Where Do You Start?
You have to start somewhere, and sometimes it's best to keep the process
simple. Consider the following steps:
Determine the need for an upgrade.
Create a plan to guide the process.
Carefully investigate the plan to help ensure success.
This may seem too simplistic at first glance, but stop and think: Why are you performing an upgrade? Is it because you just read about the newest technology and your budget lets you buy it? Or does the new technology solve a network problem
to your business? After you have determined a real need to make an upgrade to all or (more likely) part of your network, you need to justify these changes to management (to get the funding) and make sure that you set goals that
the needs of your network
. It doesn't mean anything if you
a half-million dollars (or more) installing the latest Storage Area Network (SAN) if your clients don't notice some improvement in performance or uptime.
However, if your hardware is old, you are likely to find that the vendor will continue to raise support costs to maintain this equipment. In that case, an upgrade can be justified by the cost of maintaining the older hardware, as well as the possibility that replacement
may not be available in a few
. Because a major upgrade can sometimes take a year or more, you might consider an upgrade before you are forced to do so by your hardware vendor. Another thing to consider is whether there is an actual need to upgrade. For example, implementing a SAN might solve many problems, such as
storage management on the network as well as providing additional capacity. SANs also can be created in such a way that you can incrementally add storage on an as-needed basis.
Storage Area Networks are not only a hot topic today, but they are becoming an absolute necessity for large networks, or for those that are dedicated to Internet services. For more information about SANs, see Chapter 11, "Network Attached Storage and Storage Area Networks."
part of this chapter will enable you to create goals for a network upgrade, as summarized in the following list:
Understanding the current environment. You can obtain this from your current resources and feedback from users.
Why are you upgrading? As stated previously, do you really need the upgrade? If it doesn't solve a problem for your network, you may find yourself simply spending money because it is available. Yet if you have the foresight to see that the upgrade will fulfill a future requirement (such as pulling fiber-
cables to replace
cables), then you might justify the cost based on future, more expensive labor costs.
What will the upgrade accomplish? Will you improve the
's perspective of the network? Will you provide additional services (think of certificate services and security) that will benefit the corporation as a whole?
Determining what financial resources are available and setting a budget. Despite the fact that most administrators fail to understand budgeting, this is a basic
of running a company. If you can't afford it, you can't afford it! Sometimes you just have to make do with older technology and plan the upgrade for the future. Many networks still use Windows 98 or Windows NT, and have Windows 2000 or the latest Windows Server 2003 in their
Creating a detailed plan for the upgrade. This is where you will make or break your argument with upper management. If you cannot show them why an upgrade will benefit the companybased on costs of maintaining the network to user productivitythen they have no reason to approve your project.
of the upgrade in a laboratory or pilot project environment. This is
in many other books for good reason. It's crucial to put the plan to the test and
that a plan is
and appropriate. For example, Microsoft's Resource Kits usually contain information on deployment and planning, which can be very helpful to you if you are rolling out an upgrade in an enterprise network.
Will users need to be trained on any new applications or features? Training is one of the more expensive items for any new network upgrade.
Backing out and recovering
Coping with the unexpected. No matter how well you plan, something can always go awry. And when it does, your job may be on the line if you can't restore the network to its previous state. Upper management doesn't care as much about perceived new benefits from
network technology as they do about keeping the business humming along.
Implementing the upgrade plan. This involves a team of technicians, each of whom is an expert in the technology that is their responsibility in the upgrade plan. Just because you are the network administrator (or manager of such) doesn't mean that you should rely on your own knowledge to micro-manage every aspect of the project. You should instead concentrate on managing the individuals whose job it is to get things done.
Did the plan work as expected? Are the results what were expected, possibly more? There is nothing more
than presenting to upper management a document (whether they read it or not) detailing how your upgrade plan worked, and the benefits that have now been accomplished. This helps you keep your job!