Network Support Services; Who Needs Them Anyway?

23rd Mar 2016

So, your WiFi network is up and running and the user community is growing.  The users love it because it’s easy to use.  They don’t need to find a data outlet or carry Ethernet cables around with them to connect to the network; they just turn on their devices, associate with the wireless and off they go.

Laptop, tablet, phone….consistent, seamless, mobile connectivity to the network underpins today’s working environments.  Whether you’ve had your Wi-Fi network for some time, you’ve recently upgraded it or you’ve just invested in a brand new shiny one, the dependency on the wireless will be growing and this trend is set to continue as fewer and fewer devices have the capability to connect via cables (even if you want them to).

So far, so good

But, as that dependency grows and the wireless network becomes the primary communications medium -  and so increasingly mission critical - do you really have the support capability to ensure that it keeps running all day, every day to underpin the business needs?

Network support, as with so many terms that we frequently use in our day to day lives, covers a multitude of options and, to be cost effective, must match the needs of the organisation.

First thing then is to figure out what you actually need (and maybe a few 'wants' too).

  • Do you need 24 x 7 cover or will 8 x 5 fit the bill (not forgetting the many combinations in between)?
  • Is the wireless a relatively low priority communications channel (can’t imagine why this should be the case!) so that, in the event of a failure, a repair and return to service within a couple of days will suffice, or is it mission critical (much better) such that 4 or even 2 hour fixes are necessary?
  • Should the support service include network monitoring such that the supporting party may detect problems before you do or is reporting a problem once you find it acceptable?

Considering these and other questions will lead to a clear definition of what level of support is required and appropriate solutions can be determined.

Sound expensive?

The cost effective, value for money equation will raise its head here followed, pretty quickly, by a discussion on Risk vs Reward.  Fair enough, 24 x 7 cover with a 4 hour fix sounds pretty expensive; perhaps you can live with less cover; after all, how often does modern equipment fail anyway?  Trouble is, like insurance, it’s either very cheap if you use it or very expensive if you don’t!  If you hit the office on Monday morning and the network is down, the cost of that downtime may well exceed the cost of the support contract that might have fixed it over the weekend…

Network resilience, built in!

However, all is not lost. Take a couple of steps back and consider the overall network design.  Does it have resilience built in or are there single points of failure?  Resilience can be designed in throughout the network with, for example, controller pairs or n+1 configurations, such that loss of a single controller won’t result in loss of service or higher access point densities so that adjacent APs can extend cover over the area normally served by a failed AP.

Now the Risk vs Reward equation changes significantly; the single points of failure have been removed and the risk of two failures within [say] a 48 hour repair cycle is very low; of course it could happen but it’s pretty unlikely and the cost of a 48 hour repair service is much lower than that of a 2 or 4 hour deal.

So, an incremental expense at design time may well save significant support costs in subsequent years.  The need for network support and the associated costs won’t go away completely but they will become affordable and relevant to the business needs.

What can Ensign Communications offer?

Ensign's network support services team are on-hand 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, to ensure that your mission-critical network is running as required. Click here to find out about our levels of support.

What Next?

If you are planning to deploy an enterprise-grade wireless network or are experiencing problems with a existing setup, please feel free to contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.