When purchasing electronic goods like televisions, computers or stereos, it goes without saying that goods will be delivered assembled, tested and ready to run without unexpected or unexplained faults. Today, customers who are implementing or upgrading their network infrastructure should be aware that they can receive the same service.
In the past, customers relied on themselves, or expensive contracted engineers to create their networks. Equipment was delivered to the site waiting to be configured and built. And customers would be expected to then plug them in and hope for the best.
Now, two different approaches to pre-staging and configuration allow for networks to be built and configured in safe, isolated environments. Somewhere tests can be carried out, faults eliminated, customisations implemented and experience gained. All before on-site deployment takes place.
The ‘sandbox’ approach
The sandbox approach to pre-staging and configuration is the partial replication of a customer’s network architecture off site, in a third party pre-staging centre. Pre-staging in this type of lab environment allows equipment to be configured and tested with potential failure scenarios to mitigate risk before it goes live.
This approach allows for ultimate flexibility due to the ability to try different implementations. From the physical layout of the network, to the configurations of its software. It is the only chance an engineer will have to try different configurations which may work better. Once the network is running in a live environment, things are not as easily changed.
In this environment, faults and failures can also be introduced. Whilst these would hopefully never be seen in the live environment, being introduced at that phase allows the customer to make contingency plans.
Large roll out
While pre-staging is ideal for a project in which all, or portions of, the customer’s network architecture is small enough to be replicated in a pre-staging centre, this is not always the case, and often
large roll outs are required across multiple sites.
In these circumstances, customers who want to pre-stage and configure have another option. Specify the desired hardware, have the configurations loaded onto the devices and delivered to the multiple sites, pre-assembled and ready to go live. Equipment is delivered not only pre-assembled, but with relevant labelling requirements completed, asset tags added and the correct cabling to accompany each product.
This value-add is most effective in reducing the amount of time engineers spend with an end user. In the past, engineers have spent as long as three weeks trying to get equipment up and running once it has arrived on site. Now, customers are offered pre-assembly and configuration services so the equipment is ready for installation immediately upon arrival. Significantly simplifying and speeding up the process for an on-site engineer.
Choosing the right pre-stager
Pre-staging and configuration may, in some cases, increase the duration of a project, as customers decide to adapt elements of the network during the course of the pre-staging process. But the long term benefits are clear. Customers receive tried and tested equipment, that is to their exact specifications, without having to pay for lengthy engineer visits.
However, identifying a third party who can carry out this pre-staging process comes with its own important considerations.
The first is to ensure the pre-staging centre has adequate cooling systems in place. It is important to have sufficient air conditioning within the test environment. Because running at higher temperatures can impact the quality and lifespan of the kit.
Secondly, it is important to verify there is ample power to run the size of network you intend to test. This might sound obvious. But it’s not uncommon to experience power outages during test phases while multiple devices are running simultaneously.
It is also common for customers to invest upfront in the services of a pre-staging third party. Only to find there is insufficient space to set up the specified network in the test centre. This is especially challenging when trying to simulate 10 or 15 sites. How do you differentiate where site A begins and site C ends? It is imperative to ensure the pre-staging service provider offers flexible space.
Finally, it is important for customers to assess how the equipment will be delivered on site. To ensure engineers’ time is spent on engineering rather than unpacking equipment, customers should confirm the hardware is delivered to site prepared and unpacked with no unnecessary ‘mess’.
No need to DIY
Pre-staging and configuration at the “deploy” stage of a project allows customers to test and gain experience of their equipment before it’s on site implementation. And also ensures the network is built bespoke to the requests of that customer.
By ensuring the pre-staging service provider has adequate cooling systems, ample amount of power, flexibility of space and accessibility through online channels, a customer can trust in the network that eventually goes live in their workspace.