What LEGO has taught us about networks

Posted on May 03, 2018

What Lego Taught Us About Networks


LEGO is what happy childhood play is made from. Creating worlds from those colourful, plastic, interlocking building blocks requires careful architecture, planning and construction. In the IT world, there’s many similarities between playing with LEGO and building a good network. So what exactly can LEGO teach us?

What makes a good network

Have you ever watched a child build a castle from LEGO? They seem to have an end goal of what they want to create in mind, even if that isn’t always what ends up being made. Pieces are carefully sifted through and selected before being placed carefully into position.

When networks are designed, the daily requirements of the business are weighed against budget. Good networks don’t happen by accident, they are planned carefully with a business’s goals in mind and solutions selected to best meet those needs.

While people are more connected today than ever and demand more of their networks, good, solid networks have certain traits in common, no matter for what purpose or what size.

And it all starts with careful planning.

Connectivity and security

LEGO buildings, like a good network, should be carefully planned.

Like any good LEGO construction, one of the fundamentals of a network is that it remains available. The network should stay online, reliably delivering applications and reasonable response times from host to host.  

For example, popular OTT services (Over the Top), such as Netflix or Apple TV, require a solid network framework. Like most online services, customers expect a consistent, reliable service with constant availability and have very little tolerance for any downtime or latency.

So using this as an example, a good network should stay online and be secure even in the event of failed links, equipment failure, and overloaded conditions.

Security should be robust and designed as an integral part of any network. It should protect the information that it transmits and stores, as well as the devices that connect to it. Planning the location of security devices, filters, and firewall features is critical to safeguarding network resources.

After all, if a LEGO creation breaks and falls down, it probably wasn't a very good construction to begin with. Generally, (after a few tears), a child will start again, re-planning and re-configuring the foundations until it is more stable and able to withstand the rigours of an 8-year old child’s play.

Redundancy

Have you ever opened a new LEGO kit? Fresh in its box and crisp plastic packaging is every piece you’ll need to create whichever masterpiece you’ve chosen to make… plus a few more. LEGO always provides those few extra pieces in case an integral headlight rolls under the bed or a particular tile gets eaten by your baby sister. LEGO has built-in redundancy.

Back-up connections should be in place within a network, to ensure critical operations and functions continue without disruption. An extra switch, wireless router, spare laptop or complete mirrored server can prevent downtime or keep this disruption to a minimum.

Standardisation

One of the truly amazing things about LEGO is the standardisation. Millions and millions and millions of pieces have been made and shipped all over the world, and every single one of those pieces fit and work together.

Hardware or software standardisation is also important for ensuring the network runs smoothly. It can reduce costs associated with maintenance, updates and repairs. For example, if all employees are using the same laptops or email program and operating system, any patches needed can be applied quickly, inexpensively and easily.

Streamlined and manageable

If only all networks came with a set of instructions, like LEGO does. In contrast, these are generally created during the planning and design phase.

Both LEGO masterpieces and networks alike need to be manageable. An unwieldy network will create jitter and poor voice transmission and no matter how good the initial design is, IT staff must be able to properly manage and support the network. A network which is too complex or difficult to maintain will not function effectively and efficiently.

And because failures occasionally occur, troubleshooting should be relatively straight forward. Finding and fixing a problem within the network should not be too time-consuming (or go back to your LEGO instructions).

Disaster recovery

Disaster recovery with LEGO, like IT networks, depends on resilience.

A detailed disaster recovery plan should be designed as the network is designed. When disaster strikes, procedures should be set out and followed in order to minimise disruption and downtime.

Scalable allowing for growth

LEGO is like the ultimate scalable design.

And like LEGO, a good network should be easy to modify to adapt to network growth and general business changes. Scalable network designs can grow to allow for new users, remote sites, new applications and new technology, without disrupting current operations.

Of course networks are far more complex than even the most imaginative child’s fantastic LEGO creations. However, so many of the fundamentals of good design remain the same. While we can’t help you much with LEGO, Vocus can be part of good network design. Call us on 1800 030 057.

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