How To Evaluate Network Infrastructure In Site Selection

In the age of digital transformation, robust network infrastructure has become a cornerstone for business success.

By Patrick Chown, Guest column

With digital transformation, businesses become increasingly reliant on technology. The underlying network infrastructure has emerged as a silent powerhouse behind the transformation. It’s akin to the circulatory system in the human body, delivering the lifeblood – data – to various organs, ensuring smooth functioning. In business terms, this translates to seamless operations, increased productivity, and improved customer experiences.

Network infrastructure
(Photo: Adobe Stock/xiaoliangge)

Take, for instance, the tech giants of Silicon Valley. Companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have been hyper-conscious of their network infrastructures. Their ability to innovate, deliver products and services globally, and maintain round-the-clock operations is primarily owed to the robust digital foundation upon which they stand.

Why Network Infrastructure Matters in Site Selection

  1. Cloud Computing: Consider the rise of cloud solutions. Companies like Amazon, with its AWS or Microsoft with Azure, have revolutionized how businesses think about data storage and application hosting. When Dropbox first started, rather than setting up its data centers, it leveraged AWS to scale rapidly. For cloud-dependent operations, latency or interruptions can severely hamper operations and customer experience.
  2. Real-Time Data Analytics: In the retail industry, companies like Walmart and Target harness real-time data analytics to monitor stock levels, predict demand, and optimize supply chain operations. A hiccup in network connectivity can lead to stockouts, overstocking, and lost sales opportunities.
  3. Remote Collaboration: With the rise of remote work, especially accentuated by the global pandemic, companies like Zoom and Slack surged in popularity. Remote collaboration tools require top-notch connectivity for video conferences, file sharing, and real-time collaboration. As companies embrace ‘work-from-home’ as a permanent or semi-permanent model, the network’s strength becomes vital.

However, the benefits of robust network infrastructure come with a caveat. Sites with subpar connectivity can lead to significant financial and operational setbacks. For instance, in May 2017, British Airways faced an IT meltdown due to data center connectivity issues, costing the company an estimated £80m.

By emphasizing the fundamental role of network infrastructure in modern business operations, corporate executives can make more informed decisions, ensuring that their companies are set on a path of unhindered growth and innovation.

Key Components of Quality Network Infrastructure

  1. High-speed Internet and Cellular Coverage: With most business functions and applications moving online, fast and reliable internet connectivity is non-negotiable. Similarly, robust cellular coverage ensures seamless communication and that mobile-based operations run smoothly.
  2. Redundancy and Reliability: Redundancy measures ensure that operations aren’t halted due to unforeseen issues. These could be having backup internet connections or multiple routes for data transfer.
  3. 5G Capabilities: 5G, the fifth generation of mobile networks, promises unprecedented speeds and low latencies. For businesses relying on real-time data analytics, IoT devices, or aiming to provide ultra-fast services, the 5G-readiness of a location can be a game-changer.
  4. Edge Computing Capabilities: Edge computing refers to processing data closer to the data source rather than relying on a centralized cloud server. It reduces latency and accelerates response times, which is vital for industries like autonomous vehicles or AR/VR applications.
  5. Dedicated Server Hubs: For businesses that manage vast amounts of data or run resource-intensive applications, access to dedicated server hubs or data centers can be crucial. These facilities ensure faster data access, enhanced security, and better performance.

Practical Steps in Evaluating Network Infrastructure

  1. Gather Preliminary Data: Before visiting a location, utilize online tools and resources to gauge the area’s general connectivity standards. Websites like Speedtest.net can offer insights into average internet speeds for specific regions.
  2. Conduct On-Site Network Tests: Once a site catches your interest, rely on something other than reported data. Conduct real-time speed and reliability tests to gauge actual performance. Tools like Ookla’s Speedtest or Fast.com can be handy.
  3. Engage with Local ISPs and Network Providers: Meet with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and network providers. They can provide detailed insights into the area’s network infrastructure, potential upgrade plans, and any known issues or limitations.
  4. Assess Future Scalability and Upgradability: Ensure that the chosen site’s infrastructure can adapt to future technological advancements. Discuss potential upgrade paths with ISPs, consider the region’s stance on emerging technologies like 5G, and evaluate the feasibility of scaling up network capabilities as the business grows.

Considering Future Technological Demands

  1. Forecasting Technological Needs: As businesses grow and evolve, so do their technological requirements. Site selection must account for growth trajectories, anticipated scaling of operations, and the potential integration of upcoming technologies.
  2. Proliferation of IoT Devices: The Internet of Things (IoT) trend shows no signs of slowing down. From smart security systems to intricate supply chain management tools, IoT devices will demand robust and real-time data transfer capabilities. Choosing a site ready for this wave will give businesses a competitive edge.
  3. Augmented Reality in Operations: More industries are integrating augmented reality (AR) into their daily operations for training, maintenance, and design purposes. This technology, while transformative, requires high-speed and low-latency networks to function seamlessly.
  4. Growing Data Storage Needs: As businesses leverage more data-driven strategies, the demand for storage—especially fast-access storage—will skyrocket. Ensuring proximity or robust connectivity to data centers can be a pivotal factor in site selection.
Patrick Chown is the owner and president of The Network Installers and Safe and Sound Security.

Are you interested in submitting a guest column? Email Associate Editor Kari Williams at kwilliams@groupc.com with “Guest Column” in the subject line.