Connectivity surprises are to be avoided at almost any cost because they will cost you dearly, in sales that cannot be transacted and customer satisfaction.

For all brick-and-mortar locations, regardless of whether it’s retail, restaurants or healthcare, you know you can’t provide service if your network is down. And that means you can’t make money.

Hardware can wear out or need repairs, but software also frequently needs reconfiguration or updating. Because the network is used day in and day out, there’s a significant amount of wear and tear to consider.

Not keeping your car tires properly inflated can reduce your gas mileage. Ignoring routine maintenance on your network equipment can result in less efficient systems, gaps in security, and an increased risk of downtime due to security failures or other incidents.

And if you don’t have the budget to heavily invest in new gear, invest a fraction of the cost in preventive maintenance to extend the life for another year. Preventive maintenance plays a critical role in holding a competitive edge in a technology-driven market.

Network Maintenance: An Essential Checklist for Brick and Mortar Operations

Managing a network for a retail operation involves various components that require regular attention. To ensure everything runs smoothly, it’s helpful to establish a network maintenance checklist and a schedule. This approach allows you to keep an eye on all elements of your network, understanding when and what needs to be checked or updated.

There are two categories of maintenance: interrupt-driven and structured.

Interrupt-driven tasks are like unexpected car repairs—they need to be addressed as they arise, such as a sudden hardware failure.

Structured tasks are like routine car maintenance, like oil changes. These are scheduled activities done regularly to prevent future problems.

For structured tasks, a checklist is immensely useful. By systematically going through this list, you can significantly reduce the chances of facing those unexpected, interrupt-driven issues. Regular proactive maintenance not only keeps the network running smoothly but can also reduce the need for reactive or interrupt-driven tasks and the impact of unforeseen problems when they do occur. This leads to lowering the overall costs and increasing uptimes.

Hardware Checks

Networks are made up of wire and metal and require regular checks for damage and wear.  It’s also important to clear dust and debris from filters and fans on devices.  Dust can clog equipment and cause internal temperatures to rise thereby reducing efficiency.

Network Equipment Connectivity and Documentation

During preventive maintenance, you want to confirm that each piece of equipment is connected to the network and response times are validated.  In addition, all network documentation should be updated to help with future troubleshooting and identifying recurring issues. Network documentation for each component should also include:

    • Time and date of every fix or update
    • Technician who completed that fix or update
    • Reason for the fix
    • And any other relevant information

Desktop and Server Management

Desktop and Servers require oversight and upkeep of both physical and virtual endpoint devices, confirming that every element of the network is functioning correctly. This method employs a uniform strategy to manage data and oversee the lifecycles of workstations and servers effectively and securely. This is particularly useful in hybrid IT settings. The process encompasses managing configurations and upgrades. Desktop and Server Management plays a crucial role in identifying and addressing security weaknesses across various operating systems and third-party applications, ensuring the network’s integrity and resilience.

Device Lifecycle Asset Management

It’s necessary to keep an up-to-date inventory of phones, servers, laptops, routers, POS devices, etc. This is especially important in retail and brick-and-mortar environments where you have a good deal of employee movement. A well-maintained inventory offers several operational benefits:

    • Quick Detection of New Devices: Stay aware of any new devices added to the network, ensuring they are appropriately integrated and secure.
    • Monitoring for Updates and Patches: Keep track of when devices require software upgrades or security patches, maintaining network integrity and performance.
    • Record of Maintenance and Repairs: Document all repairs or updates done on each device. This record helps to understand the history and status of your technological equipment.
    • Proactive Replacement Strategy: Identify devices nearing their end-of-life and plan replacements in advance. This proactive approach prevents unexpected failures that could disrupt store operations.

For each device in your inventory, record essential details such as its name, location, IP address, serial number, operating system, date of purchase or lease, and vendor information. This last point is particularly important for managing contracts or warranties. By keeping this information up to date, you ensure that your network infrastructure remains robust, secure, and capable of supporting your operations effectively.

Power Checks

Networks and associated equipment require power and interruptions in power can cause network slowdowns or even an outage. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems provide a crucial safety net against power inconsistencies, but it’s important to note that the efficiency of UPS systems can diminish over time.

Regular testing of these systems can help you confirm their health and capacity.

As the network grows, the UPS capacity should also grow. That’s another aspect of network maintenance.

Low Voltage Cabling Review, Cleanup and Documentation

Proper maintenance of low-voltage cabling is essential for ensuring the reliable and efficient operation of the devices connected to the network. The cabling infrastructure configuration will have to accommodate varying capacities depending on the volume of data and devices at the location.

It’s also important to inspect all connections and wiring to prevent exposure.  Cables should be in good condition and organized neatly and tucked away to prevent damage.

Wireless Network Validation

The only way to confirm that your wireless network works and has been properly designed is to perform a wi-fi site survey.  Taking the time to validate the design confirms that the network works the way it’s supposed to.

You want to test the predictive design before it’s deployed and then test again to verify that any changes and additions are performed correctly and that the network continues to be fast and reliable for users and applications.

Preemptive Repairs

Much like vehicle owners schedule regular maintenance based on mileage, proactive network upkeep follows a similar principle, with scheduled checkups based on time intervals or usage patterns.

This approach may involve repairing or replacing network components before they malfunction. The aim here is to preemptively address potential issues, ensuring fewer disruptions to business activities in the future and enhancing overall network performance. By adopting this strategy, businesses can maintain a more efficient and reliable network, safeguarding against unexpected downtimes.

The biggest challenge with preventive maintenance? Most organizations don’t have the staff or resources with the expertise to execute these tasks.

Strategic outsourcing can significantly enhance network maintenance by tapping into expert knowledge and established best practices. This approach eliminates the need to develop these elements from the ground up, saving considerable time and effort. Worldlink Integration Group can make network support and maintenance more cost-effective versus doing everything in-house.

If you’d like to learn more about our preventive maintenance programs, click here to inquire.