Designing a network, whether it is for a home network, a small office, a store front, an office redesign, relocation, or just an upgrade in your current hardware should always begin with answering the question “what do I need my network to do?” The essential function of a network is communication.
Communication of what? People? Well, yes, people communicate through the network, usually using a computer, smart phone, or other device. Here are some of the ways people communicate through the network:
- Video chat or video conference
- Instant messaging or texting
- File sharing
- Screen sharing
Clearly the most prevalent devices on your network are your computers but more and more the work locations at your office also have a voice over IP (VoIP) phone. Mixed through the office may be other devices such as printers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, plotters, and even video devices. All the devices will need to be connected to the network with either wired cabling or wirelessly.
Create a list, preferably a spread sheet, of all of your devices. A spreadsheet will allow us to expand the list and add further information about each device such as an IP address assignment (static or dynamic), a physical location (jack number), and other details about the device. This spreadsheet will also help when laying out the physical network to make sure you have enough cabling, adequate ports, and the bandwidth you will require both on your Local Area Network and your Internet Connection.
Now you will be ready to move on to the next step in your network design and consider the actual network technology. I’ll talk about that next time.