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MSP Business

Network Implementation Checklist

Network implementation is a simple concept in nature, but complicated in practice. The best-managed service providers do what they can to simplify the process as much as possible and documentation standards help keep the process organized. Here's a walkthrough of some tips and tricks to make your network implementation better than ever.

Documentation

Each network implementation should feature multiple levels of documentation. Following standard operating procedures for the entire process verifies that things are done the same way every time, allows for improvement for the next project, and provides a way to look back on what has already been done. Proper, consistent client communications put customer service at the forefront of the entire implementation.

Further reading Documentation Best Practices for Network Administrators

Create Standard Operating Procedures for Rollout

The SOP created for the implementation should be detailed and cover every aspect of the rollout process. Here are a few things to consider when drawing up the standard operating procedures documentation.

  • Cover each aspect. Missing just a few steps could compromise the entire project. Don’t let an early decision change steps later on in the process!
  • Use easy-to-understand language. While the SOP is generally going to be used by technicians, quality-assurance professionals will also be reading through them to make sure all steps have been carried out correctly. They need to be able to read them as well.
  • Don’t go overboard. Standard operating procedures should be easy to follow. Make sure that points are made in a sentence or two, with examples listed where appropriate.

Use a Documentation System Throughout the Process

Most managed service providers have a web-based ticketing system. Technicians should use this, in some form, to chronicle their processes as well. Here are some things to include:

  • Verify the SOP has been followed. The documentation system is the best way for management to verify that the standard operating procedures are being followed appropriately. Technical notations should indicate this.
  • Use standard reporting. Notations should follow some sort of standard so as to clear up any confusion. These notation standards can be established within the standard operating procedures documentation.

Communicate with the Client Every Step of the Way

The best way to establish a customer-service-based approach is to offer excellent communication to the customer at all times. Here are some best practices for this:

  • Weekly reporting. Offering end-of-week email or conference call reports will keep your customers informed of the process. These should be coordinated throughout the project, no matter where it currently stands.
  • A main point of contact. Communication is much simpler when clients have one person to call. This adds a touch of personalization to the service being offered and reduces confusion.

Signal Killers

Designing an effective network is meaningless if loss of signal is going to degrade bandwidth. Knowing what to look for can help to prevent this from occurring.

Ethernet Interference and Signal Loss

Ethernet interference and signal loss can be hard to detect while wreaking havoc with your network. Many times, a cable tester is needed to determine where this occurs. Here are a few things to look for.

  • Exceeding length requirements. Each type of cable has its own parameters for how long runs should be. Be sure not to exceed these limitations.
  • Electrical interference. When Ethernet cable and electrical wires are run side-by-side, interference can occur. Avoid this, if at all possible.

Further reading Network Performance Monitoring

Bandwidth Black Holes

Bandwidth hogs can infiltrate a network very easily. Many firewalls have a hard time detecting them right away. These devices can quickly use up most of or all of a network’s allotted bandwidth, leaving the remaining devices to share the rest.

To detect these, managed service providers should have a way to evaluate the bandwidth usage of each device over a period of time. When problem spots are identified, they should be addressed directly. Many times, these devices have viruses or malware.

Evaluating Bottlenecks

When network slowdowns occur, the first job of the managed service provider is to determine where the bottleneck is occurring. This could start at the Internet source, all the way back to desktop-side switches.

Reducing the number of points of failure is a great way to cut down the number of possible bottlenecks. As long as this can be done without sacrificing redundancy, make an effort to remove as many small workgroup switches and unused clients as possible.

Test All Stages

Testing before the rollout is an important final step that not only displays great technical ability but excellent customer service as well.

With all of this being said, it is still impossible to predict all outcomes of a network rollout. Be sure to perform additional testing on a network at the outset of production. In addition to this, let the client know that this testing is being performed and that the managed service provider team is ready to respond to any kinks found in the new network.

Further reading Network Audit Guide

Conclusion

Managed service providers need to be confident in their networks before releasing them to clients. It’s a customer-service-first approach that will help maintain and improve their reputation. Furthermore, it saves time in the future; techs can move away from troubleshooting old projects to addressing new ones.

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