Top 10 Network Mistakes
Top 10 network mistakes
Here’s how to avoid them.
Common network mistakes that
cost money, cause downtime,
and create frustration.
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Top 10 network mistakes
Table of contents
Introduction............................................................................................................................................................................................... 3
10. Not staying up-to-date......................................................................................................................................................................... 3
9. Failure to standardize............................................................................................................................................................................. 3
8. Overzealous cost cutting........................................................................................................................................................................ 4
7. Underutilizing the network..................................................................................................................................................................... 4
6. Inadequate backups............................................................................................................................................................................... 4
5. Incomplete record keeping..................................................................................................................................................................... 5
4. Not educating network users................................................................................................................................................................. 5
3. Non-standard construction.................................................................................................................................................................... 6
2. Neglecting physical security.................................................................................................................................................................... 6
1. Insufficient technical support.................................................................................................................................................................. 7
In conclusion.............................................................................................................................................................................................. 7
About Black Box......................................................................................................................................................................................... 7
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Top 10 network mistakes
Introduction
Some network mistakes turn up over and over again—these mistakes cost organizations money, time, and even loyal customers.
What these mistakes all have in common is that they mainly reflect a lack of planning. A network that runs smoothly and delivers
top performance with minimal downtime takes thought, organization, an awareness of current technology, and a plan.
Here we present ten common pitfalls that many network administrators fall into. If you pay attention, you don't have to fall into
them, too.
10. Not staying up-to-date
It’s easy to just go along with what’s working. 100-Mbps Ethernet seems perfectly adequate right now and your four-year-old
server does the job.
But standards and speed requirements increase quickly. New software requires more speed and power. Network security needs
to prevent ever more sophisticated threats. Obsolete hardware is less efficient and increases downtime, leading to wasted time
and user frustration. Older software is often retired, so the vendor no longer provides security patches. Or you may receive files
from other organizations in a newer format and be unable to open them.
This need to upgrade isn’t planned obsolescence. Upgrades are necessary because technology is evolving so quickly. The oftenquoted Moore’s law states that computing power doubles every 18 months. Although eventually there will be some logical limit
to this rapid growth, today you can expect that computers and network equipment will become obsolete about every three years.
You can expect a somewhat longer life cycle for network infrastructure such as cabling and connectors. Software may need to be
replaced or upgraded more often—sometimes every few months.
Network infrastructure, computers, and software need to be replaced regularly to stay up to date and function efficiently. Ideally,
upgrading a network is an ongoing process, with some components being replaced every year on a planned schedule. Trying to
save money by not performing needed upgrades often costs you more in the long run. One of the worst mistakes you can make
is to wait until the situation becomes critical, requiring an upgrade “right now” to perform some critical task. This situation is not
only aggravating, it also leads to making errors in purchasing and installation.
9. Failure to standardize
Although it’s tempting to install whatever seems convenient at the moment, it’s also important to look to see how a new device
fits in with existing network equipment. Ideally, you should upgrade all of the same kind of network components all at once.
A standardized network with consistent cabling, identical servers, similar desktop computers, and standardized, regularly updated
software saves time.
An inconsistent network causes aggravation both when deploying and when troubleshooting, because each component needs
to be addressed individually. An inconsistent network is more likely to turn up incompatibilities, which must be remedied on a
component-by-component basis.
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Top 10 network mistakes
8. Overzealous cost cutting
A penny saved is a penny earned, but not if you’re ”saving” by buying inadequate equipment.
A 24-port switch seems like it would be just about enough, so you purchase it. But in no time, you need more ports and buy
a second 24-port switch, when a 48-port switch would have cost less in the first place.
Because you don’t want to invest in another cabinet, you start to crowd equipment. Then you buy a fan panel because your
equipment is overheating. After you lose equipment to heat, you finally buy the extra cabinet you should have bought in the
first place.
You get a bargain price on CAT6 cable. After you install it, you find out it’s not up to CAT6 standards—it’s CAT5 or lower,
relabeled as CAT6—and you have to recable. That’s when you find out that as much as 20% of the cable for sale in today’s
market is unsafe, non-approved, or counterfeit.
Buying insufficient or low-quality equipment is a sure way to increase costs in the long run. In fact, because demands on
networks are increasing all the time, it’s wise to go in the opposite direction and invest in more infrastructure than you need
at the moment and grow into it.
