An enterprise seeking to connect its multiple locations and remote team members must consider a wide variety of factors that will affect overall costs as well as network performance. Designing a multi-site wide area network (WAN) that can support voice, video, data, and local area network (LAN) traffic requires a careful inclusion of company goals. You’ll also need to consider emerging technologies, as well as the ever-changing security needs and network throughput.
Your first step is to consider the enterprise and its goals, including planned applications, connectivity to outside entities (suppliers, customers, and stakeholders,) local and remote access requirements, and competitive considerations, among others. These goals will be largely influenced by whether you intend to build a new network from scratch, update an existing network or integrate your network with other networks.
WAN Investigation: Assuming you have an existing network, you should continue the process by creating an inventory of the network, with identification of the circuits and hardware, software supporting the network and all network-related costs. Measure network performance in terms of throughput, dropped packets, and latency to determine your baseline.
If you’re creating a multi-site WAN from a combination of fixed private lines and virtual private networks (VPNs), you’ll need a WAN designed for traffic generated at each network node, plus remote user and inter-node channel traffic. Once these traffic patterns are identified, the design of the network can be initiated. The WAN may require modification in areas like node positioning, local access bandwidth, or device configuration, and it may be beneficial to replace private lines with multi-protocol label switching pathways for improved cost and performance.
Next, you’ll need to engage in discovery, which identifies each of the components residing on the network, often through software that can locate and describe all devices on the network. Performance analysis will then help you examine how the network is working in areas like bandwidth, throughput, and latency. This can be done using a network analyzer.
You can examine all of this data with network simulation software, which helps examine how the network is performing within today’s parameters and how it can be expected to perform in light of future requirements.
Considering Managed Services: For most enterprises, big and small, multi-site WAN design may be best left to experts. This is a common approach for organizations that don’t have the staffing or resources to handle network design in-house. Managed services not only design and install, but they also offer regular monitoring of the network performance.
Predicting Multi-Site WAN Performance: In anticipation of placing a new application on your network, it’s important to examine its impact on your WAN resources. Consider the following:
Latency: It can take a long time for data to be transmitted across a WAN, so include protocols that require receivers to acknowledge delivery of data so you can get an accurate measurement of travel time.
Packet loss: Even in a well-designed multi-site WAN, you may lose packets due to errors or the intentional removal of certain traffic to maintain performance levels.
Retransmission: Lost packets in a reliable network will be retransmitted, but this introduces delays from resending as well as a delay in waiting for the data to be received in the correct order.
Throughput: This refers to the amount of traffic a given network can carry and is usually expressed in terms such as megabits per second.
Additional factors can impact WAN performance, such as compression, encryption, and network signaling.
Capacity Planning: Even though the WAN capacity planning should be performed before network installation, it will be a relatively regular activity. The following steps offer a methodology for capacity planning:
- Gain a clear understanding of network activities, including voice communications, email, and remote access.
- Examine service and usage requirements.
- Assess network performance with data from endpoints, switches, and routers.
- Review performance audit reports.
- Evaluate bandwidth demand versus infrastructure support.
- Determine the type and number of devices the network will support in the future.
- Analyze present network configurations.
- Determine the total amount of bandwidth required, and evaluate the type of circuits needed to support traffic.
- Analyze network redundancy requirements and their impact on capacity.
- Test and validate multi-site WAN to measure how traffic generators perform with network design software.
Determine Bandwidth Requirements: To adequately support bandwidth requirements, it’s important to keep an eye on emerging opportunities. Consider the following factors:
- Number of users, both current and potential, consuming network resources
- Network activities, including email, audio and video, file transfers, and applications that support data transfers
- Devices used on the network
- Expectations for performance and speed
- The frequency of data being downloaded and uploaded
- Security concerns, including data encryption
Building a multi-site WAN isn’t just about establishing a connection; it’s also about optimizing your network to drive business goals. To learn more about network design and how it can improve productivity and provide cost savings, contact us at TailWind. We offer certified onsite technician support and high-speed broadband connectivity to support your WAN.