Planning a New Local Area Network: From Start to Finish
Designing and Installing a LAN Computer Network
Designing a Local Area Network — also known as a LAN — is a complex process with a variety of factors to consider. A well-designed LAN will provide consistent, high quality service to every device attached to the network, no matter its size. Likewise, the network must be able to provide continuous access to functions such as printing and file sharing. To make sure the network is fast, efficient and secure, all these aspects should be planned in advance. A network technology company worth your investment will work with you to understand your needs while taking on all the logistical challenges for you.
The creation of a totally new local network will require the selection of physical media as well as a conceptual map of the network, referred to as a network topography. The conceptual layer of the network is shaped by decisions made about the software that operates the network; the physical cabling, connectors and devices must agree with this framework. Thus, to ensure all elements of a network come together as a cohesive whole that works as intended, every aspect must be compatible.
LAN Network Considerations and Planning
A Local Area Network provides connectivity to a relatively small group of users in a single building, office or campus. It also typically connects to the global Internet through a gateway server, which acts as the main defense against unauthorized access to network resources. With all this in mind, the main consideration in the early stages of LAN planning is what size it will be and what services it will provide. While a LAN featuring ten nodes can be set up in as little as one day, a larger network is a bigger undertaking.
For each special service that a LAN offers — such as printing, sophisticated software or email — it will need a server. A single server can provide multiple types of services, though heavy duty applications often require a dedicated server. Servers may require specialized cooling and cabling arrangements, but having redundant servers allows you to maintain your services if the network experiences trouble. Likewise, using multiple servers may allow you to grow your network more easily.
Network Setup Best Practices
Once the purpose of the network is well understood, you will be able to estimate the number of users and the services they need with greater confidence. From that point, it becomes possible to begin strategizing the physical layout of your network. Generally speaking, the closer a LAN’s other elements are to the servers, the easier it will be to set them up and the more consistent will be the quality of each user’s connection. In the simplest network, every network element is connected directly to a central server.
In today’s technology landscape, it is very common to have a combination of network elements using both wireless and wired connections. If this is the case in your network, it is important to test out wireless connectivity in a very early phase of the process. Some buildings are resistant to wireless signals because of their construction or existing wiring. Wireless signals can also degrade due to local interference from electronic items such as industrial equipment. Where extensive cabling is necessary, map out the building and the anticipated location of each network element to see how cabling can be optimized.
Costing a complex network has several steps. You will have to consider not only the cost of each network element, but the cost of cabling and the labor involved. Starting a network requires a significant investment, but it becomes easier to extend your technological capabilities once the network is running. It is a good idea to standardize the hardware and software configuration of your network terminals to reduce costs. You can also try using inexpensive open source software rather than commercial applications.
Businesses face a special challenge when expanding a network because doing so can lead to service outages that impact productivity during the process. To minimize this effect, consider planning for all major work to be done during a weekend. Implementing new network capabilities in staggered shifts so that interruptions are less likely is another option. When you hire a network services company to help you, they will be able to give you recommendations to minimize any disruptions that might otherwise occur.
These days, there is no denying the need for a robust and adaptable LAN for small and mid-sized enterprises. Creating a network from scratch can seem like a gargantuan task, but you can save money by taking a thoughtful approach in partnership with a trusted networking company. The more detailed your network plans are, the more you will be able to leverage opportunities for savings — simply ensure your potential vendor addresses your unique needs.