Network Design

Network Design: A High-Level Overview

Most businesses rely on their networks to execute core business functions. Unplanned network downtime can cost businesses as much as $9,000 per minute

Network design is one of the most critical factors determining your network’s vulnerability to unplanned downtime and other issues. This high-level overview will help you understand what to look for in a well-designed network.

What Is Network Design?

Network design describes the process of planning and designing how an information technology network will be physically, virtually, and logically arranged. A business may go through this process when creating a new network from scratch or when adding on to or reconfiguring an existing network.

Why Does Network Infrastructure Design Matter?

Most businesses rely on IT networks to execute core functions such as sales, production, billing, inventory, and customer service. Network downtime can cost companies up to $9,000 in lost productivity and sales.

Additionally, glitches, inefficiencies, and security breaches can reduce productivity, affect the quality of products and services, and harm a company’s reputation. A well-designed network is more efficient and resilient and is less likely to experience downtime or security issues.

Additionally, a good network design makes issues easier to troubleshoot, saving time, money, and lost productivity when something goes wrong. It is also easier to scale a well-designed network to accommodate the changing needs of the business and new technology. However, because no business has unlimited resources to pour into its network, the design must balance performance, security, redundancy, and cost. 

Are Network Design and Network Topology the Same Things?

People sometimes use the terms network design and network topology interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Network topology refers to network diagrams called topology maps. 

Network design includes business processes and results. Network topology is part of a network design but does not encompass the entire process.

What Should You Consider When Designing a Network?

All network designs involve choosing the appropriate hardware, software, physical layout, and other basic features of the network. However, there are also several other factors to consider.


Many businesses operate under a patchwork of state, federal, and international regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. These regulations govern how businesses must store, process, and protect data. 

Regulations such as the National Electrical Code (NEC) can also impact how you physically design your network. A secure network design protects your reputation, as well as your customers and clients, while also ensuring compliance with regulations.

Cloud Vs. On-Site

Businesses are no longer limited to their own physical space when building networks. Many companies choose to implement cloud solutions that utilize hardware, software, and network connections located off-site. Cloud solutions can save companies money and provide redundancy, but their use impacts every aspect of network design, from the hardware and software needed to the security protocols.

Redundancy and Resilience

It isn’t practical for most organizations to have two of every device and application on their network. However, most organizations build in some level of redundancy so the network can continue to carry out core functions when something goes wrong.

Part of Wide-Area Network(WAN)  design is finding the balance between the cost of building redundancy and the cost of downtime. For some industries, regulations also influence how much redundancy a company must build into its systems.

Power and Cooling

A network with insufficient power will run poorly or may not run at all. Because computer equipment generates a lot of heat, a lack of cooling devices can lead to overheating, which may cause devices to fail.

Your network design must ensure enough power and cooling for all the devices on the network during peak usage. It must also account for the number of panels and outlets available in the building and systems, such as power-over-Ethernet, that may increase the load on UPS and other power equipment.

For some projects, the ambient temperature & humidity should be taken into account. 

How Do You Design a Network?

Designing a network is a multi-step process.

Identify Business and Technical Requirements

The first step is to determine what the business needs the network to do. Is it trying to provide a better user experience, reduce costs, comply with regulations, improve business continuity, or reach another goal? Once you know the business needs, you must determine the technical requirements, such as bandwidth, security, protocols, and uptime, that you need to implement to achieve those goals.

Assess the Current Network

Unless you are starting with a fresh network design, you must first assess the current network layout, data flows, performance, security, applications, and services. Review existing network diagrams, monitoring tools, and policies.

You may need to use network mapping tools and security scanners to get the full picture. Identify which systems must remain operational while you are deploying the new network.

Design the Network Topology

Your network topology maps will be the primary reference for the implementation phase. Consider the physical and logical components of the network.

Address issues such as cabling, switch ports, wifi access points, cooling, power, and rack layout. Include logical design details, including IP addressing, data flows, VLANs, and network topology.

Common Types of Network Topologies

Mesh Topology

In a mesh topology, every device is connected to every other device, forming a network where data can take multiple paths to reach its destination. This redundancy enhances fault tolerance but requires extensive cabling and is more complex to manage.

Star Topology

In a star topology, all devices are connected to a central hub or switch. Communication between devices goes through this central point, simplifying management and troubleshooting. However, the failure of the central hub can disrupt the entire network.

Bus Topology

In a bus topology, all devices are connected to a single backbone cable. Data is transmitted along this cable, and each device receives the data but only processes information intended for it. It’s cost-effective and easy to install but prone to congestion and single point of failure.

Ring Topology

In a ring topology, each device is connected to exactly two other devices, forming a circular pathway for data. Data travels in one direction around the ring until it reaches its destination. It’s efficient and simple but can be disrupted by the failure of a single device.

Hybrid Topology

 A hybrid topology is a combination of two or more different topologies, such as a mix of star and mesh or bus and ring. This allows for flexibility in design and can accommodate the specific needs of an organization, but it can also increase complexity and cost.

Select Hardware and Software

Choose the hardware and software you will use on the network, including cables, network devices, racks, applications, servers, and cloud services. Account for any potential supply-chain issues that could delay the launch of your new network.

Plan for Implementation and Maintenance

The final design step is to plan for the deployment, configuration, testing, and maintenance of the network. If someone else will manage the network, create a transition plan.

If you will manage the network, create a network management plan. Keep stakeholders informed throughout the process.

Where Can You Get Help With Network Design?

Designing a network is a big task. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. CIO Tech has the resources and expertise of a large IT provider and the client-centric mindset of a mom-and-pop shop. Our team can design, procure, stage, deploy, and support your network design to meet the changing needs of your business.

The CIO Tech team is an extension of your company, not just a service provider. Contact us today for more information.

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