Infrastructure Upgrades Where Do I Start?

by | Nov 10, 2020 | Infrastructure

What are you in most need of on your network that can provide the most incremental return to your organization?  Obviously replacing switching and wireless at the same time is the most efficient method to get there, but sometimes we don’t have the budget or other infrastructure to support it.  The important thing is that you pick a starting point and work logically through the effects on your organization and improvements that can be made along the way.  A partner like Peters & Associates can help you navigate this for your organization and IT group. 

It all starts with the wiring.  If you are not on CAT5e or CAT6 then you need to get there.  Additionally, laying fiber between switching locations between your intermediate distribution frames (IDFs) and main distribution frame MDF is a key step.  This is foundational to any technology improvement that you would make.  If we were building a house, this would be the concrete foundation.  It is the mechanism through which all the traffic flows.  Having said that, it also depends on where you start; if it is switching then start with fiber and if it is wireless then start with the wiring to them.  Optimally it would be prudent to do both at once, but if necessary it can be done over time by building or area of your building. 

With new access points and switching you can take advantage of multi-gigabit throughput.  You can provide for more density in your coverage by moving up to WIFI 6 or AX standard technology.  The WIFI 6 or AX standard access points will allow for up to 5 Gigabit throughput for your access points depending on the model.  You again have options on a starting point. You can improve the overall foundational performance level with the switching or improve the edge with WIFI 6 access points, knowing that incrementally you can upgrade the switching.  Ultimately, you need all elements of your infrastructure to be able to provide multiple gigabit throughput in order to move the organization to that level.  One link (not at the improved condition of network performance) in the chain will drive the balance to operate at a lower level, providing a choke point.  But if you have a plan you can incrementally improve over time. 

What if I start with switching…

  • If you start with switching you improve the overall bandwidth and additional power needs to address the fuller implementation of current and future technology.  Like wiring, it is foundational to the overall improvement to your network performance. 
  • Most switching equipment has models to handle the Power over Ethernet (PoE)+ and multi-gigabit traffic needs for handling the WIFI 6 standard. 
  • For power with PoE+, many of the solutions that you have deployed today can likely power the WIFI 6 access point.  Each switch would need to be validated for this support.  The access point may need to receive more power, and this can be resolved by multiple cabling to the access point, external power use, or merely operating on a lower power/bandwidth level. 
  • Meraki utilizes MGig switching ports on the equipment to handle the increased bandwidth, but other models will handle the POE+ requirements for the access point.  
  • Cisco has switches that handle the increased bandwidth and POE+ requirements as well. 
  • HP/Aruba has smartjack solutions that allow for improvements in bandwidth for specific ports or full switch solutions. 

What if I start with Access Points…

  • You will have the technology in place that operates as you do today, but with improvements for density and other functionality at the edge in the WIFI 6 access point.  As you improve the switching over time you will get improvements in bandwidth. 
  • If you start here you get a bump in the performance of your wireless network, especially if you are on N standard or below. 
  • Most of the end user equipment (desktops or laptops) that you have in place today is operating at AC or below.  Over time, as they are upgraded, they will take advantage of increased performance of the access points.  The end user can still take advantage of the overall operating functionality of the access point and the density improvements it provides. 

One last note to take into consideration is to look at what your users are accessing with network resources such as servers, applications, and internet resources.  This will have an impact on where the choke point is to assess the impacts on requirements for increases in edge equipment, WAN bandwidth, or improvements with 10GB network cards and switching in the datacenter. 

 If you need assistance with your existing network or improving your network design, Peters & Associates can help! To learn more about your options check out our infrastructure page, or feel free to email info@peters.com to find out more!