Blog   »   Office network evolution

By administrator Site Admin at 3:12 pm

All office networks were at some point simple and relatively easy to understand.

As the company grows, so do needs for having a more robust network, management options, security, backups and throughput.

We will try to explain these networks in a language we hope will be relatively easy to understand and if you are recognizing your network and your situation in one or more than one of these scenarios, you can use this document as a reference, someone’s experience, but also as an opportunity to understand what is ahead of you. With some luck, you will also see a potential to save a lot of time and money by making the right move at the right time…

(Example 1)

These network topologies are somewhat popular today for startup businesses, but they lack management options and are very bandwidth thirsty.

There is no Internet traffic control and users often complain of “internet being slow”, regardless of what your Internet speed is. This happens because there are large amounts of data being pushed to and pulled from your e-mail server (hosted with a company or service outside of your network). Your router does not have the ability to prioritize traffic flow, so those users browsing the internet, using Skype or watching YouTube – have the same priority as those users who are performing legitimate business-related tasks.

Data sharing between users is very limited and it can be successfully completed only if you “map” one PC to another. Multiple issues exist with data consistency, ability to successfully manage user rights etc.


(Example 2)

Your business is at the point where you have to start managing your data more carefully. A server, or a workstation acting as a server is needed in your organization. This is the first significant, yet necessary investment in your network infrastructure. Data sharing is managed better, you can rely on your server to keep your data safe, and users can shut their systems down without affecting other users on your network and their ability to access shared data.

You are still experiencing issues with slow internet at times.


(Example 3)

Your office is at the point where you are dealing with several users and your network access needs to be managed in a more secure way. Active Directory® or similar service is needed to help you manage all this, and you are faced with a need to have at least one person in your company either trained to perform IT duties, or you need a trusted external source, usually part-time to help you manage your infrastructure.Your company e-mail is still located outside of your network as you are not prepared to deal with somewhat significant overhead of managing your own e-mail server. Internet is not as slow as it was before, as your AD server, often offering ISA functions, your IT person begins to undestand the QOS (quality of service) and options available to him/her by managing the server and/or router.

Your remote users are connecting to webmail and have no connectivity to office systems. Options like remote access software offered online are not as secure as you want them to be and in case you decide to open your network up for this kind of access, you are worried about network security and data integrity. And rightfully so…
It is time to invest in a more robust solution for your remote access, a solution that will be as self-managed as possible, as unbreakable as it gets. You want to be able to control your users opening your network up to an outside attacks (willfully or not).


(Example 4)

Your office is relying on e-mail to transport large attachments and significant amounts of data. It is time to move your e-mail server in house. Internet is finally flying like it’s supposed to. E-mail traffic is mostly internal and your e-mail server “throttles” the outgoing traffic, so there are no longer issues with “page cannot be displayed” due to all your Internet resources being used up by services you are not even sure you need… or what they are.
This is the second significant investment in your infrastructure. E-mail server and the AD server are probably located in a relatively small closet, and it is time to think about a dedicated room for these systems – a space that will give them the security and HVAC they deserve. At this point, the value of data on your systems is several times more than the value of servers they are located on.

You should start thinking about engaging a professional who can explain the benefits available to your organization when it comes to licensing, backup options, redundancy etc. It is very wise to engage a seasoned professional or organization to help with this, as when it comes to licensing fees alone (and let’s face it - this is something that no one wants to deal with unless they have to or it is too late). There are so many licensing options available to small businesses today that you can save thousands of Dollars if licensing plan is chosen properly. Going online or buying retail licenses in your local store is the most expensive option and these expenses can add up fast.

Your users depend on mobile devices to communicate when they are on the go. Speed and reliability of this communication are slowly becoming the top priority for your IT professional or organization maintaining your network.

You are slowly starting to reap the rewards of nicely setup network and ability to communicate with your mobile employees in a manner that is reliable and fast. Internal users rely more on laptops and your users have the need to take their laptop home and continue working once they get there.


(Example 5)

Your office has grown to a significant number of employees. Your data security is becoming more and more important, and data availability is becoming crucial. Your office is throughput and bandwidth thirsty again. Your systems must be accessible at all times and your IT professional is recommending installing a second Internet Service Provider link. Your guests need WiFi connection and because of security reasons – you need a separate network for them.

Your IT team understands the need for redundancy for some or all of your systems. Functions of your network are being separated to different servers now. Servers are handling one or several functions at the same time, but it is becoming hard to manage all the updates, server maintenance and meet the goal of close to 100% uptime requirement. Your systems are mostly maintained by your IT professional or a team – at night, when no one will be affected…

While separating server functions like this is the right way to go, your physical environment is not necessarily ready to give up a single office just so the servers will have a place for themselves. HVAC and power consumption, availability of healthy power source are becoming pivotal.

IT cost is becoming significant. Servers need to be replaced every 3-4 years, and if you have 7-8 of them in the office, even the least expensive ones will hit your bottom line with 4-5 thousand per year. This is in addition to all other IT expenses. You are looking at your network and while you are satisfied with its operation, you need to find the better way to manage expenses.


