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Intelligent LAN Switch Adoption Considerations

When implementing advanced networking technologies (IP telephony, wireless mobility, security, storage networking, and others) and Internet-based business applications, it is vital to deploy intelligent LAN switches as part of a core network foundation. These switches should feature functionality such as the following:

  • High availability and quick response time—Ensures the reliable delivery of time-critical information.

  • Integrated security—Protects sensitive areas of the network and its data.

  • Quality of service (QoS)—Network administrators can assign priorities to business-critical traffic for consistent, predictable delivery.

  • Web-based management and friendly graphical user interfaces (GUIs)—Save network administrators time and ensure management efficiency.

Consider a number of criteria and features when choosing an intelligent LAN switch. Select a switch that:

  • Doesn't drop frames under heavy loads

  • Delivers low latency (delay measured in microseconds)

  • Provides local and remote network management options

  • Offers plug and play installation for quick setup

  • Offers load balancing for traffic management

  • Ensures ease of adding bandwidth as the network grows or more-demanding applications are added

  • Provides redundancy of the switch and its power supplies for backup and network resilience

  • Offers hot-swappable modules for easy maintenance and uninterrupted network uptime

  • Offers lower cost per port than traditional routers

  • Includes or can enable VLAN support to reduce network management costs in growing networks

Factors to Discuss with a Trusted Advisor

Small-medium business decision-makers should ensure that their consultant, reseller, or equipment vendor, as well as their in-house IT staff, take into account the following factors to determine the most appropriate intelligent switches to deploy. There is an array of LAN switch types from which to choose. It is important to select the proper switch to support the business's current and evolving requirements and network budget. Here are some factors to consider in gauging which switch is most suitable:

  • Current network traffic patterns—Ideally, traffic patterns should be baselined for a few weeks to identify which users or groups require higher bandwidth and whether user-generated information flows are one- to-one (peer-to-peer) or many-to-one (client/server). Putting the right number of users on a switch can balance traffic loads and guarantee higher performance.

  • Company expansion plans—Switches must be able to handle current and future users. Consider the number of employees to be added (or reduced), new buildings on a campus, new functional groups to be formed, company acquisitions that might bring diversified network infrastructures, and so on.

  • Business software adoption plans—Bandwidth must be sufficient for the applications to be run. Both current and future media must be considered.

  • LAN upgrade plans—If the LAN will be upgraded from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet, the switch must be able to support that.

  • Advanced network technology adoption plans—Bandwidth must be sufficient for any new advanced technologies to be deployed, such as IP telephony to replace PBX systems, storage networking, wireless LANs, network security, and others.

For business-critical and growing networks, a foundation built on intelligent switching offers high performance, availability, scalability, security, and improved manageability for a reasonable cost.

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