Planning for the New Network
Ten Trends are Rewriting the Rules for Midsized Businesses
With more than three out of four midsize companies now describing their business as being “network dependent,” network planning has become an operational make-or-break proposition. Complicating matters for midsize business information technology (IT) professionals, classic rules for network planning no longer apply.
Local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) designs have historically been based on an 80/20 rule for traffic flow. That is, 80 percent of traffic remained within the LAN and only 20 percent travelled beyond to the WAN. This tenet has recently been turned upside down, however. Industry heavyweights like Cisco Systems and Gartner now forecast that 80 percent of a company’s traffic is likely to flow outside the LAN, significantly increasing WAN and Internet connection performance requirements.
Ten important trends have contributed to the rewriting of this long-standing network planning rule. It is essential for midsized business IT teams to manage their impact.
1. Device Diversity
More than half of today’s information workers use three or more devices on the job. Workers are now more likely to connect to the company network with a laptop, tablet or smartphone than a desktop PC. More devices means more applications used and bandwidth consumed.
2. Remote Workers
Increasingly, workers are using this assortment of devices to connect with company applications and information from outside of the traditional office environment. That means their traffic is flowing from the outside-in rather than the inside out—entering the company through the WAN rather than originating within the LAN.
3. Cloud Cover
Cloud applications—including popular CRM and business productivity solutions—are typically hosted in a remote data center rather than on the company LAN. That means the traffic flows across the WAN to a midsized business’s data center for private could applications and to the Internet for public cloud apps.
4. Desktop Virtualization
This solution decouples a company’s standard desktop environment—often Windows-based—and makes it available to virtually any employee device through the cloud. It is a powerful way for IT departments to deliver a secure, consistent user experience for a wide array of devices and operating systems.
Videoconferencing and streaming video applications are becoming essential productivity tools. However, their bandwidth and latency requirements can devour network resources. A single TelePresence videoconference room requires a 4-Mbps data stream per user.
6. Social Networking
Not only must IT support corporate social media efforts—personal use of social media on the company network is a new application class to manage. According to a recent Salary.com survey, 64% of employees visit non-work related websites every day at work; with social media websites such as Facebook accounting for 41% while 37% use LinkedIn.
Managing security threats—such as viruses, worms, hacker attacks and information interception—protects the availability, usability and integrity of a company’s network and data. IT professionals rank maintaining security and compliance as their number-one challenge.[i]
8. Big Data
Stores of marketing and operating data—from social media, email and website usage to customer transactions and financial market figures—are being crunched continually. Although big data is revolutionizing marketing and operational visibility, such business analytics may require big bandwidth.
9. Backup and Recovery
Data storage, backup and recovery are essential to fulfilling business continuity plans. Cloud solutions are an increasingly attractive option, with 44 percent of companies reporting they currently use, or plan to use, an online backup service.[ii]
10. UC and VoIP
Unified Communications (UC) integrates telephone, text messaging, voicemail, fax and email to enhance employee collaboration and customer service. As businesses migrate voice traffic to IP from the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to reduce costs and enhance features, they must maintain call quality of service across the company data network.
Midsize firms are embracing these ten trends to increase agility and innovation, enrich customer care and marketing, and drive operating efficiencies. Together, they offer an opportunity to level the technological playing field between midsize businesses and larger enterprise competitors. To ensure a high-quality user experience for employees and customers in a network-dependent business environment, exceptional WAN and Internet connection performance are essential. Partnering with a best-in-class WAN and Internet service provider is an essential ingredient in planning for the new network.
[i] Spiceworks, “Trends around Desktop Virtualization for Small and Mid-sized Organizations,” April 2012.
[ii] Spiceworks, “How SMBs are Backing Up: Solutions, Trends & Challenges,” March 2013.