What Is Network Design? And How To Design A Network

What Is Network Design? And How To Design A Network

Network design entails strategizing and establishing computer network infrastructures. It includes optimizing devices, services, and technologies to suit individual or organizational requirements.

This can include deciding upon a network's architecture or topology, choosing the appropriate hardware and software, planning for data storage and management, considering the requirements for an internet connection, and ensuring the necessary security measures are in place.

The network design should take into account the current needs of the organization, as well as allow for scalability and adaptability for future growth and changes.

How do you design a network?

Designing a network involves several steps aimed at meeting the unique requirements of an organization. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to design a network:

1. Identify Needs and Requirements

Determine the organization's specific needs, such as the number of users, types of hardware and software, security requirements, and future growth plans. For example, a growing organization may require a scalable network that can easily accommodate an increasing number of users, diverse hardware and software types, and robust security systems to protect sensitive data.

2. Analyze Current Infrastructure

If there is an existing network, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Collect data on its performance, connectivity issues, and user satisfaction to inform the new design. A company may discover, for instance, that its current network lacks sufficient bandwidth for peak usage times, leading to user dissatisfaction and productivity loss.

3. Create a Network Diagram

Draw a graphical representation of the network topology. This helps visualize the paths data will take and will assist in determining where to place hardware like servers and routers. For instance, a simple star topology diagram can indicate the centralization of data flow and can assist in identifying the most strategic position for the server.

4. Choose Hardware and Software

Based on the identified needs, select the necessary network devices such as routers, switches, firewalls, and access points. Choose the right operating system and applications necessary for achieving the objectives of the network. Small businesses might choose a cost-effective combination of hardware and open-source software to meet their needs.

5. Design the IP Addressing Scheme

Design an IP addressing scheme based on network size and business needs for effective communication. Choose between IPv4/IPv6 and static/dynamic IP addressing. For instance, a small company may opt for static IPv4 addressing for simplicity, while a larger organization might adopt dynamic IPv6 addressing to accommodate more devices.

6. Create a Network Security Plan

Lay out a plan for securing the network. This includes firewall configurations, user access controls, data encryption, anti-malware software, and regular security audits. For example, a network security plan might outline the use of strong encryption for data transmission, regular updating of anti-malware software, and conducting penetration testing to identify potential vulnerabilities.

7. Plan for Network Support and Maintenance

Design a plan for ongoing network monitoring, troubleshooting, and maintenance to ensure consistent performance and availability. This could include a schedule for regular network performance checks, designating personnel for troubleshooting, and setting up automatic system updates.

8. Document the Network

Keep detailed documentation of the network design, hardware and software configurations, and security policies for future reference and troubleshooting. This could involve maintaining a network design blueprint, recording all hardware specifications and installed software, and keeping an up-to-date record of all security policies and procedures. Detailed documentation will also assist the helpdesk to diagnose issues and decrease the time to repair when issues arise.

9. Test and Implement

Before fully implementing your network design, test to ensure it meets all functional and performance requirements. Once testing is complete, you can begin implementing the network. For example, perform a dry run of the network setup, test the connectivity and speed, and ensure all security measures are functioning correctly. This can also include using test accounts or a small batch of users for testing before making company-wide changes.

In summary, traditional network architectures demand many steps to get things right when it comes to a solid network design. This takes lots of planning, time and patience to implement in a real-world environment. We will review towards the end of our blog how Nile Access Service can help you alleviate many of these manual workflows and more.

Why is network design important?

An efficient network design is integral to a business as it promotes optimal communication and data transmission among all devices on the network, which can significantly increase productivity.

A well-thought-out network design offers the advantage of scalability. It can be scaled up or down to respond to the changing needs of an organization, making it possible to accommodate business growth without having to overhaul the entire infrastructure, which can be both costly and disruptive to business operations.

Security is another crucial aspect of network design, as it safeguards an organization's data. Through careful planning, elements like firewalls, proxies, and other security measures can be implemented to protect company information from threats such as hackers and malware.

Reliability and redundancy are also taken into account during the network design process. This ensures no single point of failure could disrupt the entire network, adding an extra layer of security for business operations.

A well-planned network design is not only beneficial for operational aspects, but it's also cost-effective. By optimizing resource use and avoiding unnecessary costs related to network downtime, businesses can save money in the long term.

Another advantage of good network design is enhanced performance. By reducing network congestion, increasing speed, and effectively distributing the workload across the network, a well-designed infrastructure can significantly improve customer and staff performance.

Lastly, a well-designed network simplifies troubleshooting. If problems do arise, they are easier to isolate and fix because the structure is coherent and logically sound, thereby saving time and resources and minimizing potential disruption to business operations.

With different implementations across different campus and branch locations, enterprise IT departments also find it necessary to standardize on a “golden config” to make sure the network design is adhered to across all their sites. This is another mandatory but unfortunately manual step in tackling the needed requirement of enterprise network design. Here at Nile, we believe that you should no longer be limited to such constraints and manual efforts, and you should be able to embrace a standardized network design across all your sites without the headache.

