How to Assess Your Network, Pre-Deployment
See what’s really happening in all your networks before you deploy business applications
With the advancement of IT infrastructure, the critical services that organizations rely on are now a complex collection of new and legacy hardware and software. The dynamic nature of this modern IT Infrastructure makes it increasingly difficult to support and maintain. Its complexity also makes it fragile.
You may be surprised to discover that networks don’t always work the way you expect—or even as designed. The resulting network performance problems will significantly impact the quality of your business application deployments (i.e., VoIP, video conferencing, VDI, cloud services). A pre-deployment network assessment is the crucial first step to ensure performance of your critical business services. Here’s how to evaluate your entire network.
1: Baseline your network environment and infrastructure.
A baseline assessment will show you the overall health of the network. This should be a comprehensive summary of all network paths that deliver your key applications and services, even ones that are not experiencing network problems. A network test will show each path’s readiness for performance-sensitive applications, observed impediments and metrics. These key performance indicators should include capacity, utilization, data loss, jitter, route analysis, and Quality of Service (QoS) configuration. Get the first performance analysis for the point in time you ran the test, but make sure the assessment continues to run so you can come back to it for a highly detailed examination over an extended timeframe.
2: Assess performance-specific aspects of your network.
Understanding your overall network health includes knowing how much bandwidth your company is paying for and how you are holding providers to their service-level agreements (SLAs). Review your WAN provider SLAs in detail. How are you assuring adherence to these? Run your own discovery and see exactly how much bandwidth the carrier is actually providing. This test needs to include the total, available and utilized capacity readings.
3: Identify which critical apps your network supports.
Every application comes with bandwidth requirements. If you are considering implementing or expanding a current application, it is necessary to know the requirements and behavior of the other applications that are already dependent on the network. Continuous monitoring of all applications, including VoIP, video conferencing, cloud services and hosted web apps, will allow you to measure key metrics like codec utilized, MOS score, voice throughput (for VoIP) and packet statistics against what your network can handle. As an example, these are the recommended minimum performance requirements specific to VoIP call load testing. Quality of Service (QoS) is also recommended by most leading VoIP and Video conferencing providers and should be audited on the network.
4: See how network usage affects performance.
Even with a highly robust network infrastructure and top quality applications, a network engineer cannot rule out the impact employee activity and behavior can have on the network. In your assessment, you need to drill down to see bandwidth consumption by physical site, application and host by time of day. Is actual utilization nearing total capacity at any sites with existing business normal behavior? Are LAN and WAN elements and the applications using them behaving properly at peak traffic utilization levels?
5: Present your results clearly.
When delivering the network assessment report to management, it is important to present the content in a way that easily conveys the key findings. If the report is going to a technical user, you can present the most meaningful results in that technical context. However, as IT and business merge more every day, a report for non-technical team members needs to look completely different. All aspects of the report need to show the value proposition within the assessment so decision makers can understand how to proceed.