Top 7 useful network capacity planning best practices

Network Capacity Planning is providing the resources a network needs to prevent any effect on business-critical applications. There is no fixed way to tell when action needs to be taken to prevent any issues. Whether you’re assuring that there is enough bandwidth through a service provider or confirming the load on network devices, having accurate insights is essential.

A fundamental feature of network planning is finding how much bandwidth the network requires. Managers need to determine what capacity will be suitable for network growth in the future. Key initiatives require detailed views into bandwidth usage, combined with previous accounts of usage. Network capacity planning also helps with precise budgeting and provisioning.

Modern networks consist of a collection of routers, switches, firewalls, and other network components. While they are all configured to maintain the best possible function and throughput — both inside the peripheries of the internal network and across links to other networks — procedures teams leverage network capacity planning to identify potential flaws, misconfigurations, or other functionality that could affect a network’s availability within an indicated timeframe. From a high-level perspective, network operators employ a network capacity plan to understand some key network metrics:

  • Classifications of network traffic
  • The capacity of existing network infrastructure
  • Network utilization in the network
  • Existing network traffic volumes for internal networks and external networks

By conducting this type of network surveying, analysts can understand the maximum capability of exciting resources and the influence of adding incremental new resources needed to help future conditions. While capacity planning helps with the design of new network infrastructure, it can also help to determine additional staff or resources that will control and oversee the network.

Key Metrics for Planning Network Capacity

Network processes often set a baseline for network performance, a key question in each process is: What is expected of the network performance when it is running casually? Network engineers speculate the optimal performance metrics, which can then be applied by network management tools. Key metrics include:

  • Bandwidth — the maximum rate at which the information can be transferred, generally measured in bits/second
  • Throughput — the exact rate at which the information is transferred
  • Latency — the delay between the receiver and the sender
  • Jitter — the difference in packet delay rate at the destination source
  • Packet loss — measured as a percentage of packets lost vs the packets sent
  • Error rate — the total amount of corrupted bits of the sent data

When a threshold for a key performance metric is clocked, the icon for a network element can be indicated, and depending on the severity of the event, may also issue a caution.

Key Capacity Planning Solution Requirements

Key needs for capacity planning solutions vary based on the type of organization utilising it. Network operators can instantly take action on insights from capacity planning tools, some basic onboard solutions include:

  • Built-in link utilization charts
  • Ability to set the level of detail of the reports
  • Ability to create entries using customizable performance values
  • Predictability of timestamps when full utilization of network resources is predicted to happen
  • Automatically set alert limits based on data
  • Active reporting of performance metrics
  • Ability to generate a custom report and analyse on a routine basis
  • Allocation of key capacity planning metrics

A Few Network Capacity Planning Best Practices

1. Eliminate Bandwidth Complexities and Metrics Document the extent to which sources, destinations, devices, users, applications, protocols, and services are generating traffic. Employ dashboard services that deliver a page to help the complex bandwidth visibility problems and provide metrics regarding both bandwidth and device strain.

2. Cut Costs and Achieve Uninterrupted Services

Calculate and analyze traffic metrics to confirm performance and capacity baselines. After toggling through periodic reports, an accurate projection of future bandwidth consumption is easily attainable. Having an assessment of the future bandwidths with actual data will help against overextending service provider restrictions on sites that may be growing or experiencing excessive bandwidth consumption.

3. Be Aware of Load Balancing Equipment

Another critical element of network capacity planning is CPU/Memory administration. If the CPU on a device is under too much strain it may throttle its performance in return increasing latency or in the worst-case, crash. Thereby, causing a catastrophic chain reaction putting additional load on other devices. Likewise, insufficient memory handling could cause routing functions on a device to fail. Being conscious of increasing CPU/memory usage on devices will help provide insight into the network.

4. Ensure optimal performance delivery by identifying network bottlenecks

All links have congestion issues and have occasional spikes in traffic. network bottleneck policies are essential to ensure traffic spikes/congestion peaks are smoothed out, and additional bandwidth is allocated to critical network traffic. Without proper policies in place, all traffic has identical priority, and it does not apply to your business-critical applications are getting sufficient bandwidth

For example, without a thorough understanding of the type of traffic passing through a network, it is not possible to indicate if threshold parameters for services like VoIP are meeting target levels. Network Analytics will give you the insights that you need to properly plan network capacity and ensure capacity planning.

5. Understand the effect of network bandwidth utilization

Network bandwidth monitoring is invaluable to assist you to understand bandwidth requirements and network utilization. Bandwidth Monitor can monitor traffic, identify traffic trends, mark out traffic patterns, analyze traffic growth and identify applications that use the majority of the bandwidth. This data is delivered in extensive reports that track real-time usage as well as recorded trends of bandwidth usage over time.

The Bandwidth Usage report summarizes bandwidth utilization for a specified group of devices/interfaces over a calculated period. The information can then be screened based on interfaces, hosts, traffic direction and data range.

Additionally, statements like Top Protocols and Top Applications can also show recorded/real-time bandwidth usage. Network bottleneck policies can also be monitored through classification based reports, which offer a comprehensive view of pre-policy and post-policy traffic side by side, allowing administrators to control targets and determine critical issues like router saturation.

6. Recognize the performance volume of individual components on network infrastructure

Bandwidth Capacity Planning is an active process, anticipating future business requirements and providing the resources for the network to cope when an increase in demand hits. Extra draw on bandwidth can come from both advancement in the type of technology used (e.g. a new VoIP communication system or media streaming service) and an upsurge in the number of end-users (e.g. the following growth into a new market or a merger).

7. Network Redundancy Handling

Redundancy should also be a major concern, and when compared to the cost of unavoidable downtime, redundant connectivity pays for itself numerous times over! When designing redundant connectivity, the best practice is to use an alternate provider, utilizing an alternate link that is geo-separated from the primary connection. Redundancy checking will also require an audit of existing technology. Network flow monitoring tools can be used to locate such tendencies in traffic.

Just as a design engineer uses computer-aided design to create and test the strength of a tower, network engineers can use tools to plan, design and test a complete IT network even before it’s built. Network capacity planning is a crucial aspect of sound network analytics. A healthy network has the growth capacity to meet future needs.

Network capacity planning can provide solutions to new “what if” scenarios such as bandwidth changes due to the deployment of new applications or technologies, changes in traffic, data centre consolidation and migration in multi-vendor networks.

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