At first, it might seem like getting an outsider's opinion on your network upgrade or redesign plans is insulting to your valued network engineer. But there are numerous ways in which a second opinion can help the business as well as the network engineer and any network support engineers who have to work with the infrastructure on a daily basis. A second opinion of your design plans can alert you of any accidental oversights and give new perspective and fresh ideas.

What Goes Into a Great Network Design

Getting a second opinion on your network design isn't a vote of no confidence in your network engineer. It's simply acknowledging that all work is made better when more heads come together.

A good network design takes a number of elements. First, you have to identify the best technologies to do what needs to be done. Each technology needs to be evaluated based on its maturity level, risk level, cost, how easy or difficult it is to maintain, and the technical skills required to make it work in the organization. Another element of good network design is consideration of how all the components in the network interact with one another. Sometimes, a fresh take on this is incredibly helpful to the network engineer, especially if (s)he has worked on the same network for a number of years and has developed blind spots.

How a Second Opinion on Your Design Can Help

It's not uncommon for network engineers to work with their own in-house network support engineers to develop a network design that gets little or no critical review from other knowledgeable parties. This can lead to a situation known as Groupthink. Groupthink is a phenomenon in which the cohesiveness of the group becomes more important than the work at hand, and can lead to poor decision making without the group even realizing it.

Another phenomenon that is not uncommon within the tech industry is the tendency to become "set in your ways" when it comes to certain technologies or methodologies. This can lead to the inability to perceive when there is a better solution. When this happens, network support engineers end up spending way too much time trying to make an inferior system work instead of being able to spend time on other important and productive tasks.

The best solution to all of these potential situations is to have a third party review any network design or upgrade plans developed in-house by your network engineer. This process can catch factors that were overlooked, deliver a greater pool of options to consider, and spark useful dialogue over the pros and cons of any given technology or methodology. A third-party consultant can help find new ways to provide heartier, more efficient network designs, and become additional heads to put together for improving the overall design.

Networking consultants have been exposed to numerous ways of doing what needs to be done, so they often have seen brilliant solutions to uncommon problems and better alternatives that have only recently emerged in the industry. Consultants are also less emotionally invested in the current networking infrastructure or in the newly developed network design produced by the networking administrator. Consultants have seen their share of things that didn't work, as well, and can quickly steer your networking team away from certain disaster.

Where to Get Additional Opinions on Your Network Upgrade or Redesign

In the long run, hiring a consultant to double-check your network design plans is much cheaper, easier, and faster than building a network that isn't up to par.

So, where can you find a trustworthy consultant that is able to steer your network engineer in the right direction? Begin with your trusted vendors. Most vendors, especially those you have a working relationship with already, are interested in more than just selling you products. They want your network infrastructure to be successful. They know which products are being phased out and what the latest alternatives are. They view your relationship as more of a partnership than a buyer-seller type situation. Vendors are well aware of what the network support engineer has to contend with on a daily basis and what solutions make his/her job easier.

But don't depend solely on vendors for evaluating your network design or upgrade plans, because they tend to always think in a product-centric way. For example, they are trying to meet your needs with the right product or service when what you really need is to hire more network support engineers or work more on your documentation or additional training for your existing staff. Beware of any vendor that tries to sell you a magic beanstalk to success. If the product sounds too good to be true, it is. Consider hiring a networking consultant in addition to speaking with your networking vendor(s).

Before deciding on any new networking product or service, ask these questions:

  • Does it work with the solutions I already have?
  • Does it add additional, unnecessary complexity to my networking infrastructure?
  • What kind of additional staff and training are needed to make this solution work? Can we do it with our existing team of networking support engineers?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • Are there alternative solutions that might be better/cheaper/more efficient/fit better in our network infrastructure?
  • How is this technology better than any of the other solutions?
  • How easy/difficult is it to install and implement? Are the costs and effort of implementation justified by what the product can do?

    Don't let the need for additional training prevent you from investing in new networking technologies, however. If you are replacing an outdated infrastructure or equipment, it's almost certain that your staff of network support engineers will need to learn the newer technologies. You can get much of this training for free or at a very reasonable cost from your vendors and from various online training resources. Also, be sure to take advantage of NETSCOUT's impressive collection of on-demand webinars. Your network engineer and support staff will thank you for the extra effort of getting an outsider's perspective.