Network Design - What it's all about

Table of Contents

It has become imperative to prioritize network design as part of a solid business strategy. This post zooms in on the workings of network design and what it’s all about. The goal is to broaden stakeholder’s perspective on the elements that are in play with network design.

Network Design - Why

Taking control of the network in a responsible way to keep things relevant and on track in accordance to the business requirements is key to being successful when it comes to network design. Failure to take network design seriously is a recipe for trouble down the line. So, why is it so extremely necessary to spend time and resources with network design?

Looking at a bigger picture a network consists of many moving parts. Various areas of the network have different functions and use cases. And every choice you make in regards to putting it all together has a direct impact on the network’s ability to operate and perform as is expected from a business point of view. It cannot be stressed enought that the network design is done to support the business. Not the other way around.

No company can survive if the network continously break down. Design for failure and take into account exactly what is needed for the endpoints and assets using it. The data needs to be protected from leakage and bad actors who are able to encrypt your data and demand a hefty ransom for it - which we all know you shouldn’t pay. The design must ensure the operation of the company - even in the event of errors, disaster, or security incidents.

There is no way you can “wing it” when it comes to designing networks. Shooting from the hip with no knowledge on what you’re aiming for will result in disaster or a sub-optimal solution at best.

Network Design - What

Dealing with network design is not an easy task. It involves something greather than just having reachability to the resources needed to perform our work. A continous process of though and making decisions based on the needs of our customer - the business - is paramount.

Designing networks is about creating a plan - now and in the longer term. You make decisions based on the kind of company you’re dealing it. Plan for growth. Perhaps the company is unable to grow organically so it has an aggressive M&A strategy. How do you onboard entire established businesses into the existing main corporate network?

As network architects we are responsible for making informed decisions which all are based on the input from the business’ stakeholders. Therefore it is crucial to involve these stakeholders and let them engage with defining the needs of their IT - including the network infrastructure. Asking questions and having an open and curious mind is sometimes what lays the foundation on which you’ll build (design) their network. You must counsel them and ensure they understand the potential impact a decision can have if you must adhere to some very specific requirements. Consider designing a network for an air gapped environment. For sure you will start to think about all the consequences this choice has. And you should.

What about DR? Design for failure. If you are blank on the process of restoring business operations in any kind of disaster, you should immediately start creating a DR plan. What is the needed RTO (Recovery Time Objective) which is how much time can elapse before being back in business following a breakdown in IT systems. When are you back in business? What does it take for you to not lose customers/orders? How about RPO (Recovery Point Objective) which is how much time can elapse after having taken a valid backup. Meaning you lose whatever was produced from the breakdown till you’re up and running again.

Is redundancy needed? How? Discuss critical application requirements for the network being up and running.

Streamligning the design to ensure various blocks can be reused is essential for the network department to be able to operate, troubleshoot, and deliver services at an acceptable rate and quality.

Be compliant if the business must implement certain regulations.

Overall the goal is to meet the business’ needs via technology.

Network Design - Who

Various stakeholders are involve in the design aspects:

  • Customer
  • Suppliers
  • Manufacturers

The customer is listed first for a reason. Everything is based on the interaction with the customer and their users - internal and external. You supply the solution and design. Lastly you engage with manufacturers and select the products that will fit the needed functions for the network.

Network Design - Path to Success

Soft skills are required when entering the role as a network architect.

My simple winning formula for succeeding in any customer involvement is depicted below:


You start by establishing the needs of a customer. If you work in an IT department your customer is the company you work for. We all have customers in one way or the other. Be aware that needs tend to change over time. I advice to revisit them at a regular interval. Perhaps twice a year to ensure nothing has changed and we’re still on track. I’m sure something has changed. When you find out during this strategy update, you must document and re-design accordingly.

After the needs have been identified you move on to aligning the expectations. Here you ensure the customer agrees with how you understood their needs. You do not want to assume anything so take the time to write follow-up mails where you list the needs and requirements they gave you.

Communication is key to being successful with the above two processes. Avoid misunderstandings. It can be very costly to miss the target.


Network design is not something you should take lightly. Be serious and engange the stakeholders who can deliver the information you inevitably need to make required decisions regarding a well-tailored network design that enables the company to acheive its business strategy.

Create a plan. Document it and revisit it at regular intervals to ensure it is still valid and accurately describes the needs and solutions (choices) making up the design.

See things in a bigger picture (holisticly). Take into account all aspects of the company and network. The endpoints, users, suppliers, and other parties who have relevancy for the business.

Network design is all about addressing needs. And communication is key to being successful when you discover and establish the needs as well as aligning the expectations for the network and you as a supplier. And be professional when doing so.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Thanks for reading.

Jacob Zartmann avatar
Jacob Zartmann
Passionate Network Engineer thriving for challenges and knowledge.