There’s no truly universal best practice for network planning – like many other factors involved in running and managing a network, the specifics come down to the unique context and the circumstances you’re dealing with. Granted, there are some rules of thumb that apply to any context, and the most important part of running a network is delivering services when they need to be delivered, and to an acceptable level of quality. However, the specifics of how data flows around your network, which classes of data are more important than others, and the physical space (or spaces) that your environment occupies, will go a long way to determine the finer details of network planning.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at why network planning should be as dynamic as possible, and how to build networks that are adaptable, stable and available.

The application of your network resources determines network planning

Key to successful network planning is understanding exactly what it is that happens in your environment. Your first port of call is your network monitoring software, which will give you more insight into data flow. But to be truly proactive about your network planning, you should have a good idea of how data will flow on your network – that is, you should be able to describe the intended function of your network in a sentence, for example, “the network will deliver high-quality, on-demand streaming video services at high speed”. Once you understand the ebbs and flows of your systems, you can set baselines for your desired levels of performance, and start considering how to structure your Quality of Service (QoS) classes. In our example of the video-streaming network, video data would obviously take priority over other classes. For more information on how QoS settings can improve network performance, read our blog on QoS implementation.

Your core and your edge should be treated individually

Your network core and edge might be two components of the same entity, but they operate on different principles and should be treated independently in network planning. The focus of your core is packet switching – services don’t really come into play in a significant sense here, so to be as strong a component of your network as possible, your core should operate as fast and optimally as it possibly can in order to provide as reliable a service as possible to your edge devices. For your edge devices, services become a primary concern. It’s here that you should implement voice policy and prioritise traffic for your customers. All incoming traffic from your edge to your core needs to be classified so that it can be prioritised accordingly, so make sure that your QoS settings are implemented in accordance to the requirements dictated by the business.

Understand your edge devices and their restrictions

Another factor to bear in mind is how you plan to manage the load on your edge devices to keep your network operating as smoothly as possible. There’s no sense provisioning services to edge devices that don’t have the CPU-power to carry them out – you’ll just end up creating bottlenecks in your system. Network planning protocols should take the reality of your hardware, both in your core and your edge, into account and structure the flow of data, management of services and applications so that no resources get “lost along the way”. Many network managers fall into the trap of trying to implement policies unanimously: not all services are equal, and neither are all devices. Instead of applying blanket rules to devices, use your baseline as a window into the flow of data on your environment and make sure your network planning efforts give you a clear idea of how your network operates across your environment.

Good network planning relies on a thorough knowledge of your environment and the way data moves within it, and ensuring that this data-flow is optimal and consistent. In part, this comes down to having a network engineer who understands the needs of your network and can monitor changes and adapt to the needs of your network as they evolve. The other essential component is a responsive network management software suite. IRIS is a trusted provider of scalable, robust networking software that can cater to a wide variety of needs. 

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