You use network infrastructure every day. Whether you’re communicating on a digital phone, sending an email from a desktop, or watching Netflix, network infrastructure is doing the physical work that makes it all go. For your business, IT network infrastructure is fundamental. Things simply don’t work without it, and even though you are not an IT expert, you need a strong knowledge base to make informed decisions about the technology your company relies on.
An Introduction to IT Network Infrastructure
IT network infrastructure is an overarching term used to describe a wide array of concepts, devices, and practices. In general, it includes everything— software and hardware—related to network connectivity and digital communication. As you can imagine, there are many aspects of technology that fall under this purview, so it’s best to cover the essentials. Understanding the core of your IT network infrastructure helps empower you and your staff to have the best digital communication possible.
The short version is that there are different types of infrastructure, and while they all tend to work together, they are also fundamentally different. Think about the difference between wireless connections and Ethernet networks. You can have both in a single network, but obviously, the wireless and Ethernet are functioning on substantially different technology.
The three main core infrastructure plans are wireless, fiber optics, and copper wire. Copper wire is still common in just about every network. Ethernet, coaxial cables, and other traditional cables are all made from copper. They offer connection speeds and volumes that most of us expect in our homes.
Wireless infrastructure tends to perform on the same level as copper, but it is, as the name implies, wireless. Wireless is essential for convenience and large-scale connectivity. A single wireless router can handle dozens (sometimes hundreds) of devices. You cannot run enough cables to compete with that scale of access to a network.
Fiber optics are the most powerful form of infrastructure. They achieve the highest speeds and throughput. When you connect to the internet, regardless of your network’s infrastructure, you will ultimately communicate along fiber-optic lines. They form the backbone of the global internet.
All three types of infrastructure can be mixed and matched to build infrastructure for your network.
What Comprises Your IT Network Infrastructure
It’s easier to comprehend the totality of your IT network infrastructure when it is broken into smaller parts. A comprehensive list of all things that might be in your infrastructure is too big for a single blog post. Instead, we will focus on the primary components.
The first is hardware. A lot of devices have to work in harmony to produce a working network. For the most part, your networking infrastructure will consist of routers, switches, modems, cables, and service lines. Even that list involves a lot of technology, each component of which is vastly complicated. The short version is that the modem communicates along the service lines to talk to the rest of the internet. The router quarterbacks wireless communication on your network. Switches handle wired connections, and cables carry wired communication.
Network services are another essential component of your digital communication. Services typically refer to the core provisions of your internet service provider. These services can include access to main internet lines, like DSL or satellite communication. The services also cover wireless protocols, IP addressing, and all of the stuff that makes the internet work outside of your local network.
Lastly, software is what makes it all run. These complicated systems would be impossible to manage without a large amount of automation, and networking software handles that automation. Software performs tasks like network operations and management. It also refers to operating systems—not just for your computer but also for routing devices and servers. Firewalls and network security applications are also on the IT network infrastructure software list. When all of it works together, you have an easy-to-use, secure digital communications network.
Why Your Business Can’t Function Without It
No one needs to tell you the importance of digital communication. You use it every single day, and every business is digital. There is no industry in the world today that is better off without at least some level of digital communication. In the vast majority of industries, IT network infrastructure forms the core of the entire operation.
It is a given that reliable networking infrastructure and support are business-critical. If communication goes down in your office, everything goes with it.
Aside from the obvious, it’s important to understand the IT investments you have to make as a business operator. Whether you keep all of your IT in-house or use third parties is a major decision. For smaller companies, completely outsourcing IT makes sense. As businesses grow, a hybrid system is virtually inevitable.
But what should you get from your third-party support? That’s a big question, but you can boil down some core concepts to help you with the significant choices ahead. For the most part, you want access to expertise, a strong operations and recovery plan, and basic reliability. You need your systems to be operational all of the time; that means third-party support needs to be just as available in case something goes wrong.
More than that, you need a good plan for managing your IT network infrastructure. Third-party experts should be able to explain to you what your business requires to function the way you like. They should be able to outline all that is necessary and why. More than anything else, what you’re paying for is knowledge and experience, and you want to lock that knowledge and expertise into a concrete IT strategy.