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Year's end is the perfect time for a network assessment

As hard as it may be to believe, 2007 is rapidly coming to an end. That means it's time for lots of things: reviewing the successes and failures of the year coming to a close, readying crucial documents in preparation for tax season, and preparing your budget and business plan for fiscal year 2008.

The end of the year is also a perfect time to contact your I.T. professional to schedule a network assessment. Investing in a network assessment will both provide you with an up-to-date look at your company's network infrastructure and allow you to work necessary information technology upgrades, such as new hardware and software upgrades, into your fiscal 2008 budget.

A professionally conducted network assessment takes inventory of your current information technology assets. It will provide a physical count of the hardwaresuch as workstations, servers, routers, switches, firewalls and printersthat comprise your network, but it will also supply you with a report card, so to speak, of these devices, allowing you to prioritize the areas most in need of upgrades.

For example, a thorough network assessment will provide you with information specific to the performance of each device on your business network. The portion of your assessment dedicated to your office workstations, for example, will include the processor speed, motherboard, RAM and operating system powering each machine. Each of your servers will receive similarly thorough reporting, and other devices, such as printers, will include important information detailing the performance and expected lifespan of the device.

A network assessment can be expanded to include other priorities important to your business and its goals. For example, network assessments can include a focus on security, analyzing the integrity of your company's crucial business data. Penetration tests can be conducted to determine if your network could be comprised by access from unauthorized users, and test restorations of your network's backups can be conducted to ensure your data can be retrieved should the need arise.

If your growing company's plans include the exploration of wireless connectivity, a wireless site survey may be conducted as part of the overall network assessment. A physical survey of your facility will determine the best locations to place wireless access points, and these locations will then be used to conduct signal strength tests throughout the office. Using this data, you can then determine if a transition to an entirely wireless office, or a hybrid solution utilizing both wired and wireless connectivity, makes sense for your business.

An investment in a professional network assessment can pay big dividends as your company approaches the new year. Instead of adopting a wait-and-see approach, you can incorporate the necessary I.T. dollars into your budget to ensure the resources are there when it comes time to upgrade workstations, servers and the other critical network devices that comprise your business network. Accordingly, you won't have to deviate from the budget your business has adopted to guide the company throughout the coming year, and you won't have to sacrifice technology performance throughout the office.

The new year will be here before we know it. Don't wait to consider your office's future technology needs.

- Jeff Facer is owner and CEO of Area-Wide Technologies in Champaign. He can be reached at (217) 359-8041 or jfacer@areawidetech.com.

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