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How Do Network Architects Design Networks

Network Design is a technical specialty dedicated to building a network that meets not only the current requirements of the users on it, but which is scalable and easily upgradable to handle future requirements; while of course still working within the physical constraints of the building being run, and handling the expected user load, and remaining within the budget specified. It is a non-trivial technical specialty that involves making multi-variant optimisation decisions.

In most cases, network architects balance requirements of topology (how the cables are hooked to routers to ensure optimum performance), physical layout (where the cables are run, or in some cases, where the wireless network is arranged), load capacity (will the networking hardware handle the number of users anticipated), convenience and network security.

In general, when a business hires a network architect to consult on an initial layout, they begin with a requirements document and a budget; this may include existing networked assets that need to be migrated to the new network structure. This document will outline what positions within the physical building need to have network access, how fast that access has to be, and will specify cabling runs.

The document should also indicate how many users are expected to be on the network, both in its current configuration, and projected usage growth in the next 6 months, 12 months and 18 months, including planned upgrades. Other requirements for the network, such as remote backup and remote deployment of software upgrades to user desks, system monitoring requirements and the like are also specified.

Once the document is presented, the network architect's job is to go from the requirement to both a purchasing requirement for needed equipment (the number of routers, the networking infrastructure, including what servers need to be hooked in) and an implementation plan, which details what parts of the system are to be put up in what order. It's a simple truth that most businesses start out with ad hoc networking, and when an architected replacement is put into place, only parts of the existing network can be taken down each day.

When the network is being placed, it's ideally put through its paces, testing for connectivity, bandwidth and other requirements. In general, these tests always find something that isn't working correctly and something needs an on the fly adjustment. After the first two or three nodes have been implemented, the rest of the kinks in the local network architecture have been identified and the rest of the process goes much more smoothly.

It is the job of a network architect to cover all aspects of the process, from converting the client's requirements to a purchasing document, and to plan the implementation and roll out, as well as being available to consult when problems arise during the setup. Most businesses who pay for a network architecture consultation also archive all documentation on why the network was configured the way it was, and what decision points were made, including planned upgrade routes for increased capacity, or changing network wide security levels.



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