The Art of Network Design


Networks are a pillar for everyday business functions and a network with a well-planned design to meet your business’s needs will perform these functions better. This is where network design comes in, this is when IT professionals take the time to evaluate, plan and map out the infrastructure of the IT network where they identify any design requirements and create a plan to meet these requirements creating a network that is suitable for a business’ needs. This visual representation of the network integrates information including:

  • Logical map of the network to be designed
  • Cabling Structure
  • Quantity, type, and location of network devices and endpoints
    • Routers, switches, servers, etc.
  • IP addressing structure
  • Network security structure
  • Overall network security processes

Networks can be simple but businesses with bigger operations can find themselves needing more complex network design plans. While your specific design will depend on what your business needs there are a few basic steps that go into planning any type of network design regardless of size, operations, or industry.

Gather The Requirements

Network design is not one size fits all and every business will have different requirements depending on size and operations. To prepare a proper network design there are three steps that you can start with:

  1. Evaluate your existing network and identify your current infrastructure and collect data including:
    1. Types of network devices
    2. WAN technologies and circuit speeds
    3. Cabling layout/office floor layout
    4. Routing protocols
    5. Network management
    6. Security controls
  2. Clearly define your goals for the new network and how to reach those goals by:
    1. Improving network performance metrics
    2. Upgrading to the latest technologies
    3. Improving networking security
    4. Simplifying network management
    5. Improving network availability
  3. Do not shy away from constraints such as budget or other limitations with factors such as cabling, Wi-Fi use, and compliance requirements.

Integrate Security Early On

Network security is more important than ever and should be considered a priority when planning a network design. Install firewalls, anti-virus, or anytime type of network security tool your business needs and implement best security practices such as:

  • Performing network audits
  • Using private IP addresses
  • Establishing network security maintenance systems
  • Encrypting critical data
  • Employing multi-factor authentication
  • Backing up data and having recovery plans
  • Revisiting and communicating security policies
  • Encouraging employees to create strong, unique passwords and use better password practices
    • Inform them to not use passwords more than once, change them regularly, and never use personal information in passwords
  • Practicing mobile device management
  • Keeping software up to date
Illustration for concept of network security with padlock in center of swirling data points with binary code in the background

Size Your Network and Office Floor Plan

It is impossible to develop a network that works for your business without knowing the size of your network. This includes how many devices are going to connect and how intensely they are used. These devices are not even limited to computers, they include VoIP phones, servers, printers, and IoT devices. Really anything that adds to the demand for bandwidth needs to be accounted for. To ensure all these devices are accounted for, study your office floor plan. During this study, make an inventory of where the exact locations of endpoints are, how many there are, the locations of desks, meeting rooms, and common work areas, and of any Wi-Fi-connected devices.

Create Network Design

Creating your network design is creating the heart of your network. Your design should help meet the specifications you identified when gathering requirements and should be able to support security and performance goals. When planning your network design, you will decide on:

  • Network Topology – the structural arrangement of the network
  • Network Type – the physical extent of your network
  • Physical Network – the physical network consisting of cables, patch panels, and other basic infrastructure work
  • Network Equipment – the physical equipment consisting of routers, servers, switches, and hubs

Plan For Growth

A critical part of creating and implementing a stable network is selecting systems that will allow growth when needed. If you adopt new technologies, increase products, services, and employees, or expand locations that are going to require more bandwidth and potentially cause network congestion if your network is not designed to handle it. Having the ability to see your current infrastructure gives your business the insight to outline any hardware, software, or bandwidth you could potentially need.