• United States

All-in-one products don’t make sense all the time

Mar 28, 20063 mins

* Determining when it's time to consolidate the branch office infrastructure

So you have an existing branch office – or a lot of existing branch offices. And like many organizations, you’re looking for ways to make your life a bit easier – and to potentially save some money in the process.

In many cases, the evaluation and potential purchase of all-in-one devices may be worth some of your brain space. As discussed last week, the cost benefits are compelling when it comes to installing all-in-one devices in a new branch office. Rather than buying multiple networking devices – switch, router, PBX, network optimization, firewall, etc. – consolidated devices combined those functions in a single product.

Although it’s easy to justify the cost of a unified threat management device, services gateway, or multifunction router at a new location, it’s not as straight-forward when the branch-office is happily humming along.

Basically, it comes down to this: If you are spending too much time maintaining, upgrading, troubleshooting, or implementing branch office gear, all-in-one boxes may reduce your stress load. Or, if it’s time to upgrade anyway, that may be the perfect time to consolidate the number of devices under your watch. We’ve created some criteria to help organizations determine if and when it’s time to consolidate the branch office infrastructure:

* Determine how much time your IT staff is spending monitoring, maintaining, and troubleshooting the individual devices. If your staff or individuals at the branch are spending anywhere between six and 16 hours a month on network maintenance, troubleshooting, or other issues, you may be better served with a consolidated device.

* If you house more than four to six network devices at a branch office, consolidating those functions into a single device should decrease downtime and reduce maintenance costs.

* If you don’t have security functions (IDS, VPN, firewall) at the branch because you can’t afford it (yes, many organizations are in that boat), you should consider consolidated devices when it’s time for a router refresh. Make sure the new device provides you with the routing and security functionality you need.

* If you’re thinking about adding new functionality, such as IP telephony, VPN, network optimization, at the branch office, you should consider a consolidated device because the combined capital and operational start-up costs may be lower – and you’ll be getting more functionality with less maintenance time.

* Anytime you’re upgrading network infrastructure at the branch, compare stand-alone solutions with a consolidated device.

A greater challenge for many organizations is determining who has authority over the branch technologies to make these decisions. In some cases, a single person or group has authority over all branches; in others, individuals at each branch make the decisions; and in yet others, the appropriate department (telecom, networking, applications, security, etc.) makes the branch buy decision.

I’ll be discussing Nemertes’ recent findings in this area next week, but in the meantime, please e-mail me regarding your organization’s strategy for branch-office technology decisions.