10.1 CRITICAL THINKING CHALLENGE: DETERMINING NETWORK REQUIREMENTS (2)

Thank you for presenting this critical thinking challenge to determine the network requirements for a new company. Proper network planning is crucial for supporting business operations and enabling growth. Let me take a step-by-step approach to thoroughly analyzing the needs and developing a comprehensive recommendation:

I will need more information about the company and itsprojected size, locations, employees, business activities, and technology goals. Some initial questions that come to mind include: What industry is the company in? How many employees will there be at startup and in future years? Will employees be located in one building or multiple locations? What type of work will employees be doing that requires networking (e.g. data storage, file sharing, collaboration, client services)? What servers and applications will be needed (e.g. file server, database, CRM, ERP)? What key business objectives does network technology need to support (e.g. productivity, customer service, data security)? Answers to these types of questions will help shape the overall network design.

Let’s assume for this exercise that it is a small startup professional services firm with around 15 employees located in one office building. The work involves collaboration between employees, file sharing of documents with clients, and use of basic business applications like email and accounting software. Key goals are supporting employee productivity through file access and communication tools, and ensuring client data is securely stored and accessible when offsite.

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With that as background, we can analyze the specific components needed:

Infrastructure:

  • Physical Network – The office has an existing structured cabling system that supports Ethernet. This provides a solid foundation to build the network on and avoids complex cabling installation.
  • Switches – Will need at minimum two managed switches, one for each closet/section of the office. Redundancy is important even for a small network, in case a switch fails. Managed switches allow for VLAN configuration and other advanced features for future growth.
  • Wireless Access Points – Since employees will need mobile connectivity, best practice is to provide enterprise-grade wireless access across the whole building. A minimum of three to four APs would be recommended depending on the building layout.
  • Internet Connection – Given the client work, a business fiber internet connection with 50Mbps down/10Mbps up would meet current needs and allow for moderate file transfers. Bandwidth can be increased as usage grows. Redundancy is not as crucial here since the connection is more for outbound than internal use, but could consider a failover option later.
  • Firewall – Even for a small office, proper security is essential. A next generation firewall (NGFW) appliance provides essential protections like content filtering, malware prevention, intrusion detection/prevention. Remote access VPN capabilities are also important as certain staff may work partially offsite.
  • Servers – File/print, email, and basic application hosting can be handled by a single small virtualized server. Storage for 10-15 users can start with 2-4TB. Consider a server cluster later for high availability as critical systems grow. Backups and disaster recovery capabilities are also needed.
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Software:

  • Operating System – Windows Server is recommended as it can run the necessary applications and employees are likely familiar with the Windows environment. Linux could also work but may require additional support.
  • Network Services – DHCP, DNS, VLAN configuration on switches, centralized authentication (AD), centralized antivirus, network monitoring tools.

Client Devices:

  • Laptops for all employees with minimum requirements of i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD. Dual monitors recommended for roles involving extensive documentation.
  • Desktops optional for roles requiring higher workstation power. Similar configurations to laptops.
  • Mobile devices integrated via MDM for BYOD capability but not mandated at this stage.
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The next phase would involve designing the logical network with considerations for security zones, VPN access, VLAN segmentation, DHCP/DNS scopes, etc. Wiring diagrams, IP schemes and detailed configuration documentation would need to be created. Testing and deployment activities would follow along with ongoing management, support and future optimizations.

This startup firm can be well supported initially within a budget of $30,000-40,000 to cover all necessary infrastructure, servers, client devices, software licenses and professional services for design and deployment. Ongoing annual recurring costs for maintenance, support and upgrades would be approximately $6,000-8,000. Regular reviews should also be conducted to reassess needs and technology trends as the business evolves.

I aimed to be thorough in determining requirements while keeping solutions practical and cost effective for a growing small business. Proper network implementation is crucial for empowering the company to achieve its objectives through digital transformation and support of core business operations. I hope this provides a helpful starting point and framework for planning the network infrastructure.

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