(Example 6)

Outsourcing all your equipment to an out-of-office site “in the cloud” appears to be the way to go. You are faced with constant upgrades on your network, mandated by IT rules, regulations and the fact that you have several systems in your office that are aging simultaneously. Option to “outsource and you won’t have to worry about hardware refresh, maintenance or licenses” appeals to you and you are looking at a fixed operating cost this way. Someone else worries about your office network integrity, security and updates.

This solution is actually working out well for some organizations, but in our experience, SMB networks are not necessarily the ones who should jump into full system outsourcing prior to understanding the potential risks and unavoidable operating cost of such migration. This document does not have as a goal to deter anyone from making this move but rather – we’ll try to explain the risks that we were able to document in many cases ourselves.
The fact that your servers are no longer physical systems but virtual boxes located on a blade system somewhere, sharing resources with many other organizations doesn’t worry you at all. This is someone else’s problem. Or so you think.

You now have a minimal number of servers (or no servers at all) in your office. You have an additional office now, and the life is good. However, you are becoming to realize that the cost of operating in the cloud is significant and mandatory updates – are mandatory and when the expenses hit – they hit all at once, all at the most inconvenient time. IT organization maintaining your servers is less responsive now for some reason, you don’t see your servers, only service bills. When you have issues with your systems, the standard answer is “it’s your ISP, you will have to call them, your internet speed is not sufficient”. You are purchasing more and more bandwidth from your provider(s) and the cost is becoming a real burden. Your external users are reporting slow speeds, but IT support is telling you that this is either a problem with their home systems, home internet, or your office internet… You are not sure who to call anymore.

Internet speeds in the office are now unbearably slow but that’s something you’re now willing to live with, for whatever reason.
You are now tied to a contract that stops you from migrating any or all of the services back or to a different provider… IT is finally more of a hassle than anything else. How did we get here?


(Example 7)

You are at the point where you need the full control of your network again. Luckily, the business has picked up so you have many more users than in the previous scenario, but dealing with outsourced systems and many users offsite and those onsite complaining about speed, connectivity issues… you have to get to the bottom of this, but it is now hard to migrate all of the systems, purchase several servers to replace those in the cloud, you need to invest significantly in room, equipment, local IT support… or do you?

Virtualization has its good and potentially bad sides, but if done properly, you can take advantage of those features that suit you and save tens of thousands of dollars in initial expenses and thousands upon thousands in annual maintenance.
We know that this graph is getting little complicated, but nevertheless – it represents your network after you migrate all of the services back to a single (little beefier than usual) system – that acts as a host for your virtual boxes.

VIRTUALIZATION: Let’s touch base on this topic for a moment. The idea of nesting multiple systems on a single virtual platform was born from a fact that on average – your servers are using 10% or less of their memory and CPU resources – 95% of the time. It seems like we’re overprocessing and over-equipping our servers with memory but we need those resources perhaps 1% of the time – so they are there, sitting, doing nothing but depreciating in value and hitting your financial books with expenses over the course of their shelf life.

Virtualization has come a long way now, and when it comes to reliability, it is actually rated higher than your average server operating system. Now the issue is – who will understand this and help you understand it better so you can make the right choice? Luckily, software vendors and IT professionals today are taking this seriously and they are there to assist you in making your move so you can finally start reaping full benefits from this technology.


(Example 8)

This is the simplified look of Example 7. This is what your office will look like, and this is what will “hit your books”. Yes, a single server with software that will house all your servers can take care of all your needs. This solution is called a virtual platform, and you still have all of the servers you need – and some more!
Assumption here is an office with 25-40 users with average use of e-mail and network drives. Luckily, this solution scales very well, and basically the more users you have – the more reasons you have to move to such solution.

Let’s say that on average, a “vanilla SMB server” will cost approx. 2-3 K… Times 7-10, depending on number of servers you need – that’s a number to deal with… But, if we consider that a very “sweet setup” (as we refer to it in the IT world) or “fully functional, highly performing asset” (as we refer to it in financial world) would cost less than 8-10K, offering the following benefits:
(our research was based on a Dell T320 system with 6 HDs, 32Gb of RAM, total usable, very redundant HD space of 3TB)
-    Single server that requires minimal amount of power. On average – 90-100W at all times. Yes, that’s it
-    High redundancy – dual power supplies, dual pretty much everything
-    Array controller that guarantees speed, reliability and recoverability
-    No need for users to interact or manage the server
-    And many, many more, depending on your specific needs



If properly sized up, and if all the planning is done properly, you can skip steps 3-6 completely, and, let’s face it – save possibly up to six figures over the course of 3-5 years (depending on your network and office development speeds). You can be worry-free, have a reliable network where you internal systems are in complete sync with your external ones, and have the support you need and deserve, and preserve your bottom line while doing so. We’re in business of making IT as transparent as it gets, and, depending on your needs, we are offering several support, migration and backup models for your organization. You can keep the onsite IT support person or completely rely on our Maryland-based personnel. It is your company, your call, your decision.

Call or e-mail us for more info


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