Rough Guidelines for Network Optimisation

This are rough guidelines for network optimisation. Keeping your network optimised and running at its peak possible performance is very important and can make a huge difference, not just from an IT and networking perspective, but for the business as a whole. As a network grows and the users increase, obviously the problems become more specific and require more intelligent, thoughtful solutions, but here we offer a few simple guidelines that should help keep a network of any size running smoothly. For a more specific look at connectivity based troubleshooting, please see our guide here.

  • Make sure that the amount of Internet bandwidth you have is sufficient for the amount of users and WAN applications that you use. A very common complaint is that Internet in an office is too slow, and all too often it can be because the level of speed being supplied is simply not enough for the requirements of the office. On the flipside to that, people can be quick to complain about the speed at their desk when there isn’t a problem – people are used to having speeds of 20, 30, 40Mb at home, then they come to work and they are only getting the equivalent of 2Mb at their desk, they think there is a problem, even though this is sufficient to carry out their work applications sufficiently. Talk to your ISP about monitoring the traffic levels on your Internet lines at different times of the day, and if you find that your usage is regularly hitting the peak of your bandwidth then you need to look into increasing the speed.
  • Ensure that everything on your network is kept up to date and configured optimally, both your hardware and your software. Always check manufacturer websites regularly for hardware firmware updates, read newsletters and keep an eye out for any known bugs or patches that come up. Never delay in applying updates or patches – set aside a set time each week, out of hours if need be, to do maintenance and updates. Always keep an eye out for configuration changes that can help improve, simplify and optimise the way things are running. Try to avoid standing still for too long and letting things slowly churn.
  • Always keep the physical side of your network maintained just as much as the technical side. So make sure that your comms room is always neat and tidy, with a clear system for cabling and switching. Try and keep it logical so you always know where something is, what it is doing and where it is going. Try and keep cabling systems colour coded and virtual networks logical. Make sure that cables are free of obstruction and potential dangers, like someone wheeling a chair over it or putting a desk leg on it. Place routing and switching devices away from anything that might cause radio or electrical interference, and where possible make sure that they are powered with UPS devices and surge protectors. Make sure that floor and wall panels are kept clear and secure.
  • Carry out regular audits and housekeeping on your network. Always keep a comprehensive network diagram and documentation detailing each component of your network and exactly what it is doing and why, and always ensure that this documentation is kept up to date – update the log when things change, not a few weeks or months after it changes. Make sure that nothing becomes overworked or redundant. Network audits should be carried out at least once a year, for larger networks maybe more than that.
  • If your office uses wireless technology, have a wireless survey conducted of your office. Diagnose where the wireless dead zones are and consider installing boosters or wireless access points to increase coverage. Look at what areas of your office are using the various wireless channels and make sure there is no channel bleed between areas. Make sure that your wireless is secure and safe and free from any unwanted intruders or leeches by managing your SSIDs and passwords effectively.
  • Do regular backups of anything remotely important. It is good practice to back up everything.
  • Always ensure that you have maintenance contracts on any routing or switching devices, or things like firewalls and servers. It may also be a good idea to have spare kit on site so that in the case of an emergency you can rip out faulty hardware and replace it with a known working device, preferably with the correct configuration already on it. Be proactive, not reactive. Be prepared for a worst case scenario and weigh up how business critical each piece of kit is versus how much it will cost to have a backup ready.
  • Keep your network secure from intruders and safe for users. Make sure you have enough security in place in the form of firewalls and network architecture so that you don’t make it easy for any attempted intruders. Always keep passwords secure and safe, and change them regularly as part of your network audit process. Ensure that users do the same with their passwords. Have a contingency plan in place in the event of someone brute forcing your network or attempting a DDoS attack. Have a security strategy that is kept up to date. Again, be proactive not reactive.
  • Have a computer usage policy in place and make sure that it is enforced with everyone adhering to it. Ensure that users are not sat at their desk streaming media or downloading material for personal use, soaking up bandwidth that should be used for business purposes.
  • Put a monitoring system or application in place on your network so you can keep an eye on everything, from an overview level all the way down to user level. Ideally you want the monitoring system to be able to generate reports, actively monitor for any irregularities, and generate alerts in the event of something failing.