Once you have decided on a particular fiber solution and provider, it’s time to think about managing the installation and ongoing network maintenance. Here are just some of the areas that you should start to think about as you move into the implementation phase:
Depending on the type of network upgrade, you may need to also plan for equipment upgrades. If you are increasing your bandwidth, it is important to think about whether your edge device, modulating electronics, firewall, and content filter can support the additional throughput. If every device in the traffic path cannot support the additional bandwidth, a bottleneck will be created and you will pay for bandwidth that is not being utilized.
It is possible that as part of the upgrade you will be making changes to the network design. For example, maybe you move from a hub and spoke to a ring network, or add a secondary Internet connection point for failover. If this is the case, be sure to think through traffic flows, routing configuration updates, or additional hardware that might be needed.
Whether you procure a lit, leased dark or self-provisioned fiber service, it is important to be heavily involved in the installation process. This ensures quality and timeliness of the installation and testing process. If the provider is laying fiber to deliver service, you do not need to be as heavily involved during the construction phase, but it is still important to schedule standing meetings with them to check the progress to be aware of delays or issues.
For self-provisioned projects, a district project management resource may be required to drive the upgrade. Even if the construction company has their own project manager, a school district counterpart project manager should ensure that the construction company has everything that they need and is adhering to all committed timelines.
As your fiber upgrade project gets closer to completion, it’s only natural for you and your staff to be excited about using the new network. But before you sign off on the project with your supplier, it’s wise to have a user acceptance testing process. If you receive a box by mail, and it arrives looking like it fell off the back of the truck, you wouldn’t sign for it. The same concept applies to your network infrastructure (or really any other service/product that you pay for).
Acceptance testing helps you to verify that you have been given a clean, working system with functionality as agreed at the start of the project. Acceptance testing before sign-off is therefore yet another important step you can take to ensure long-term success of your network upgrade.
Finally, a successful network deployment depends on your team’s ability to provide ongoing support and maintenance.. If your new network includes new features and/or hardware that you have not seen or used before, it’s a good opportunity to request that you’ll need the vendor to provide training and proper knowledge transfer of the new components to your IT support staff in your RfP. If your team is already equipped to support the new network, consider how your existing maintenance policies and procedures need to be updated.
There are many steps you can take to ensure post-deployment success. For example, bandwidth monitoring and trend analysis, asset and inventory management, periodic auditing and/or testing of network elements—all help you better prepare for both future network upgrades and/or dealing with unforeseen outages and failures. Ultimately, these best practices will help you create a network that is easily maintainable and easy to manage.