Save money by comparison shopping or negotiating volume discounts for large installations. Don’t try to save money by buying
inadequate equipment. Always buy from reliable sources to ensure that you’re actually getting what you ordered and not a
substandard or counterfeit product.
7. Underutilizing the network
If your computer network is doing nothing but providing e-mail service, transferring files between computers, and providing
Internet access, you’re underutilizing it. If you’re paying to run separate cable for security systems, phone, or video, you’re wasting
money.
Today’s high-speed networks routinely support a wide array of services that once required separate wiring. The same network
that transfers your data can also provide VoIP phone service, security, digital signage, and more.
For phone service, Voice over IP (VoIP) is a cost-saving alternative to traditional telephone service that enables voice data to be
transported over IP networks. Use VoIP for phone service within your organization, to connect to remote offices worldwide across
the Internet, and to reach phones on the traditional analog phone system.
VoIP can be set up in a way that enables you to use phone numbers in exactly the same way as you did before VoIP. Most of the
services you get with traditional phone service—Voice Mail, Call Waiting, and Call Routing, for instance—are also available with
VoIP. Plus, because VoIP phones are usually powered via Power over Ethernet, they install just like a traditional phone—but instead
of a phone wire into a phone jack, you plug a CATx cable into an Ethernet port.
Security services—including remote entry, intrusion detection, video surveillance, smoke alarms, and environmental monitoring—
are ideal applications for a network. Security that operates on a network requires no additional wiring, is easily expanded to
anywhere the network goes, and can be centrally managed.
Digital signage is an increasingly popular, low-cost way to attract attention and provide information. Although content for digital
signage is often created and displayed using PCs and standalone media players that support just one or two screens, many
organizations are discovering the benefits of centralizing and distributing content across the network to many screens at once.
As networking matures, many formerly freestanding services are moving onto IP networks. This convergence of data, voice,
security, and many other services onto a single network can simplify installation and significantly reduce costs.
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6. Inadequate backups
Even though disk space is cheap and backups can be automated, a common network mistake is inadequate data backup. Backing
up data isn’t difficult, but it’s sometimes pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Often backup routines are in place, but aren’t
changed with evolving technology, until suddenly something breaks down, the backup is found to be inadequate, and critical data
is lost.
Critical data loss can bring an organization to a halt in an instant, so it’s important to back up regularly and automatically and
to make sure that you’ve backed up the right data and that it’s quickly accessible. If at all possible, backups should be kept
off-site.
It’s important to schedule frequent network backups and to regularly test the backups to ensure data integrity. Backups do
more than just protect against data loss from equipment breakdown—they should also protect from data loss from natural
or man-made disaster, so that if there’s a major catastrophe such as tornado, earthquake, fire, or flood, critical data is retained.
5. Incomplete record keeping
Speaking of disasters, when disaster strikes and destroys network equipment, you need accurate records to restore the network
to its pre-disaster state. Records are not the same as backups—backups are about the data on the network, records are about
the network itself.
Although chances are good you won’t have a disaster, you will definitely eventually need to restore server settings or restore a
PC’s operating system. Good records make recovery after any difficulty, no matter how large or small, much smoother.
It’s important to keep up-to-date records of every device on the network: every computer, every server, every switch, and every
bit of cabling. In short, you need a record of everything. Keep regular logs, both manually and with devices that log automatically.
Good records pay for themselves many times over in saved time and frustration when you’re troubleshooting a problem. With
complete and well-organized records, you know exactly what hardware and software is installed, what software patches have
been applied, where and when your data has been backed up, and exactly where your cables go.
4. Not educating network users
Your network’s security can be compromised in an instant by clueless users. There are so many ways to inadvertently compromise
a network:
• Leaving sticky notes with usernames and passwords stuck to the computer.
• Leaving computers logged in and unattended.
• Turning off virus scans.
• Opening suspicious e-mail attachments.
• Visiting the seedier parts of the Internet.
• Talking to the wrong people.
• Letting unsupervised strangers wander about the building.
• Plugging in flash drives containing malware.
Taking the time to educate users to be aware of security dangers, not only increases network security, it also ultimately reduces
the network administrator’s workload. It’s well worth the effort to make users aware of potential dangers and how to avoid
them.
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3. Non-standard construction
Because data centers are larger and more complex than ever, ”seat-of-the-pants“ construction doesn’t really work well anymore
for any network much larger than a home network. “Guesstimating” can eventually lead to all kinds of problems ranging from
overheating to inadequate power to lost data.
