6 tips for seamless network upgrades

by Ricoh Australia27 Apr 2021

There’s no getting around it. At some point it’ll be necessary to upgrade your network—and that means downtime.

Minimising downtime is a priority on any network upgrade, and it can be tricky. If your system is utilised 24/7 and runs mission-critical applications, it’s essential to carry out the project with almost no disruption. This may mean working within production windows of a few hours per day, or with no absolute downtime at all.

Despite an obsession for costing downtime per minute—or per second—it’s a myth that the dollar cost of an outage is the most important impact of a network upgrade.

No matter the size of your network and your downtime challenges, you can make a network upgrade seamless. Here are our tips on upgrading your network when downtime is at a premium.

  1. Prioritise planning and design

    A key component of a successful network upgrade is planning. It’s imperative to be thorough, and not rush the planning, scoping and design phase, or you may pay for it with issues down the road. We’ve all heard the carpenter’s advice; measure twice, cut once.

    As a first step, the existing setup needs to be examined and documented — everything from physical locations and cable diagrams through to what applications run on the network, and how it is accessed and used.

    Once the current setup is understood, the new solution can be designed in detail, and decisions made about the new topology, connectivity speeds and hardware.

    The planning must be ongoing in parallel to project kick off as your network infrastructure is constructed. When thinking about your deployment plan, it’s always preferable to carry out a phased rollout — use one department, building or campus as a pilot project to iron out any glitches before rolling out to the rest of the organisation.

  2. Stay on top of security

    It’s vital that security measures are in place for the new network and during rollout, to avoid opening loopholes and exposing entry point vulnerabilities.

    It’s also important to have a rollback strategy planned out before you start upgrading. Plan a way to rollback each step if necessary. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but it’s far better than to be left scrambling to fix a problem afterwards.

  3. Move fast with precise project management

    With so many moving parts in a network upgrade project, expert project management is vital to keep scheduling and timetables on track.

    Project management involves juggling the triple constraints — cost, scope and time. A change in one affects at least one of the other two and that needs to be managed to avoid scope creep, shifting schedules and cost blowout.

    Take a flexible approach to juggling staff availability, equipment requisition, and confirming when and what you need to achieve in your production window.

  4. Have your hardware ready to go

    Order your equipment—switches, cabling, wireless access point—well ahead of time. That gives you a window to assemble and test before deployment.

    Work with trusted and credible vendors, and know how everything should work (and where it’s going), before deployment starts.

    When you’re in the middle of a critical network upgrade, your IT services provider should be able to access premium support from their equipment partners.

  5. Go live with support on standby

    When the time comes to go live, it’s important your team is on standby for immediate troubleshooting.

    No upgrade will be without issues—even as simple as an IP conflict—and immediate support will head off further problems.

    Test all live connections and critical applications before giving the project the all-clear.

  6. Keep communicating

    Communication across a range of stakeholders can make or break an upgrade project. And the higher the stakes, the more important it is to keep everyone talking.

    • Stakeholders
      Encourage stakeholders to own the project — their buy-in is crucial to the success of the upgrade.
    • Users
      Network upgrades affect every user. Involve users in the planning phase to understand what systems are critical and how they use the network. After the upgrade, make sure any changes are documented and communicated to the users — if the way they log in has changed, they need to know before access becomes urgent.
    • Inhouse IT staff
      The new system needs to be thoroughly documented and handed over to the staff responsible for supporting the network infrastructure and users. They may need extra training to support new hardware or software.
    • Project team
      Have daily stand up meetings with your project team. This catches any issues immediately — if something has gone wrong it can be rolled back or remediated in hours.

Get it done with our help

Designing, constructing and caring for a network takes skill and effort. Partner with the network infrastructure specialists for a seamless deployment. Call 13 RICOH.