What is infrastructure in computer terms? For businesses we design, engineer, implement, and support Servers, Switching, and Storage (Core Infrastructure) as well as Wireless Networks.
Most businesses with in-house IT staff do not have the skills typically associated with designing new or upgraded infrastructure. It's simply a matter of not being familiar with the nuances of developments in technology. There needs to be a blend of understanding core technologies as well as a thorough understanding of the client businesses unique needs. The way to accomplish this goal is to be a subject matter expert on the technology and being a good listener.
Each engagement we take on is one of listening first and then following up with a superlative design that meets technical objectives as well as budget.
We take on professional service projects for core infrastructure and wireless networks throughout the United States, and we do not charge for travel or related expenses. We use a blend of local and remote talent to accomplish the best result.
Typical engagements start with listening to our customers to identify if the infrastructure they need is on-premise or Cloud-based. If it's on-premise we scope the virtualization technology, compute loads, network switching requirements, and storage requirements. Compute is always more than just RAM and processors, it's about understanding the operating system and how to tune it to run optimally for the customer's use case. By the same token understanding switching is more than simply the rated speed of the connection, but buffer size, compatibility with other components, as well as ease of management and monitoring. Finally, storage has become an entirely different market place than decades past when it was little more than overall storage capacity - it's all about feature sets that allow the IT staff to properly manage performance and disaster recovery.
We also thoroughly understand current wireless infrastructures so that we can explain to customers the reasons why 2.4GHz networks are problematic and that not only are 5GHz networks required these days but that Wave2 APs are essential for any modern business.
What is an IT infrastructure? It's the combined components of your business' computer network, which at it's core includes servers, switches, and storage, whether on premise or hosted in a Cloud platform.
Start with understanding current operational details - how many servers are meeting the need today? What are the company's objectives? Just refresh technology to newer operating systems or resize based on changes in staffing, projected growth, or new technology uses? Alternatively would migrating on-premise to the Cloud be a more cost-effective solution? With the advent of a global pandemic perhaps it's more important than previously realized to have compute performed on a Cloud platform that is both extensible to home or remote workers and finally take security seriously enough that the business will be substantially protected from ransomware and other threats.
Once the basic needs are understood then expand to features that are needed to ensure proper operations. Is high availability (HA) justified? Does it fit in the budget? Is replication required? What are the needs of the organization and those of the IT management team?
With requirements fully spelled out, the next steps are to work with a vendor, either a Value Added Reseller (VAR), or with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), to design a solution that meets the needs. If the business needs design help then most often a VAR is a better choice. If the needs are well-defined internally then an OEM may be a better choice.
Contact a reseller with experience deploying infrastructure solutions similar to the needs of the business. If their presentation shows that they are good at listening and can demonstrate mastery of the topics relating to your project then compare them to one or two others.
If your business needs only one server then it's debatable as to whether you'll receive value from virtualization. It will cost more to virtualize a single server than to run it on physical hardware, however, it will be easier to back the server up, easier to move it from one piece of hardware to another, and easier to replicate it to a Cloud platform for redundancy purposes. If you need more than one server then in almost every circumstance, virtualization adds all these benefits and it costs less than an all physical environment would. There aren't a lot of easy choices in technology, but this is one. Other that corner cases where virtualization isn't ideal, virtualization is an obvious "must do" for business computing.
We offer virtualization with Microsoft Hyper-V, vmWare ESXi, and Citrix XenServer. We'd be happy to discuss which one you might choose for your environment.
Aside from a small 5-user network, any business network should have a managed switch because it allows an IT professional to connect to the switch's operating system and either see what is happening on the network or make configuration changes to how the professional would like the switch to run. There are a long list of settings that are configurable - speed settings to slow down a connection for older equipment, separation of two or more networks connecting to the same switch, allowing or disallowing specific devices to connect to the network at all, power settings to devices like cameras and wireless access points that need them, and so much more. It is not possible to create network segments without a managed switch - that function is a critical for networks that have either more than 50 connections or a variety of traffic types that should be separated such as voice vs data traffic.
SAN stands for Storage Area Network, playing off of the better known term of Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN). For corporate networks that have more than a handful of servers a SAN is a way to share server or data files between multiple physical servers in a way that is secure, high-performing, and offers the resilience of one physical server failing and allowing other servers to run the workloads of the failed server. SANs range in price from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The variables that determine price are capacity, currently measured in Terabytes, performance, measured in IOPS (Input/Output per Second) and latency (in milliseconds), and finally software licensed to the SAN that supports things like snapshots (which, as it sounds like, is a "picture" of what was on the storage array at a particular point in time), replication between two or more storage arrays (which can be in geographically different places), and other software functions like automatically moving files from expensive high performing disks to slow-cheap storage automatically if files aren't historically used much.
That is an impossible question to answer because it depends on the use case. That's like asking who makes the best car. Small office home office (SOHO) access points are designed for 5 connections, which many homes have outgrown. Business-class wireless access points (WAP) have a whole set of features not designed for home. Typically at least 50 simultaneous connections per WAP together with the ability to roam automatically like cell phone from one to the other depending on which has the best signal strength. Enterprise class WAPs are designed for stadiums and difficult environments like hospitals. It shouldn't be surprising that WAPs are more expensive for more advanced specifications.
Some WAPS have more antennas than others which helps in more crowded radio traffic areas, greater numbers of connections, or penetration of walls and other obstructions. To be more specific about which product is best suited to your need your business should get a wireless survey from a qualified firm. The survey results will reveal the challenges in your business place. With that information in hand an engineer can answer who's product(s) are the best fit for you.
IT infrastructure consists of the components to help your business manage and utilize data and information. It includes hardware, like workstations, computers, switches, and good cabling, as well as software and secure and robust network resources.