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What You Need to Know about Routing and Switching

What You Need to Know about Routing and Switching

A business network enables everyone in your company to connect to each other, to customers, to business partners, to important applications and to the Internet. The beauty of a network is that information and applications can be shared and accessed easily by everyone on your team. Consider the following:

  • How do you connect to the Internet to watch important presentations? Through your network.
  • Where is your company's software? On the network.
  • How does an important presentation get shared by multiple members of your team? Via the network.
  • What carries critical messages to your employees and partners? Your network.

What Are Routing and Switching?
How Businesses Use Routing and Switching
Getting Started with Routing and Switching
Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner about this Solution

What Are Routing and Switching?

The way a network operates is to connect computers and peripherals using two pieces of equipment - switches and routers. These two let the devices connected to your network talk with each other as well as talk to other networks.

Though they look quite similar, routers and switches perform very different functions in a network:

  • Switches are used to connect multiple devices on the same network within a building or campus. For example, a switch can connect your computers, printers and servers, creating a network of shared resources. The switch would serve as a controller, allowing the various devices to share information and talk to each other. Through information sharing and resource allocation, switches save you money and increase productivity.

    There are two basic types of switches: managed and unmanaged.

    • An unmanaged switch works out of the box and does not allow you to make changes. Home-networking equipment often will have unmanaged switches.
    • A managed switch allows you access to program it. This provides greater flexibility because the switch can be monitored and adjusted locally or remotely to give you control on how traffic travels over the network and who has access to your network.
  • Routers are used to tie multiple networks together. For example, you would use a router to connect your networked computers to the Internet and thereby share an Internet connection among many users. The router will act as a dispatcher, choosing the best route for your information to travel so that you receive it quickly.

    Routers analyze the data being sent over a network, change how it is packaged and send it to another network or over a different type of network. They connect your business to the outside world, protect your information from security threats, and can even decide which computers get priority over others.

    Depending on your business and your networking plans, you can choose from routers that include different capabilities. These can include functions such as:

    • Firewall: specialized software that examines incoming data and protects your business network against attacks
    • Virtual Private Network (VPN): A way to allow remote employees to safely access your network remotely
    • IP Phone network : Combine your company's computer and telephone network, using voice and conferencing technology, to simplify and unify your communications

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How Businesses Use Routing and Switching

Routers and switches are the building blocks for all business communications from data to voice and video to wireless access. They can improve a company's bottom line by enabling your company to increase productivity, cut business costs, and improve security and customer service.

Specifically, routers and switches support:

Sharing applications

  • Provide staff access to business applications
  • Improve employee productivity

Using routing and switching technologies allows your staff, even those located in different locations, to have equal access to all your business applications, information and tools. Keeping everyone connected to the same tools can increase employee productivity. Routing and switching also can provide access to advanced applications and enable services, such as IP voice, videoconferencing and wireless networks.

Speeding access to information

  • Manage information efficiently
  • Review what is happening across your business

Accurate, timely information is essential for making prudent business decisions. Routing and switching provides access to allow great visibility into real-time business information and provides a sound basis for effective decision-making.

Enhancing customer service

  • Provide ready access to customer information
  • Improve customer responsiveness

Today's customers expect rapid responses and personalized services whenever they're dealing with your business, either by phone, email or on a website. A responsive, reliable network is an absolute necessity to give your employees speedy access to customer information, and enable them to respond rapidly and intelligently to resolve customer requirements.

Reducing operating costs

  • Share office equipment for reduced costs
  • Provide high-speed Internet access

Routing and switching technologies can make a positive impact on your bottom line. You save expenses by sharing equipment, such as printers and servers, and services, such as Internet access. A reliable network also can grow with your business, keeping you from having to replace it as your needs grow.

Improving security

  • Reduce risk

Protect valuable business information
Because high-speed Internet connections are always on, you may be vulnerable to security threats. Viruses, spyware, Internet attacks, e-mail assaults, and other security concerns are real dangers. By installing a networked solution with switches and routers, you can protect valuable business data. For example, routers can protect your network with a built-in firewall and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) - specialized software that examines incoming data and protects against attacks.

Enabling remote connections

  • Provide secure remote access for mobile workers
  • Get work done from anywhere

Globalization has changed the way we work. Virtual teams, mobile workers, and home-based telecommuters all need to share information at any time. Modern businesses need networks that can connect employees, suppliers, partners and customers regardless of location, whether they are across town or halfway around the globe. With remote connectivity through a VPN, employees can securely access company resources and tools and work more productively.

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Getting Started with Routing and Switching

Once you understand the ways in which routing and switching technologies can help your business, the next step is to determine whether you have the right foundation for your company's needs. The following is a list of considerations to get you started.

The quality of your existing equipment
Consumer grade or home networking products can't keep pace with the challenges posed by business growth. For example, these products may not be able to handle the traffic or allow you to add voice or video communications or wireless well and may require you to manage each device individually. Business grade routers and switches provide reliable communications to your company and provide economies via shared equipment.

Flexibility
Invest in a network that can grow over time so that you can add features and functionality when your company needs them. Additions might include new applications like video monitoring, IP telephony, integrated messaging and wireless.

Easy connectivity
Make sure your routing and switching gear is easy to install use, and manage For example, switches with in-line power allow you to place equipment, such as wireless access points and IP phones, anywhere there's a network wall jack. This saves you the trouble and expense of installing extra electrical outlets or wires to power the devices.

Reliability
Business crises come in all varieties - from power failures to hurricanes and everything in between. Your organization's ability to maintain normal operations during a crisis may rely on the health of your network. A network designed with reliability and redundancy will provide the reassurance you need that your business will continue.

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Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner about This Solution

Here are five key questions to ask potential partners who offer SMB Solutions:

  1. Do you specialize in working with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)? Cisco has a network of certified partners who specifically focus on providing technology solutions and support to SMBs. Many of these partners are SMBs themselves, so they understand the business challenges you face and the goals you have in mind. Cisco certified partners have proven their qualifications in specialized technologies. They have the training, support, and services to design, deploy, and optimize networking solutions for your business. They also stay up to date on the latest software and hardware changes as well as upcoming Cisco products and solutions.
  2. What type of service and support do you offer after the sale? Ask your partner detailed questions about the support he or she can offer after the sale. For example: Does the partner offer after-hours or emergency support? If so, during what hours is that support available? The specific support levels offered should be detailed in a service level agreement (SLA). Also, keep in mind many Cisco partners offer award-winning technical support service that offers anytime access to Cisco engineers and an extensive range of technical resources.
  3. How will this new solution integrate with my existing IT environment? A Cisco partner can discuss your business requirements and evaluate your current systems and network infrastructure. From there, a Cisco Partner can present solution options that will meet your needs today, grow with your business over time, and fit within your budget requirements.
  4. How will this solution help me save money and control my costs? An end-to-end solution from Cisco is easier to maintain and support than a, multi-vendor solution. Also, when budgeting for network enhancements, always take into account the cost of any software not included with your hardware purchases; maintenance; training; support; additional staff (if needed); and other factors. Research firm Gartner estimates such indirect costs account for up to 60% of an organization's total technology expenditures. As a result, by working with your Cisco partner, you can achieve the best possible TCO.
  5. What do we need to do to prepare? Before the installation, ask your partner what information about your network, users, business procedures, and security requirements he or she needs from you to make the network upgrade go as smoothly as possible. Also ask your partner what are the common oversights or challenges businesses like yours face when upgrading their networks, and how you should prepare for them.

Questions?

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