When people ask me what they should look for in a network infrastructure solution, I always tell them to consider performance and quality. Our studies have shown that these are the top two concerns; however, price or cost is never far behind. "No surprise there," you might say; however "price," "cost" and "value" can all mean different things depending on the scope and vision of what the user is hoping to achieve.
To determine the optimum choice when comparing relative costs of different solutions, organizations must evaluate their own application needs. They must also consider the various advantages of each solution and their relative importance. Cost, ease of installation, moves and arrangements, current and anticipated applications, and the expected life of the system are typically major decision factors.
When evaluating cost, organizations should always think in terms of cost over the life of the network infrastructure, rather than only the initial installation cost. They must also compare the cost of electronic hardware that will often be replaced several times over the lifetime of the infrastructure. The lowest initial cost is not always the cheapest and, once the contract is placed, it is difficult to change. When evaluating costs, consider the following:
- Initial installation cost—ensuring it covers adequately the specification to avoid unwanted extras and performance restrictions
- Administration—the network’s ability to be easily and inexpensively reconfigured
- Future needs—the ability to support an ever-increasing number of devices, bandwidth and data rates in the future
- Maintenance—the effort required to keep the system operating
- Life cycle value—the assurance of a warranty covering the applications and hardware
The cost of infrastructure should be viewed as part of the overall total cost of ownership of the network. Infrastructure is generally required to outlast any other communications or building technology by a considerable amount of time, due largely to the expense and disruption to the business if it needs to be changed. However, it is at the same time one of the areas where a small percentage of the overall capital and operations budget is spent, although in particular areas like data centers this may be more significant.
In my opinion, any installed infrastructure solution should meet three main requirements:
- Provide users/devices with access to communications equipment regardless of their location within a region, area or building
- Facilitate change control, so that users can be moved and move around, retaining access to their networking requirements, without incurring significant costs
- Protect investment by being flexible enough to support the evolution of communication and building automation technology without costly re-cabling
Other important considerations probably come to mind, so please feel free to express your views in the comment section below. If you would like to learn more about designing infrastructure solutions for ”smarter” buildings, the CommScope Infrastructure Academy’s SP7700 Cabling for Intelligent Buildings course might help.