Enterprise Network Equipment Checklist
In this comprehensive enterprise network equipment checklist, we’ll help you understand the various components required to build and maintain your network.
In any modern business, the key to connecting multiple departments and devices is a correctly configured and implemented network. This network can consist of many different devices, and ensuring that each device is working correctly is essential to the effectiveness of the enterprise. Establishing an enterprise-level network can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Use this enterprise network equipment checklist to get organized, and learn about all of the different parts that make up an efficient enterprise network.
Enterprise Network Equipment
One of the most important parts of any network is the router. You can think of this device as the backbone of your enterprise, because it will be working day in and day out to connect other pieces of your network. Routers regulate how employees in your office connect to your network and the outside internet. Routers can also divide your larger enterprise network into smaller sub-networks that can be managed and accessed by individual offices or departments. If your enterprise network spans multiple locations, routers can be used to connect them to your more extensive full enterprise network.
Typically, modems are provided from your ISP (Internet Service Provider). They are the primary way your devices receive signal from the outside internet. Usually, modems transmit digital signals over phone lines. Routers connect to the outside world via modems and then give devices connected to those routers access to the data transmitted through and from the router. You could use a router without a modem, but you would be severely limited in the possible uses of that router. Working together, a modem and router provide employees, or even an entire office, the ability to connect to a network with access to the internet and other networks that may not be in the same physical location.
Sometimes, an office has many devices that need to connect to a network. That is where network hubs can be handy in building your enterprise network. A hub is a network component that allows numerous other devices such as printers, computers, and other smart devices to connect to the same local network. Hubs also can provide signal boosts within a single physical location.
For example, if your office has multiple floors in a building, a single router may not reach or connect to all devices for the office. A hub could boost that signal while simultaneously connecting numerous devices to the network. Multiple hubs could be used to significantly increase the maximum possible size of a network in substantial offices.
It is worth noting that hubs only work within a local area network, and they do not connect to any outside devices or the internet. A hub would still have to be connected to a router connected to a modem to communicate with the outside world.
Similar to routers in function, gateways connect multiple autonomous networks, essentially allowing for the formation of an enterprise grade network. Gateways use numerous protocols to help translate and connect differing network technologies.
For example, if your enterprise has multiple offices in various physical locations, those locations could have different local area network equipment or protocols in place. Gateways function by helping those devices with different protocols communicate with each other effectively. A high-end router with the ability to translate multiple protocol configurations can essentially be considered a gateway as well.
Like hubs, switches connect multiple devices to a network. Network switches come in many sizes and can be used to connect just two devices or hundreds of employee machines. You can think of switches as a more intelligent version of a network hub.
Unlike routers or access points, switches are not usually connected to wirelessly. Instead, devices are connected to switches via a hardwire connection. Other devices can then connect wirelessly to the switch through the other components hardwired connections. Typically, a server room or IT closet will house a rack where switches will connect hardwired devices to the network.
Switches can also store routing information, which allows the device to assist in increasing network efficiency. Devices connected to a switch can be regulated in how they interact with the rest of the local area network, ensuring that enterprise resources are used efficiently, and no one device can take too much bandwidth or cause network slowdown. Switches can also help aid network security by limiting which users or devices can access the network.
VoIP, or Voice Over IP, phones are often overlooked when building an enterprise network equipment checklist. These devices are phones that connect to the network via the internet and not a phone line. VoIP phones have many added benefits, including auto dialing from a connected PC and easy recording of calls. These phones also support automated services, such as menus for customers to interact with or the presentation of pre-recorded messages to users before contact.
Network Security Considerations
As your enterprise network grows, so does the risk of attack from malicious parties. To put it plainly, the more information you have, the more people may want to steal that information. Almost every device connected to your network has security features built into it, but the proper implementation of those security features is entirely up to how they are handled internally.
Typically, an enterprise-level network will have an entire IT department dedicated to ensuring the network functions safely. At the bare minimum, an enterprise network needs a system admin to monitor and ensure the network works as intended.
Whether it is an entire department, a third-party support company, or an individual, your enterprise network must have a contact that understands your enterprise network's complex nature and interactions. Without support staff, even the smallest of errors could result in costly downtime and potential profit loss. An IT support staff is also your first line of defense when malicious parties do decide to attack. Regular network audits combined with active virus and malware scans provide the best possible security for your enterprise network.
Security Cameras & Surveillance
Another forgotten yet crucial part of any enterprise-level network is security and surveillance options. Devices such as cameras and security systems can be integrated and monitored via your enterprise network. This allows you to secure your business better physically and virtually. Cameras on your network can be accessed by your team remotely, allowing for more efficient security practices.
Other security features, such as employee logins and network access, can also be monitored and maintained remotely. However, these options would be set up from other devices and handled in the long-term by a system admin or IT department.
One of the main things employees will want to do with your network is connect to it, which is handled by access points. Hardware such as Ethernet adapters can also be considered access points and give any computer the ability to physically connect to a network.
Access points, or APs, are any hardware that work to send and receive data through your network's various connected devices. Host bus or wireless adapters will allow devices to connect to your enterprise network wirelessly. Connecting to an AP is like connecting to any wireless network, and employees will still need the proper SSID and login information to use the device. An IT department can manage these login credentials or set them up to be regulated via specific software. Access points can also be controlled remotely and are a great way to monitor who has access to your network at certain times.
Network antennas provide signal boosts to your network for various devices. While you may connect to your network through an access point connected to a hub or switch, which then relays information to a router and out to other networks, the actual component on said device transferring all that data is an antenna. There are still plenty of hardwired connections involved in an enterprise level network, but any wireless communications, no matter what the device, will be transmitted through some form of antenna.
Types of Wireless Access Points
- External: These are larger devices that resemble routers or modems in appearance and typically require a dedicated power connection. Some external wireless access points can also require a hardwired connection to provide signal rather than connecting to and boosting an already present network.
- In-Ceiling: While in-ceiling access points function the same as external APs, they save on space and can be essential in larger office building or workspaces. Cabling for these devices is typically hidden in the ceiling and thus free from any accidental disconnects or wire damage.
- Mountable: Virtually the same as their in-ceiling counterparts, mountable APs can be placed on walls, in stairwells, or just about anywhere that supports their weight. These devices are great for multi-level offices or non-traditional workspaces where the network may need to have an extensive reach.
Proper utilization of an enterprise-grade network allows employees to work together remotely from numerous locations and function as if they were all within the same office. But they can require a significant amount of specialized equipment and personnel to set up and maintain. We hope this enterprise network equipment checklist has helped you understand the various components required to build and maintain your network.
Remember, the best network is only as good as the IT department that runs it. Even if you can only spare a single employee, having personnel dedicated to maintaining your network is vital to efficiently running your business.