10 Questions to ask your Network Design Provider

To help you to gain a better understanding of a network, whether it’s something that is already in place, or something that is being considered for installation, here are 10 questions that you can put to network design providers before setting on which is the best for you.

#1: How Robust is your Network?

Understanding the topology of a network will give you a better picture and feel for how solid that network is. There are two types of topology relating to computer networks. First, there is physical topology which deals with the way that the cabling is laid out. But the one we’re more interested in in this particular instance, is the one that is referred to as logical topology.

Logical Topology

Logical topology deals with the way that data moves around within the network. It can be imagined as a map, or a process flowchart. The paths that data flows along should be as direct and logical as possible. If the data has to “duck and dive” and find its way around the “back streets” as it were, it will be more susceptible to malfunction.

How is the Network Designed for Site Resilience?

Any given network will have some susceptibility to failure. Site resilience is the term that is used to define any network’s ability to adapt to a failure, and to then get back into routine operation once that fault has been cleared. It takes into account something called redundancy, which in computer parlance, refers to the creation of alternative pathways that can be used to circumnavigate certain failed events.

To incorporate site resilience into any network, it’s important to first gain an understanding of any company’s business needs, and to put appropriate redundancy measures into place. The sum total of these measures, implemented to ensure continuity, is the process known as site resilience and it’s obviously of critical concern to those responsible for running the network.

Service Level Agreements

Should anything go wrong that requires outside intervention. It is important to know the nature of the service level agreements that are on offer. It’s basic insurance.

#2: What are your Business Continuity Plans?

The world economy is still far from fully recovered, and in the meantime, many businesses are finding it hard to survive. The computer industry in particular is an extremely competitive environment, and it is therefore prudent to take this into consideration. So one of the important questions you need to ask of your network design provider is; exactly what business continuity plans do they have in place? You simply can’t afford to be left high and dry, if the network crashes and it is beyond your knowledge to fix it.

#3: What are the Built in Security Levels?

Security is something that we all have to be careful with in today’s world, with cybercrime being as prominent as it now is. Despite firewalls and anti-malware software, hackers are still are able to work their way into computer networks. It is therefore important to ask your network design provider how they have approached this problem What assistance you can expect from the network itself in terms of establishing whether or not it has been compromised, and if so, how and where?

#4: What about Performance Guarantees?

Talk is cheap. The problem is that if the network performance doesn’t live up to its billing, what can you do about it? Any network design provider worth their salt should already have a portfolio of performance guarantees written into the product spec. If they haven’t, and they in effect start making it up on the spot, just to appease your concern, then that’s simply not good enough.

But just being shown a guarantee, or being told that there is one, won’t do. Guarantees can be very complex with lots of hidden clauses that provide escape routes for the designer. In other words, you need to go through the guarantee, word by word, to satisfy yourself that it provides the comprehensive cover you’ll need in the event that the network fails.

Two other important questions to ask with regard to network performance are:

·         What happens if we expand our bandwidth?

·         What scalability is built into this particular network?

#5: What Flexibility Does this Network have?

In the business world, things have a habit of changing. We’ve already touched on the subject of bandwidth and scalability above. But many people are now using cloud technology, for instance. It’s therefore important to establish whether the network is cloud compatible and if so, to what degree? In today’s agile business world, the flexibility and scalability of your network is vital. So make sure you ask about how your network will be future-proofed too.

It’s also well worth asking what other services your network design provider can offer.

#6: What Range of Connectivity does this Network Offer?

Find out also whether the network will facilitate connectivity with employees in remote locations, including outside the UK. Even if this question is not applicable now, at this particular moment in time, it may be something that is necessitated in the near future, so check it out. As the web moves more towards collaboration, access to workers in offices located in various places could make all the difference.

#7: Will you have Monitoring Facilities in Place?

It’s important too, to understand whether or not your network service provider will have any monitoring facilities in place, and if so, whether they operate 24/7. If they do, you should find out what types of reports are available for your own personal use.

Another thing that is worth establishing is whether any fixes are actioned without you knowing about it, and if so, what sort of scale this relates to. It may be that you decide you need full disclosure, which may be something you need to agree.

#8: Can you carry out Network Repairs?

If you require “hands-on” access to fault find and repair problems yourself, you will want to establish what your limitations are in terms of accessibility, and also what access you will have to online help. Of course, this depends on the size and nature of the organisation and whether you have a dedicated IT department.

#9: What Business Ethics and Pedigree do you have?

Knowing your network design provider well is very important, so getting under the blankets and establishing what their business ethics are, is key. Look for accountability, dependability, integrity and reliability. Are there any written procedures in place, and if so can you view them? Does your provider have any qualifications and certifications? What is their policy on new product investment?

#10: What General Service Support is in place?

In question eight we touched briefly on the subject of what sort of technical support is in place to enable you to do DIY repairs. But what about service support in general; when things go wrong that you have no wish to try and fix yourself; or when you simply need help in some particular aspect of the network? Does your network design provider have 24 /7 back-up, and are they based here in the UK?

Getting your Business Network Right

It’s important to remember that there are many choices open to you in terms of network design, so it’s important to ask the right questions before you commit yourself. Of course, it helps to have a good plan in place in the first instance before approaching network specialists and any good company will help you to expand on that. We hope that the questions we’ve outlined for you above will go some way towards helping you in your selection process.

Not sure what kind of network you need? Get in touch to see the wide range of services that we can offer you.