Is network design the same as network topology?

No, network design and network topology are not the same.

Network design is a broader concept that involves the planning, selection, and organization of network infrastructure to meet the communication needs of an organization. It involves strategic decision-making about the architecture, hardware and software selection, network security, performance optimization, standards, protocols, costs, and manpower requirements.

On the other hand, network topology, which is a part of network design, refers to the arrangement of various elements (links, nodes, etc.) of a computer network. It defines how devices or nodes in the network are linked and how they interact.

There are various types of network topologies like star, mesh, ring, bus, hybrid, etc. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and is chosen based on the organization's specific needs.

Therefore, network topology is a part of the overall network design process.

What are the best practices for network design?

Simplicity

A simpler network is easier to manage, more reliable, less costly, and easier to secure. For example, minimizing the number of routing protocols used can streamline management and increase reliability.

Scalability

Designs should plan for future growth and flexibility. A good network design should accommodate changing business needs and opportunities without requiring a complete redesign. For instance, a network might start with a small number of servers, but it should have the capability to add more as the business grows.

Redundancy

Adding backup and mirrored systems in different geographic areas can provide network access even if one location experiences a system failure. An example of this would be a company that maintains data centers in multiple geographical locations to ensure continuous availability of services.

Security

The network design should manage potential security risks from the ground up. This includes user access controls, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and protocols for secure data handling. A company could implement strict access controls to ensure that only authorized personnel can access certain parts of the network using permission groups and subnetting.

Modularity

Building the network in separate modules can reduce complexity and make design changes easier to manage. For instance, separating the network into core, distribution, and access layers can help isolate problems and make network upgrades less disruptive.

Performance Optimization

The design should ensure optimal performance through effective configuration and the use of high-quality equipment. For example, proper configuration of established service levels of routers and switches can help prevent network congestion and ensure fast, reliable data transmission.

Consistent Policies

Standardized and consistent network and security policies across all business units enhance efficiency, compliance, and manageability. For example, a business might enforce a standard password policy across all departments to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

Documentation

Maintaining up-to-date network diagrams, inventories, and operation manuals contributes to more efficient network management and troubleshooting. An up-to-date or live network diagram can help administrators quickly identify and resolve connectivity issues.

Regular Monitoring

Continuous monitoring of network performance and usage can help identify areas for improvement and detect any issues before they escalate. Tools like Nagios or SolarWinds could be used to track network performance and alert administrators to any potential issues.

Periodic Review

Regularly review and update the network configuration to match the technology advancements and business requirements. For example, as new wireless standards are introduced, a company might review its wireless network configuration to see if upgrades could offer improved performance or security.

By adhering to these best practices, you can ensure that the network can effectively support your operations, even as new technologies emerge and business needs evolve. With Nile Access Service, the chances for misconfigurations, challenges in project management, having to document at every step of the way and many other manual workflows are automated. 

What are the features of network design solutions?

Network design solutions come with various features to assist in designing and managing an efficient and robust IT network. Here are some common features:

Network Mapping

Network mapping tools allow IT administrators to map out the entire network infrastructure visually and understand its current configuration. Tools like SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper or Microsoft Visio can help achieve this.

Traffic Flow Visualization

Traffic flow visualization enables the analysis and visualization of network traffic flow, helping to identify bottlenecks or areas where traffic congestion might happen. Tools such as PRTG Network Monitor or NetFlow Traffic Analyzer provide these capabilities.

Automatic Discovery

Many design solutions offer automated discovery of network devices and components, reducing the need for tedious manual input and gathering updated information quickly. Solutions like Spiceworks Network Inventory or ManageEngine OpManager can provide these capabilities.

Ability to Simulate

Some solutions can simulate different design scenarios, helping identify potential issues or inefficiencies in the network design before actual deployment. Tools such as Cisco Packet Tracer or GNS3 can assist with this.

Bandwidth Monitoring

Bandwidth monitoring tracks bandwidth usage in a network, providing information on how much bandwidth each application or device is using. Tools like SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack or PRTG Network Monitor can be helpful for this task.

Scalability

Scalability ensures the ability to expand the network design with growth in business or with the adoption of new technologies. Cloud management and monitoring portals are designed to provide this kind of scalability.

Interoperability

The tools have features that ensure different network components and devices can communicate and work together for optimum operation. Network devices from all enterprise infrastructure manufacturers are designed with interoperability in mind.

Documenting and Reporting

Documenting and reporting features allow for capturing and recording details of the network, like topology diagrams, equipment lists, and specifications. Tools like NetBox or ManageEngine OpManager can provide these capabilities.

Security Features

Network design solutions often include components dedicated to managing and ensuring network security, such as vulnerability or intrusion detection, firewall management, and even compliance management. Tools like Fortinet's FortiGate firewalls or SolarWinds Security Event Manager can assist with this.

