04.06.2023

Everything You Need to Know about Enterprise Networking

04.06.2023
enterprise-networking

What is Enterprise Networking?

Typically reserved for mid to large-sized businesses, enterprise networking links all of an organization’s software and hardware together using protocols like wide area network (WAN), local area network (LAN), Internet, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi. 

Networking infrastructure connects a company’s computers, devices, servers, and applications. It allows users to communicate and share data and resources across departments and locations throughout an organization. 

Enterprise networking helps businesses meet their goals by delivering a reliable, secure connection to an organization’s internal and cloud-based digital resources and to the Internet — offering high performance and protecting company data and users from outside threats.

Elements of an Enterprise Network

Enterprise networks are custom-designed with your business in mind. Vendors factor in your business goals, workload demands, locations, and any other key requirements. Enterprise network setup will include a variety of hardware components, including:

Routers

Routers are critical devices that connect different networks together and direct traffic between them. They determine the best path for data packets traveling across the network.

Switches

Switches connect devices within a local area network (LAN), allowing them to communicate with each other through the exchange of data packets. Switches identify devices on the network and forward packets to their destinations. Switches help improve network performance by reducing network congestion and optimizing bandwidth usage.

Gateways 

Gateways are physical devices or software that enable different networks to communicate with each other. They are commonly used to connect a private network to the Internet or different types of networks, such as a LAN to a wide area network (WAN).

Firewalls

Firewalls are hardware appliances or software-based solutions that monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on your organization’s predefined security rules. They establish a barrier between trusted internal networks and untrusted external networks (like the internet), filtering out potentially harmful traffic and protecting against unauthorized access, malware, and other network threats.

Load Balancers

Load balancers distribute network traffic evenly across multiple servers or resources to optimize performance, maximize resource utilization, and ensure high availability. They monitor the health and performance of servers and distribute incoming requests evenly so the workload is shared efficiently.

VPN Servers

Virtual Private Network (VPN) servers provide secure remote access to private networks over public networks like the Internet. They create an encrypted tunnel between the user’s device and the enterprise network, ensuring that data transmitted over the internet remains secure and private. VPN servers authenticate users, encrypt data, and allow remote users to access network resources as if they were directly connected to the enterprise network.

Network configuration will vary according to the type of network and your business needs, but overall, these elements work together to form the network infrastructure. Together, they create a robust and secure network environment for organizations to operate effectively and securely.

How Enterprise Networks Work

What is an Enterprise Network Made Of?

An enterprise network typically consists of various components and technologies that work together to support the organization’s networking needs.  

Data Center and Hybrid Clouds

A data center is a centralized facility where an organization stores, manages, and processes its critical data, applications, and IT infrastructure. It houses servers, storage systems, networking equipment, and other hardware necessary to support the organization’s computing needs.

More recently, organizations have increasingly adopted hybrid cloud environments. A hybrid cloud combines on-premises infrastructure (such as the organization’s data center) with public and private cloud services. This approach allows organizations to leverage the benefits of the cloud while keeping sensitive data and applications within their own data centers for security and compliance reasons. Hybrid clouds enable seamless integration and data sharing between on-premises and cloud resources, providing a more agile and scalable infrastructure for the enterprise network.

Headquarters, Branch, Internet of Things 

The enterprise network is often divided into different segments based on geographical locations and the types of devices connected. Typically, these include the following:

  • Corporate Headquarters: Local area networks (LANs) connect various departments, offices, and employees within the company’s main office. The network infrastructure in this segment may include routers, switches, firewalls, and other networking equipment.
  • Branch Offices: Geographically distributed offices or facilities may be connected to the central network. These branches may have a smaller-scale network infrastructure compared to the headquarters but still require connectivity to the main network. Routers, switches, and cloud-based VPN connections are commonly used to establish secure connections between the branch and headquarters.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): The IoT segment encompasses the network connectivity of various devices and sensors that are part of the organization’s infrastructure. These wireless or hardwired devices can include smart devices, sensors, machinery, and other endpoints that collect and exchange data. Robust network security measures, such as firewalls and access controls, are necessary to protect IoT devices and the data they generate.

Organizations must design and manage their network infrastructure to ensure secure and reliable connectivity between these segments, allowing employees to collaborate effectively and enabling the efficient operation of applications and services.

What is Enterprise Network Security? 

