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Upgrading Office Computers
Project managers should ask the question “why upgrade?”  If the system is working adequately, why not leave things alone?  The answer to those types of questions is this – technology is advancing at increasing pace.  The most common reasons for system upgrades is that the software required to run and operate new applications will not perform on older equipment and/or the vendor may no longer support the platform.  Since the average life of a computer is only a few years, older equipment is more vulnerable to attack because security fixes are often not available for outdated software.  With this in mind, project managers need to seriously consider an upgrade.
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What Should Be Done First

The first thing a project manager should do first is a site survey.   A site survey can give the project team a great deal of information and a good starting point.  It will show what the company already has and what will be needed.  The site survey also offers some other things to consider:

  • How many network users, printers, and servers will the network types of equipment support? Be sure to consider how many users will be added over the next 12 months, and how many network printers and network servers the network has to accommodate.
  • What is the expected growth in the company or organization? Network is a long-term investment.  Planning for future growth now can save a great deal of time, money, and frustration in the future.
  • How does your business connect to the Internet? Does the ISP provide the equipment, or do you own it?  Often with a high-speed Internet connection, the service provider owns the equipment needed to connect to the Internet.  If the connectivity is upgraded, the equipment may also need to be upgraded or replaced.
  • What applications does the network need to support? It is important to identify the needs of particular applications, especially voice and video. These applications may need additional network device configuration and new ISP services to support quality.
  • How many networking devices are installed in your network? What physical layout functions do they perform?  Understanding the number and types of networking equipment that you currently have is helpful in planning for the upgrade.   It is also a good idea to document any configurations that are on the existing devices.
  • Will any new services be required either now or in the future? Many services require special equipment or configurations, it should be taken into account there will be a possibility of new services to protect the investment and optimize performance.
  • Do you currently have a firewall in place to protect your network? When a private network connects to the Internet, it opens physical links to many unknown networks and their unknown users.  Although this connectivity allows for for information sharing, it also creates threats to information that was not intended to be shared.
  • Would you like a wired, wireless, or wired plus wireless local-area network? How big is the area that the wireless LAN should cover?  It is possible to connect computers, printers, and other devices to the network using a traditional wired network, a wireless-only network, or a combination of both.  To estimate the number of access points that are required, you need know the required coverage area and the location that the wireless network must cover.
  • What is the real cost of downtime in the company or organization? How long can the company handle downtime before there are serious financial or customer losses?  Networks should be designed for uptime and reliability.  This can be determined only through intensive investigation and discussions with all the business stakeholders.
  • What is the budget for the network installation or upgrade? The project budget should be the deciding factor as to what can and can’t be done.  A cost-benefit analysis should be done to determine which features and services are the most important and which could be wait until later.

This information is important in deciding what type of software will be best suited to the company’s needs, who would be the most reliable vendor, and if any new hardware needs to be purchased.  The Project Manager should decide the most qualified project team members when assigning tasks such as choosing what software would be most compatible, which vendor to work with, creating the software in-house (if necessary),  making sure that all PCs getting the upgrade are up to date and what requirements are necessary.

Documentation & Planning

It is highly recommended that information about the hosts and networking devices that are currently installed are recorded on an inventory sheet.  The inventory sheet should include,
device name, date of purchase, warranty information, location, brand & model, operating system, logical addressing information, connection information, & security information.

It is also a good idea to have both current equipment, and any planned growth that the company anticipates documented. This information helps in determining what new equipment is required and the best way to structure the network to support future growth.

Extensive planning should go into a network upgrade.  Just like any project, you should determine the need for an upgrade.  You will then need a good plan which outlines the upgrade from beginning to end.  You should do a SWOT analysis to determine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  Last, but not least, the plan should clearly define the tasks and the order in which they are completed.

There are five phases for planning a system upgrade after the site survey and documentation are complete.  They are:

  1. Requirements Gathering

After all the information has been gathered, the team at should analyze the information to determine network requirements and then generates an analysis report.  If the information is not sufficient to properly determine the best network upgrade path to follow, the team will need to obtain more information.

  1. Selection and Design

Devices and cabling are selected next. The team creates several designs to share with other members on the project.  This will allow team members to determine if there are any weaknesses that need to be identified and addressed.  This phase is also when prototypes are created and tested.  A successful prototype should indicate how the new network will operate.

  1. Implementation

If the preceding steps are done correctly, the implementation phase should move along without incident.  If tasks were missed earlier, they must be corrected during implementation. A good schedule should allow time for unexpected events. Staying in constant communication during the installation is important for the project to be successful.

  1. Operation

When the implementation phase is finished, the network moves into a production environment, this is where the network is considered live and does what it has been designed to do.  If everything has been properly completed thus far, little to no unexpected incidents should happen when the network gets to the operation phase.

  1. Review and Evaluation

When the network is operational, a review and evaluation against the original design objectives should be done by members of the design team & network staff.  This evaluation includes costs, performance, and relevance.   The following items are recommended:

     –Compare the user experience with the goals, and evaluate whether the design is
right.

     –Compare the projected designs and costs with the actual deployment.

     –Monitor the operation, and record changes.  This makes sure the system is fully
documented and accountable.

It is important that careful planning and reviews are done after every phase.   This will help the project go smoothly and make sure the installation is a success.  Project team members should be included in all phases of the upgrade, including planning.  This will help them understand the expectations and limitations of the upgrade and last, but not least, give the end users an improved service.

 

Testing

You do not want all of the computers in the business down at the same time.  Therefore, it is best to upgrade a few of the computers and test them to be sure the upgrade is performing to the needs of the business.  Project Managers should have qualified members of the team handle this task.  There are several types of system verification tests that can be performed.

  • Verify that all system components such as hardware, software and communications are capable of performing under expected normal conditions and possible abnormal conditions.
  • Testing of hardware, software and communications to be sure standards are followed and that they perform as intended.
  • Performing audits of code.
  • Testing system security measures to be sure that they are adequate and they conform to appropriate standards.
  • Verify that appropriate quality assurance measures are in place.

Finally, it is important to conduct user testing.  There is a three-level structure for this procedure.

  1. The Installation Qualification which focuses on testing that the installation has been done correctly.
  2. The Operational Qualification which focuses on testing of functionality in the system installed at the User site.
  3. The Performance Qualification which focuses on testing that users, administrators, and IT support people can accomplish business objectives in production even under the worst situations.

Having a good Project Manager, a well laid-out plan, well-qualified staff members to perform specific tasks, following proper procedures, and proper testing are all important to the success of your company’s system upgrade.  Good luck.

 

Sources:

 

http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/et/etc/etc04

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/cgi-wrap/getdoc/slac-pub-9761.pdf

http://www.stsv.com/pdfs/STS_CSV_article.pdf

http://catalogue.pearsoned.co.uk/samplechapter/1587132109.pdf