Networking Upgrades: Critical Considerations before Jumping the Gun

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

― Benjamin Franklin

In the past decade, technological advances in networking capabilities have transformed the retail space. Consumers are now accustomed to having 24/7 network connectivity and real-time access to information everywhere across all channels of commerce.

As a retailer looking to provide best-of-breed networking, the obstacles to upgrading can seem daunting. A lack of upfront planning and continual monitoring can lead to excessive long-term spending, missed opportunities to grow the business, or worse a failed disaster recovery plan due to networking issues. However, appropriate consideration of the below elements will help ensure that networking service level objectives and budget constraints are successfully met according to plan.

#1: Reaching Consensus on a Corporate Network Architecture

A retailer’s top priority should be crafting and continuously reviewing strategy on the network’s segmentation and security architecture. Laying the groundwork in this realm is crucial, as failure to do so can be very expensive and require later construction and maintenance of both second middleware and corporate server instances. Functional considerations include: Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 12.32.59 PM

  • Determining whether or not stores can communicate directly with each other without passing through corporate firewall—though this is a significant security benefit, it can also cause additional network overhead and latency.
  • Finding the right balance between Budget Security, Compliance and Service Levels—significant design work and leadership is required in the initial planning stages, as this work extends to in-store network segmentation and also involves coordination with PCI measures.

#2: Quality of Service (QoS) Filtering

Cross-network QoS Filtering should be the next component addressed. Filtering ensures vital services receive highest priority while those not essential to customer service are lowered in priority. It also allows for the generation of reports to use in analyzing the environment that ensure balance is achieved. Other strategic aspects to consider:

  • Web filtering tools should be reviewed, as they provide an effective means by which to control permitted traffic between the corporate network and the public Intranet based on user permission groups and web site categorization.
  • As a best practice, the same team that monitors and reacts to the QoS should work with the security department to maintain the web filtering tools.

#3: Redundancy, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

Last, having a network that supports the corporate redundancy, disaster recovery and business continuity plans are critical to a holistic view of the corporate network roadmap. Each of these initiatives should be well mapped out for the current state and designed in a way that supports corporate change and growth.

Factoring in these corporate considerations ahead of time promotes tactical alignment from the initiative’s beginning, ensuring the retail organization has a clear vision for the future of its network. Ultimately, this planning will pave the way towards optimal networking in the business environment.

Walter Deacon

Principal
Walter has experience in both the retail and consumer packaged goods industries as an executive and consultant. His work as a partner at PwC Consulting earned him the Chairman’s Client Service award in his dealings with some of the firm’s largest clients. His experience includes planning, procurement, replenishment, logistics, allocation and customer marketing. He specializes in the strategic application of technology to retail and supply chain process.

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