5 network upgrade pitfalls

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Network visibility, switches, wireless decisions can stump agencies looking to improve network performance

CDW-G’s team of technology experts recently highlighted the primary pitfalls that can arise for public-sector organizations when they upgrade their network infrastructures. The following list highlights some of the most common network upgrade problems, along with advice for resolving each concern.

Networking Problem 1: Missing network visibility for management.

As networks grow, cheap, unmanaged switches aren’t scalable and don’t accommodate the requirements that arise in larger networks. A lack of visibility into network performance for a 100-user network can turn a minor problem, such as a failing network interface controller, into a broadcast storm that could bring down the network.

Advice: CDW-G’s team of experts recommends that agencies avoid this problem by spending a little extra to purchase managed switches that can provide the visibility into network operations as required.

Networking Problem 2:

Choosing not to purchase Gigabit or Power over Ethernet (POE) switches for agency access layer networks.

Both POE and Gigabit switches are often overlooked features when expanding or upgrading a network. Although adding those features might increase the cost of the network, they will provide significant savings for any government organization by helping to avoid a "forklift upgrade" when implementing IP phones or wireless 802.11n networks for enhanced mobile access to government networks.

Advice: CDW-G experts suggest that agency customers consider possible future upgrades to network infrastructures when purchasing replacement networking equipment to avoid costly upgrades when migrating to IPv6 or wireless mobile networks.

Networking Problem 3: Choosing to reject Layer 3 switches in small to midsize networks.

Government customers using Class C networks are limited to 254 hosts or IP addresses. Growing networks can use up IP addresses pretty quickly. Once an organization gets to 254 hosts, it will need to create a new network or subnet. In order to communicate from one subnet to another, the agency will be required to route between the two subnets.

Advice: By incorporating the use of Layer 3 switches, government organizations will be better able to route between subnets and avoid running out of IP addresses. 

Networking Problem 4: Using only 802.11n wireless on 2.4 GHz radio and not 5 GHz radio.

A primary property of the 802.11n wireless protocol is that throughput is increased by channel bonding, or combining two 20 MHz channels to make a wider 40 MHz channel. On 2.4 GHz frequency radios, only 11 channels are available, and only three of those are nonoverlapping. Newer 5 GHz radios have 23 nonoverlapping channels, which is ideal for channel bonding and transmitting wirelessly via 802.11n. On 2.4 GHz radios, there is a much higher probability of interference between access points trying to use the same channel. This limits the number of access points that organizations can deploy and the distance at which access points can be spread apart.

Advice: To avoid interference, it makes sense to buy dual-band access points for 802.11n networks. Single-band solutions might cost less but won’t work as well in networks with multiple access points.  

Networking Problem 5: Buying gray-market networking equipment.

Buying network equipment from gray-market sources can be risky. Although generally low pricing might make certain gray-market devices attractive, government organizations must be experts in whatever products they purchase and will be on their own if manufacturer support or updates on the device’s operating system are required at a later date.  

Advice: CDW-G recommends avoiding gray-market purchases for major networking purchases, such as wide-area network optimization, server load balancers, security, core switches and routers. An agency gains full support from the manufacturer when in compliance with supplier licensing requirements.  

About the Author

Barbara DePompa is a freelance writer for 1105 Government Information Group’s Content Solutions unit. This Snapshot report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at GIGCustomMedia@1105govinfo.com