Spring has sprung, and you’re already busy clearing out all the clutter that accumulated during the winter months. But shiny floors and polished tennis trophies won’t keep you in business. A reliable and robust network will. When your network is a mess, employees waste time troubleshooting, customers disengage, and revenue is lost. To avoid this, in addition to busting out the broomsticks, it’s imperative that you set aside some time this spring to complete a full network assessment.
A network assessment is a thorough evaluation of your IT systems that gives you a comprehensive overview of every weakness and opportunity for improvement. In this two-part “spring cleaning” article, we’ll detail some of the simple steps you can take to get a better sense of where your network stands today.
Define and Prepare
Step one to assessing your network is preparing properly, so you save time and know what your goals are. Because if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how can you find it? Begin by defining the scope of your evaluation and decide how long it will take, who will take part, and what aspects you want to analyze. Next, make sure key members have the usernames and passwords needed to edit access rules accordingly so authorization issues won’t slow down the process. Once you’ve defined the scope of your inquiry and provided access to your chosen team, you’ll be ready to begin. For this article we’ll define our primary objectives as surveying these five key aspects of the network: inventory, infrastructure, performance, security, and management.
Assess Your Inventory
Like an old attic, your network is probably home to more than a few items you forgot existed. This is why it’s important to start digging through the clutter and make a detailed inventory of all of the devices, network appliances, software, and hardware that are currently in use (or not in use) across your network. The most effective way to do this is to create a simple spreadsheet with details such as:
- Type of Device
- IP Address
- Model/Model Number
- Serial Number
- Operating System
- Physical Location
As tedious as it may seem, this is no time to slouch. You’ll want to get up on your feet, walk around, and take a look at everything in the office. Note every laptop, printer, server, router, etc. It’s time to get a clear picture of what you’re using and how it’s being utilized. This is also a good time to take some photos to file away so that if you ever need to file an insurance claim, you’ll have good documentation.
However, as a business owner, you may find that taking inventory of your all your office devices falls to the bottom of your priority list. In that case, partnering with an MSP might be a more practical option for your business. As an MSP, we provide Inventory Management, so you will never have to worry about every device your employees are using, or if they are updating their programs as often as they should. Instead of the tedious “spreadsheet” approach, our Inventory Management is automated through our Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools, which automatically generates your inventory for you.
Test Your Infrastructure
Now that you’ve figured out what you own, it’s time to ask yourself: Do these devices work well together? Streamlining infrastructure is the crucial next step to achieving network efficiency. Similar to our inventory process we’ll want a dedicated document containing all our findings. A network map is the most useful tool for examining the overall design of network systems. If you’re particularly talented, a hand-drawn diagram can suffice, but a network mapping software solution like Visio might be more practical. MSPs often use Visio themselves to create clean network maps, but may also have monitoring software that automates this process for their clients. Longleaf, for example, routinely auto-discovers devices and creates live diagrams in real-time to make sure our clients get the most thorough sense of how their systems are working together to identify flaws and make improvements, as well as quickly identify and remove unauthorized devices that shouldn’t be on your network.
You’re halfway there! Stay tuned for part two where we’ll cover the best ways to assess network performance, strengthen your cybersecurity, and stay on top of these various aspects post-assessment. Already overwhelmed by the intricacies involved in a full network assessment? Consider contacting Longleaf. A top-of-the-line Managed Service Provider, Longleaf can expertly survey your entire system in a hurry to get your network in top shape.