Server and Device Configuration

Server and device configuration tools allow admins to execute consistent configurations across various devices or servers in the network. Solutions like Ansible or Puppet can assist with this task.

Needless to say, that’s a lot of tools for monitoring, troubleshooting and scripting. As you might guess by now, these capabilities are already incorporated into the Nile Access Service for wired and wireless access networks - and no longer require separate acquisition, administration and support. IT networking teams can enjoy guaranteed service levels for their access network infrastructure as the Nile service automates these traditionally manual workflows. 

What are the considerations for designing computer networks?

When designing a computer network, there are several considerations to take into account:

Business Needs

Understanding the business requirements is vital to effective network design. This may include aspects such as the speed of the network, reliability, security needs, and future growth expectations. To align the network design with business needs, it is essential to have clear communication with stakeholders and gain an understanding of the organization's strategic goals.

Network Size

The network size, determined by the number of users and devices, plays a crucial role in influencing the overall network design. This encompasses the geographical scope of the network—whether it's confined to a single building, extends across a campus, or even spans multiple locations in different cities or countries. The size and distribution of the network will influence choices about topology, equipment, and protocols.

User Requirements

In designing a network, the needs of the users are paramount. The types of data being transferred, the necessary speed of transactions, and any special software needed should be taken into account. For instance, if users frequently engage in video conferencing or streaming, the network should be designed to accommodate high bandwidth usage.

Security

Ensuring network security is crucial in any design. This includes securing data, managing user access, and protecting the network from external threats. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, the design should incorporate multiple layers of security measures, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure access controls.

Budget

The available budget will significantly impact the network design. It directly affects the quality and quantity of the hardware and software that can be incorporated into the network design. The challenge lies in balancing the need for performance, reliability, and security against the constraints of the budget.

Scalability

The network should be designed with scalability in mind to seamlessly accommodate future changes, such as an increase in network traffic, the addition of new technologies, or the expansion of business operations. This means selecting hardware and software that can be upgraded or expanded as needed, and choosing a network architecture that allows for easy addition of new nodes or segments.

Redundancy

In case of network failure, there should be alternative paths for data communication to ensure business continuity. This might involve multiple ISPs, redundant servers, or even full disaster recovery sites. The level of redundancy needed will depend on the organization's tolerance for downtime and data loss.

Physical Environment

The physical location and layout where the network infrastructure will be set up also dramatically impact the design. When planning the placement of network equipment, you should consider factors like the building's architecture, the number of available power sources, and environmental conditions such as heat and humidity.

Software

You should consider the type of applications that will run on your network. This includes email, CRM, data management systems, and much more. Different applications have different network requirements, and the network must be designed to provide the necessary speed, capacity, and security for these applications.

Hardware

The type of devices that need to be connected to the network, including computers, servers, routers, switches, and printers among others, plays a significant role in network design. Each type of device has different requirements in terms of bandwidth, protocols, and security, and the network must be designed to accommodate all of these.

Standards and Regulations

Consider any specific industry standards or government regulations during the design process. For example, organizations handling payment card information need to comply with PCI DSS standards, and healthcare organizations must adhere to HIPAA regulations for patient data.

Maintenance and Support

Post-implementation support and maintenance plans are crucial. Regular updates and proactive troubleshooting can prevent downtime and keep the network running optimally. In addition to reactive maintenance, proactive monitoring and regular performance assessments should be part of the ongoing network management strategy.

Weigh the challenges and potential solutions from each of these factors carefully during the network design phase. During the consumption of the Nile Access Service, pre-deployment activities such as this list are project managed by Nile service delivery managers - working alongside IT departments to ensure laser focus on their success from day -1. 

Take The Guesswork Out Of Network Design

Network design doesn't have to be complicated. Nile Access Service relieves you of the burden of designing the network yourself. It offers a seamless network experience that aligns with your strategic business requirements. It eliminates network complexity, reduces high up-front costs, and handles the challenge of managing and maintaining your enterprise network.

With Nile, you can rest assured knowing your network performance outcomes for coverage, capacity and availability are guaranteed. The service includes built-in zero-trust security measures, significantly reducing potential attack surface with mandatory authentication, isolation and segmentation for all connected users and devices.

Next to usage-based billing for scalable, flexible consumption, Nile service dramatically simplifies network operations by offloading key lifecycle management tasks to AI automation, helping you to focus on what you do best.

Discover how Nile can plan, design, and implement your next-generation wired and wireless access network for your business.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    CATEGORIES
    CONNECT WITH US
    SUBSCRIBE


    Stay up-to-date with the latest news and trends from Nile!

    Ready to eliminate your network headaches?

    You can experience the Nile difference in no time. Let’s talk.

    Copyright © 2024 – Nile

    Scroll to Top
    Sign Up Today

    Register Now