To standardize best-practice network construction, in 2005 the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) published the
TIA-942 standard that set requirements for network architecture, system redundancy, security, file backup, hosting, and power
management, as well as a number of other procedures. TIA-942 covers not just the network itself but also supplemental services.
Over half the standard covers matters such as electrical systems, HVAC, fire detection and suppression, and building construction.
The standard defines four tiers of data centers, with Tier 1 being a simple server room and Tier 4 being a mission-critical data
center with high security and redundancy. Tier 4 data centers are designed for 99.995% availability.
TIA-942 helps to ensure consistency and produces networks with high reliability, expandability, and scalability. Because TIA-942
is intended to optimize network performance, a sure-fire way to sub-optimal network performance is to ignore the standard and
creatively cut corners. Unfortunately, many installers do cut corners—either to cut costs or sometimes because they don’t know
any better.
When having a data center built, insist that the contractor build to TIA-942 standards. Have your data center independently
audited and certified. This precaution could save you from future demons such as power disturbances, overheating, and
downtime.
2. Neglecting physical security
If anyone can wander into your server room, if you have network ports in public spaces, or if your building access control is
substandard, you have a huge hole in your network security. Unrestricted physical access to a network is a much larger security
threat than is generally appreciated because, if a person has physical access to a device, there is almost always a way to take
control of it or to get data out of it. The fastest way into a network is not through the firewall, but through a USB port on an
unattended workstation. Your most dangerous information thief may not be a faraway hacker, but one of the cleaning staff
inside your building.
This’s why it’s important to secure your hardware—a lost laptop, an open USB port, or a simple network tap can be a conduit
for quick and devastating data loss that no firewall can prevent. Today’s digital printer/copiers store copies of pages, so it’s
essential to scrub their memories before they leave your premises when they reach the end of their service life. Think also about
the paper generated and make sure that sensitive printouts are destroyed before they’re discarded.
There are many ways to ensure the physical security of your network, from simple port locks to sophisticated remote monitoring
systems. At minimum, doors and cabinets should be kept locked and laptop computers secured. Biometric locks add an extra
layer of security. Video surveillance has become so practical and inexpensive that there’s no reason not to use it in secure areas.
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Top 10 network mistakes
1. Insufficient technical support
In the middle of a busy business day, the network goes down and your support staff is either nowhere to be found or unable
to deal with the problem.
Even the most perfect, well-planned network will eventually have difficulties leading to downtime. It’s the nature of beast that
downtime always occurs at the most critical and inconvenient times and especially over holiday weekends. That’s why—if your
network is vital to your operation—you need to have an experienced tech available 24/7.
Small businesses in particular often don’t have enough support staff or have insufficiently trained support staff—too many
small companies still rely on a staff member who’s “good with computers” but has no real training. This worked to some extent
in the days when computers were a lot simpler, but today’s dense, high-speed network environment requires a lot more expertise.
The tech support problem can usually be worked around by contracting with a service that provides network support and is
always on call. There are other advantages to working with a network services company. For instance, they can often also
manage network installation and act as partners who are knowledgeable about current network technology and can make
the network more efficient and cost effective.
In conclusion
Although a network is virtually indispensable in today’s business environment, there are many ways to inadvertently sabotage
it, creating unnecessary expense, frustration, and downtime. The best way to avoid the many network pitfalls is through careful
planning, meticulous organization, and a willingness to ask for professional help when it’s called for.
About Black Box
Black Box Network Services is a networking and connectivity solutions provider, serving 175,000 clients in 141 countries with
195 offices throughout the world. The Black Box® Catalog and Web site offer more than 118,000 products including the Optinet™
secure Web gateway. More information is available at http://www.blackbox.com/go/Optinet.
Black Box offers a wide range of network devices, as well as cabinets, racks, cables, connectors, and other connectivity and data
infrastructure products. To view Black Box’s comprehensive offering, go to blackbox.com.
Black Box is also known as the world’s largest technical services company dedicated to designing, building, and maintaining
today’s complicated data and voice infrastructure systems.
© Copyright 2010. Black Box Corporation. All rights reserved. Black Box® and the Double Diamond logo are registered trademarks,
and Optinet™ is a trademark, of BB Technologies, Inc. Any other third-party trademarks appearing in this white paper are acknowledged to be the property of their respective owners.
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