on. And if it’s a site that is planning to grow, you might want to get a switch with some additional ports on it. That way, you have plenty of room for growth.
Because these locations are relatively small, you may not want to have a separate printer and a separate fax machine and a separate scanner. You can have everything combined into a single device in an all-in-one printer. These are usually networked as well. So you can put it in a central location, and everybody can access this device over the network. It has copying capabilities built into it. You’re able to use it as a scanner so that you can send documents elsewhere using PDF or in your email system. And there’s fax capabilities in here as well. There still are organizations that rely on fax communication to send private information, instead of sending it out over a public network like the internet.
One of the challenges you have with the smaller sites is that you don’t have control over the environment. There may be a single HVAC unit for the entire building. This equipment may be sitting in the corner. So whatever the temperature is in the room is the temperature that your equipment is going to see as well. You have to think about the humidity of the air, especially if there’s an air conditioning. And if that air conditioning turns off at night, you may need to think about how your equipment is going to handle the increased humidity and the increased temperature.
Of course, you have to think about power as well. These locations generally don’t have their own UPS, so you may need to get individual uninterruptible power supplies for all of your network equipment. And if you’re running wireless at this remote location, and there are other businesses around, you want to be sure that your wireless network is not going to have any frequency conflicts with other wireless networks in the area.
These smaller offices have very functional equipment. But occasionally, you will run into limitations. These ethernet devices are generally set up to run at gigabit speeds. And even then, it may not be as fast as an enterprise type of ethernet switch. You also have redundancy limitations. You may not have multiple servers at a particular location. There may not be multiple switches and multiple routers. So there’s no way to automate a failover should there be a problem.
You also have to think about how to manage all of these devices, since you’re not on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And usually, you’re accessing these devices from a remote site. You need some way to be able to see what’s going on with all of those different components. And if this location does have a lot of growth, you may end up having to replace this equipment to put in something that is better designed for a larger environment.
An important part of this equipment at a remote site is that it all has to work together perfectly. Since there are no IT people on site, and you’re usually accessing this information from a remote location, you have to make sure it’s all compatible. Usually you’re testing this beforehand. And you’re setting up some very specific standards as to what is allowed these remote sites, and what things would not work properly at these remote locations. Everything has to be completely standardized, from the router to the switches to the other devices, so that they will all work together.
And once you have something that is working, you generally duplicate that across all of your locations. You’ll commonly use equipment from a large manufacturer. That way, if you need to replace it, it would be easy to find a replacement. And if you need troubleshooting, you can call into a central support line and get the support you need.
In a small office, you don’t have somebody on-site who does cabling. So you’re generally going to contract with a third party who will come in and install all of the cabling for that location. And smaller sites usually don’t have a lot of moves and adds and changes. So it would be rare that you would need to make a change to the wiring infrastructure.
At a home office you probably don’t need a third party contractor, because you only have one or two different devices. And you’re usually plugging into the same network that you’re using in the rest of the home. Might also be plugging into wireless network so that you won’t need any cabling. That’s the case, you need to make sure, in these smaller locations and in a home office, that you are using the proper security, so that nobody else can see your corporate information over that wireless network.
Security is important regardless of how big the location is. If it’s a wireless network, we need to look at the SSID information, the encryption type, and make sure all of that data is protected. Your router, of course, needs to have the proper security. Passwords need to be in place. We usually are not going to be connecting directly to the internet. We’re always going to have some type of router and firewall separating us from the internet. And since we’re taking advantage of these firewalls, we need to make sure that we’re using both the physical firewall at our internet connection, we also need to use the firewalls that are built into our operating systems.
And we need to make sure everything is password-protected. We don’t want to use the default passwords that were originally installed in our routers and our switches. We want to make sure everything has been changed, and that those passwords remain private.