Enterprise network security refers to the measures, policies, and technologies an organization implements to protect its network infrastructure, data, and resources from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security threats. Key components of enterprise network security may include:

  • Access Control
  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS)
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Network Segmentation
  • Security Policies and Training

Effective network security requires a layered approach, combining multiple technologies, processes, and user education to create a robust defense against evolving security threats.

The Benefits of Enterprise Networking

Enterprise networking offers numerous benefits for organizations. Here are some key advantages.

Digital Transformation-Readiness

With effective networking infrastructure in place, organizations can integrate and leverage digital technologies like cloud services, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Better Collaboration

Enterprise networking improves communication and collaboration among employees, departments, and geographically dispersed teams. It enables them to share information, documents, and resources across the organization, fostering teamwork, innovation, and knowledge exchange.

Company Resources Access Control

On an enterprise network, organizations can protect sensitive data and intellectual property, granting access based on user roles, privileges, and security policies, ensuring that employees can only access the resources they are authorized to use. 

Better Productivity 

Enterprise networking means employees can efficiently share resources, resulting in improved productivity and streamlined workflows.

Lower Costs 

By implementing shared enterprise networks, organizations can centralize resources, such as servers and storage, reducing the need for redundant hardware and associated maintenance costs. Additionally, it allows for the consolidation of network services, such as voice and data, leading to economies of scale and reduced operational expenses.

Improved Customer Service

Enterprise networking facilitates enhanced customer service and satisfaction by enabling faster response times and efficient communication as employees can access customer information, track orders, and provide real-time support.

Always-On Connectivity

By ensuring reliable and consistent connectivity, enterprise networks allow employees to stay connected and access critical resources regardless of their location. This is particularly important in today’s digital workplace, where remote work, mobile devices, and flexible working arrangements are common.

Better User Experience

Enterprise networking is crucial in providing a seamless and consistent user experience. It ensures fast and reliable access to applications, data, and services, enabling employees to work efficiently and without disruptions.

Improved Security 

Businesses can implement robust security measures on their enterprise networks, including intrusion detection systems, encryption, and authentication mechanisms. A secure network infrastructure protects organizations against cyber threats, unauthorized access, and data breaches. 

Types of Enterprise Networks 

Different types of networks cater to specific organizational requirements. Businesses often use a combination of network types to create a comprehensive network structure that satisfies their specific needs.

Local Area Network (LAN) 

A Local Area Network (LAN) connects devices within a limited geographical area, such as a home, or a single office building. LANs are the foundation of an organization’s internal network infrastructure.

They provide high-speed data transmission using Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections, enabling the sharing of resources and facilitating internal communication among devices, such as computers, servers, printers, and storage devices. LANs are similar to a Wi-Fi network, but more complicated — specially designed and managed with your business needs in mind.

Wide Area Network (WAN) 

A Wide Area Network (WAN) connects multiple LANs that can span large geographical areas, such as cities, countries, or even continents. WANs are often used by global organizations to establish communication and share resources across different sites or branches.

WANs use various technologies, such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and virtual private networks (VPN), to establish reliable and secure connections over long distances. WANs may provide lower data transmission rates compared to LANs due to the longer distances involved and potential limitations of the network infrastructure.

Cloud Networks

Cloud networks are typically used with LANs and WANs to extend an organization’s network capabilities beyond physical boundaries. Remote and mobile users can access the cloud network from any location using secure channels like virtual private networks (VPNs).

Organizations often implement cloud-based services such as Network as a Service (NaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS) to enhance network capabilities and provide additional services. Cloud networks offer the ability to scale network resources up or down based on demand, providing flexibility and cost efficiency.

How to Measure Enterprise Network Performance? 

To measure enterprise network performance, organizations can utilize various methods and tools. Let’s discuss three common approaches: SNMP-based monitoring, passive analysis, and active monitoring.

SNMP-Based Monitoring 

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is a widely used protocol for monitoring and managing network devices. SNMP-based monitoring involves collecting data from network devices using SNMP and analyzing that data to assess network performance. SNMP-enabled devices, such as routers, switches, and servers, provide statistics and performance metrics that can be accessed using SNMP.

Network monitoring systems use SNMP queries to gather information like bandwidth utilization, device health status, interface errors, CPU usage, and more. This data is then processed, stored, and presented in monitoring dashboards or reports. SNMP-based monitoring helps administrators identify network bottlenecks, track performance trends, and proactively manage network resources.

Passive Analysis 

Passive analysis involves monitoring network traffic to gain insights into network performance. This approach focuses on observing and analyzing network packets without actively injecting test traffic. Passive analysis tools capture and analyze network packets to extract information about protocols used, traffic patterns, latency, packet loss, and other performance indicators.

