The more high-tech your workplace is, the greater your business results. Statistics show that digitally advanced companies had 73% of their employees reporting a positive impact to their productivity, with 70% citing improved collaboration.

Quality IT network infrastructure plays a key role in maintaining your company’s technological efficiency. With data constantly communicated over your network structures, failures can result in a loss of valuable productivity time – damaging overall business profits.

A few minutes of technical downtime per day may not seem like much, though these can lead to several hours of lost productive time each year.

To improve workplace operations and boost team performance, here’s how you can build and maintain a solid IT network for your organisation.

Use the latest technology

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Firstly, it is critical to ensure your hardware, software, and network technology are up to date.

As convenient as digital tools and equipment can be, they aren’t made to last forever. Outdated hardware with obsolete protocols, for example, may not reach the maximum potential for your WiFi speed. It’s also best to opt for the latest broadband technology (i.e. fiber-optic), boosting your internet connection by multiple megabytes per second.

As a general rule, business owners are recommended to conduct network assessments of routers and related devices; ensuring none are more than three years old.

IT experts also suggest making the move to the cloud – which not only helps in cutting physical costs, but in boosting operational efficiency and security, as well.

Additionally, you may benefit from implementing intelligent management systems. Such tools provide an accurate overview of your IT network infrastructure, and allow for proactive analysis, monitoring, troubleshooting, and automated control.

Another advanced yet economic, high-security network solution is the use of SD-WANs (software-defined wide area network), rather than traditional WAN networks. While the latter makes use of specific hardware and a single network link, SD-WANs access online and cloud-based networks; using (and sometimes, merging) whatever connection technologies and ISPs are available to provide the best performance. As a result, businesses acquire greater bandwidth – and at a lower cost.

It’s important to note, however, that while new technologies can benefit operations, it’s crucial to invest in your employees too. Be sure to hire top-tier talents to leverage such tools and continually drive progress in your overall IT strategy. Human capital brings just as much growth to your business as expensive digital infrastructure, helping your company stay relevant in a fast-paced, modern marketplace.

Optimise your VPNs

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With working from home on the rise – making up nearly a third (3.5 million) of Australian employees – it pays to keep corporate data safe when accessed outside out of workplace premises.

To accommodate these new demands (and continue retaining the best talents), be sure your VPN (virtual private network) is optimised for all your company-related apps and platforms. This reroutes their traffic through your own network, regardless of what device or network your employees may be using.

Speeding up your VPN can also streamline productivity. Eliminate unnecessary downtime from a lagging connection by choosing a server that offers optimal performance. These tend to be those closest to you, so experiment with the available servers (in order of closest to farthest in distance) to find one that works best.

It can also help to try different protocols to see which one offers the best balance of speed and security. Protocols are used to ensure secure encryption of data between your device and the server; though some may prioritise security at the expense of performance, and vice versa.

Of course, using the right VPN software can also drastically improve connection results – with some software packages offering greater internet speeds. Your VPN provider may also allow software configuration, helping you tweak specific settings to best fit with existing devices.

Monitor your traffic

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Even with a network speed of gigabytes per second, mismanaged activities and unmonitored programs can quickly lead to congestion when left unchecked.

Such issues include bottlenecks and bandwidth hogs, in which certain applications consume an unnecessary amount of bandwidth; leading to eventual packet loss, delays, and even temporary stagnation of other processes.

Traffic congestion is especially cumbersome when important systems like real-time VoIP communication tools are impacted.

To avoid these jams, it’s critical to prioritise your network traffic. Encourage users to uninstall unnecessary software that may add to the load, such as apps that offer a daily refresh of desktop wallpaper. Segregate broadcast traffic that may not be relevant to all users; this can be achieved by dividing your IT network into multiple virtual LANs (also known as VLANs).

Additionally, ensure tasks performed by backup software and systems management tools occur at appropriate times. Some may require the proper configuration to do this. Opt for programs that offer flexible task options, such as limited bandwidth usage during active (work) hours and full speed performance during quieter times of the day.

This prevents their processes from trickling into the working day, slowing other, higher-priority tasks to a crawl.

Application performance monitoring can also help measure any data centre delays, the time it takes for an application page to function, and network delays between the data centre and the end user. Such tools assist in pinpointing any bottlenecks in real-time, allowing you to proactively detect and alleviate them as necessary.

Finally, AI-driven network analytics automate network monitoring and management through machine learning, such as with Cisco’s . Their services help prioritise and resolve network issues via advanced artificial intelligence, improving performance with greater efficiency.

Invest in quality cybersecurity

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With cybercrime an ever-growing threat among Australian businesses, it’s imperative to establish the appropriate measures in protecting your business’ IT network.

Approximately 964 data breach notifications were made under the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme from 2018 to 2019 alone, of which 60% were verified as malicious or criminal attacks.

Avoid taking part in these statistics by having a thorough understanding of your IT infrastructure. Know where your routers, cables, and hard-drives are located; and use encryption methods or segmentation as necessary. Practice proper password hygiene and ensure they’re complicated enough to avoid manual or automated guessing.

Understand that each stage of your network has potential vulnerabilities. Perform regular audits of your infrastructure to identify any weaknesses, rectifying them as necessary.

Establishing an in-depth, enterprise-wide network policy can ensure that everyone does their part in diligently managing and maintain your IT network security.

Other fundamental safeguards include investment in proper anti-malware software, approving devices for remote data access, encrypting critical communication channels, installing firewalls, and implementing network-monitoring tools to keep track of suspicious activity.

Partner with a managed services provider (MSP)

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Finally, it can help to place your network maintenance in the hands of a verified managed services provider (MSP).

Sticking to in-house efforts can cost you time and money, as well consumes much of your IT staff’s productivity.

With an MSP, you can rest assured your systems are running at optimum speed and quality; as trusted experts provide you with the latest technology, implement high-end security practices, and ensure your business adheres to compliance regulations while keeping your networks in smooth operation.

They also offer greater scalability, allowing you to start small and expand to larger systems and processes as needed. This eliminates the costly practice of grand, initial investments – only to leave some resources unused or underutilised.

Outsourcing their IT network initiatives to third party, further leaves business owners with simple, predictable monthly payments; assisting with financial budgets and planning, in contrast to dealing with the unexpected costs of capital expenditures and their peripheral costs.

With the 24/7 monitoring they commonly offer, managers can also ensure minimal downtime with around-the clock, proactive maintenance.

Statistics show that partnering up with MSPs result in a potential 40% reduction in costs while doubling in business productivity. Additionally, Cisco’s MSPs in particular have shown to lead to a 60% increase in client efficiency.

Level up your IT networks with Cisco’s training courses

Cisco is currently in the lead within Australia’s network infrastructure market, dominating market shares in the WLAN, router, and ethernet switch markets.

To ensure your business stays up-to-date with the latest network practices and technology, Lumify Work (previously known as DDLS and Auldhouse) offers authorised Cisco training courses in routing, switching, wireless networks, cybersecurity, and various other areas in maintaining quality network infrastructure.

Students can undertake programs that lead to nationally-recognised certification, verifying their skills and knowledge in supporting Cisco products and network technology.

Equip both you in your workers with the necessary training to ensure a safe, solid IT network – and enquire with us on a course today.

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