The corporate network is one of the fastest growing areas of development within the ICT sector today. Imagine what would happen if decision makers better understood the dynamics of this area of the business and made investments based on informed decisions.

The corporate network has evolved to become one of the foremost considerations in terms of general business strategy. It is the hub upon which many a company or organisation bases its core operational activity and business blueprint, writes Paul Luff, country manager at SMC Networks SA.

It is for this reason that managers have little hesitation in directing funds towards reinforcing the network. Technology is also seen as the ultimate problem solver and investment takes place regularly and often without any preliminary research.

By research, I mean efforts to improve the understanding of the dynamics of the business network and how this relates to the core function/ service of the business itself. Aside from the fact that this will assist decision makers in the process of acquiring infrastructure, it also supports the organisation during periods of change.

The IT industry is renowned for quick staff turnover. HR changes almost as quickly as the technology itself. This does have an affect on the overall functionality of the organization and will impact on the network.

For example, a manager who has implemented a network often fails to document the necessary data or that which is documented is insufficient. The new member of staff who fills this vacant position is then faced with the challenge of managing a volatile environment with existing infrastructure

Haphazard and ill-considered investment and building onto the network happens regularly and it is often the introduction of new technologies into the market that serves as a catalyst.

As soon as new technology emerges onto the market, one that promises or guarantees a host of benefits, it makes some IT enthusiasts, managers and administrators almost salivate with anticipation.

But it really is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Simply integrating new technology for the sake of ‘new technology’ or as an immediate solution to a specific problem, without investigation, will ultimately lead to frustration.

It is essential that those with the final say gather as much information about the dynamics of their own environment and own network.

In today’s market place it is not uncommon for businesses to hire a company to maintain its network and also purchase a solution to handle a particular problem from another company. The solution has to be interfaced with the business.

The issue that often crops up is that the customer, solution provider and network maintainer do not communicate and, in the end, the network is built-up intermittently and indiscriminately. One can liken the situation to a house that is built without a plan – at some stage the whole project will topple because of a lack of a solid foundation due to the absence of a blueprint.

The network, especially from a corporate perspective, is the same. There is merit in the suggestion to spend the necessary time and money in understanding the network. Once this has been done, organize the IT department to prepare a comprehensive but easily understood explanation of how it works. This needs to be in layman’s terms and practical.

A network is really like a road system. There are big highways for high volume traffic and smaller roads for lower volume traffic. In a network, there are technological advances available that allows the user to easily reverse this – where you have high-speed switches in a workgroup environment, and on a backbone there is still legacy equipment.

Instead of filtering the older stuff down the network and placing the newer infrastructure at the top, the approach is the opposite. This is because it is easier and there is no need to take the network down.

At the end of the day, an effective corporate network boils down to careful and astute resource management.

To outsource networking to a reputable company is really the bare minimum that should be done to manage the network effectively. Ultimately the company will save money whether it be in asset purchases or time. Alternatively, it is possible to implement an IT department – but at the very least consult with experts to run the best possible network.