By analyzing network traffic, administrators can identify bandwidth-intensive applications, detect abnormal traffic patterns, troubleshoot performance issues, and assess network capacity. Passive analysis tools can also provide visibility into application-level performance, allowing administrators to optimize the network for specific applications.

Active Monitoring 

Active monitoring involves actively injecting test traffic into the network and measuring the network’s response. This approach simulates real-world network usage scenarios to evaluate performance and identify potential issues. Active monitoring tools generate synthetic traffic, such as pings, HTTP requests, or simulated VoIP calls, and measure parameters like response times, latency, jitter, and packet loss.

Active monitoring helps assess network performance across different locations, validate service level agreements (SLAs), and proactively identify performance degradation or bottlenecks. It allows administrators to measure network performance from the end-user perspective and ensure that it meets desired performance objectives.

It’s worth noting that organizations often employ a combination of these approaches to gain comprehensive insights into network performance. By combining SNMP-based monitoring, passive analysis, and active monitoring techniques, administrators can monitor network devices, analyze traffic patterns, and simulate real-world scenarios to effectively evaluate and optimize enterprise network performance.

As globalized and remote workforces grow and evolve, organizations need to continually adapt to keep their workforces connected and their resources protected. 

Virtualization 

Virtualization involves creating virtual versions of computing resources, such as individual virtual desktops, servers, storage, and networks. It is helping organizations optimize resource utilization, improve scalability, and enhance flexibility by moving network and security resources from a hardware model to a software model, reducing hardware costs and simplifying management.

Automation 

As networks have grown and become more complex, organizations increasingly use automation to streamline repetitive and time-consuming tasks, leading to improved efficiency, reduced errors, and cost savings. Organizations increasingly leverage automation for network security monitoring, policy enforcement, and other operational tasks.

SD-WAN Managed Network Services 

Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) simplifies the management and optimization of network connectivity across multiple locations. SD-WAN utilizes software-based controls to dynamically route network traffic over various connections, including MPLS, broadband, and LTE.

Managed network service providers offer SD-WAN solutions, enabling organizations to outsource the management and monitoring of their network infrastructure while achieving greater flexibility, cost savings, and improved application performance.

AI and ML 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies are increasingly being integrated into enterprise systems and networks. AI and ML algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data, detect patterns, and make intelligent decisions in real time.

In the enterprise, AI and ML are used for network security, anomaly detection, predictive maintenance, network optimization, and enhanced user experiences.

Zero Trust Network Access

With higher utilization of corporate network resources by remote and mobile users comes a greater attack surface and increase of cyber threats — and unfortunately, human error and insider threats increase the risk even more.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is an approach to network security that treats every user and device as potentially untrusted, even if they are inside the network perimeter. ZTNA relies on authentication, authorization, and encryption techniques to verify and secure user access to network resources.

By adopting a Zero Trust model, organizations can better protect their networks against sophisticated threats and reduce the risk of data breaches.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) 

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a network architecture that combines network security and wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities. SASE integrates network security functions like secure web gateways, firewall-as-a-service, secure DNS, and data loss prevention with WAN capabilities like SD-WAN. It provides secure and direct access to cloud applications, simplifies network management, and improves overall network performance.

5G Connectivity 

The rollout of 5G networks has brought increased speed, low latency, and higher capacity to enterprise connectivity. It supports bandwidth-intensive applications and services, such as video conferencing, virtual reality, and large-scale data transfers, without compromising performance. 5G, when paired with secure network access, provides the reliability and flexibility businesses need to adapt to increasing requirements of remote work, edge computing, and IoT connectivity.

WiFi 6 and 6E 

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E introduce improvements in speed and capacity, allowing for higher data transfer rates and accommodating more devices simultaneously. This is particularly beneficial for enterprise networks with a high density of connected devices, as it offers better performance, reduced congestion, and smoother user experiences.

By embracing these trends, organizations can optimize resource utilization and performance, streamline operations, and enhance network security.

Protect Your Enterprise Network with Perimeter 81

As businesses move their resources to the cloud, support more remote workers and mobile devices, and embrace new technology, they need more comprehensive security solutions to protect their networks.

Now, more than ever, you need the resources to safeguard your modern IT environment. Perimeter 81 provides cloud network security you can count on to protect your users and your data, no matter how your network is configured. Book your free demo to learn how.