It’s Time to Evaluate Your Network Equipment
For churches and ministries today, having a solid network infrastructure is crucial for operating efficiently and carrying out your mission. Your network equipment – including routers, switches, firewalls, wireless access points, and more – forms the backbone for all your technology. However, network gear has a limited lifespan. Over time, equipment becomes outdated or insufficient for your growing needs. Replacing aging network infrastructure with modern solutions can provide significant benefits. That’s why it’s important to regularly evaluate your existing network equipment to determine when upgrades or replacements may be needed.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss when and why you may need to replace network gear, what features to look for in new equipment, and best practices for smoothly upgrading your church or ministry’s network infrastructure.
When Is It Time to Upgrade Network Equipment?
With constant advances in network technology, manufacturers regularly release improved models with faster speeds, higher capacities, and new capabilities. Generally, you can expect network equipment like routers and switches to provide optimal performance for 3-5 years. Beyond that, you may experience a variety of signs indicating it’s time for an upgrade:
Your Equipment Is No Longer Supported
Manufacturers end software updates and support for older hardware models. Unsupported devices become vulnerable to security flaws and compatibility issues.
You’re Experiencing Performance Issues
Slow speeds, connectivity problems, and network disruptions arise more frequently. Capacity limits are consistently reached with network traffic lagging.
Features Are Lacking
Your equipment lacks capabilities expected in modern networks like PoE, SFP ports, or wireless standards.
Upgrades may be necessary to support more users, higher bandwidth demands, or new applications and devices on your network.
A move to a larger facility or campus may require expanded coverage and capacity.
Targeting equipment refresh cycles around 3-5 years helps ensure you proactively avoid these pitfalls of aging infrastructure before they impact your operations.
Why Is Current Network Gear Important?
Upgrading to current-generation network solutions provides churches and ministries with several key benefits:
Newer equipment leverages faster processors, memory, and modern software to support smoother video, better call quality, and faster file transfers across your network.
The latest hardware utilizes improved components less susceptible to crashes and failures disrupting connectivity. Newer devices generally have lower latency and packet loss.
Modern network infrastructure integrates stronger encryption, authentication, malware protection, and threat intelligence to reduce vulnerabilities.
Easier Centralized Management
New equipment works seamlessly with unified monitoring, configuration, and administration through centralized dashboards.
Support for New Capabilities
Emerging technologies like Wi-Fi 6, multi-gigabit speeds, and SD-WAN become accessible with up-to-date infrastructure.
Scalability for Growth
New solutions are designed for expanding capacity needs, increased user counts, and bandwidth-hungry applications.
Better Energy Efficiency
The latest devices consume less power, reducing energy costs and environmental impact.
Improved Support Services
Suppliers offer enhanced warranties, advanced replacement, and technical support for new products.
Key Features to Look for in New Network Gear
As you evaluate options to upgrade network infrastructure, focus on equipment that provides:
- Sufficient performance and capacity for projected bandwidth needs, supported devices, concurrent Wi-Fi clients, PoE ports, and high availability requirements.
- Support for current wired standards like 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T multi-gigabit Ethernet.
- Support for the latest wireless standards like Wi-Fi 6/6E.
- Advanced Layer 7 visibility and traffic shaping capabilities.
- Integrated security like firewalls, VPNs, content filtering, and anomaly detection.
- Centralized management and automation through the cloud or platforms like WatchGuard or Aruba.
- APIs, automation support, and integration with third-party software platforms.
- Forward compatibility with developing capabilities like Wi-Fi 7 and new multi-gig standards.
- Power redundancy, failover/clustering, advanced diagnostics, and hardware warranties.
A reputable manufacturer like WatchGuard, Aruba, or Extreme generally has a range of products to suit different budgets and needs. Going with enterprise-grade equipment from top suppliers ensures you get premium performance, reliability, and support.
Transitioning Seamlessly to New Network Infrastructure
When tackling a network equipment refresh, planning the transition carefully is essential to minimize downtime:
Survey Current Infrastructure
Document your existing network topology, devices, configurations, and cabling. This provides a baseline to work from.
Consider how your connectivity needs may evolve in the coming years based on expected growth—factor in new wireless standards and higher speed switching.
Design New Network
Map out topology, equipment roles, configurations, and policies for the updated environment. Identify any cabling changes needed.
Test and Stage
Procure, configure, and test new devices in a staging environment to streamline rollout.
Upgrade equipment incrementally during low-traffic windows, starting with core routers and switches.
Adopt New Systems
Bring new wireless, switching, security, and management systems online once core devices are cut over. Decommission legacy gear once new is stable.
Perform testing to confirm all applications, connectivity, and throughput meet requirements after transition.
By following best practices for technical implementation and proactively communicating changes, your church or ministry can upgrade to new network gear with minimal disruption. Be sure to budget appropriately not just for new equipment purchases but also for professional services to assist with design and deployment. For churches lacking in-house IT expertise, a managed services provider can be invaluable for executing a smooth, successful network refresh.
Keep Your Church Connected with Modern Network Infrastructure
In today’s digital world, churches rely heavily on their networks to operate, communicate, and carry out critical faith-based services. Without sufficient bandwidth, reliability, and security, your ministry faces major limitations. Evaluating network equipment regularly and budgeting proactively for timely upgrades provides tremendous benefits.
ACST can provide complete guidance and support for assessing network infrastructure needs, designing optimal solutions tailored for your church, smoothly transitioning to new systems, and cost-effectively managing ongoing operations. Our dedicated team has deep expertise with churches, extensive experience successfully managing network upgrades, and established partnerships with top equipment manufacturers.
Contact ACST today to explore how refreshing your network equipment can improve connectivity, capacity, and capabilities while reducing headaches and costs. We’re ready to help you move your church’s network forward!
About Steece Hayes
Steece is the Business Development Manager for Higher Ground Managed IT Services. He’s been with ACST for 18 years and has been a bi-vocational pastor for seven years. Steece has a BS in Religion from Liberty University, an MBA from Cedarville University, and is currently completing his DMin. in Church Revitalization.