There are a number of changes that can be made to increase the speed of applications running on your network. Some of these are relatively inexpensive, while others require a more considerable investment. The most common of these changes would include:
1) Upgrading File Servers
2) Upgrading Work Stations
3) Upgrading Network Cards
4) Upgrading Network Hubs
5) Upgrading Network Cabling
Generally, upgrading the network file server is the single best way to boost network performance. A faster file server provides everyone on the network with a performance boost. This is something that should be considered every five years or so for reliability as well as performance benefits. File Server hard drives do far more work than a single computer drive and are therefore somewhat more likely to fail over time. If this happens at a bad time, you can be down for several days while a new server is ordered and prepared. Your backups may likewise be put to an unnecessary test and invariably several days, weeks or months of data are lost at this time.
Reinstalling a Novell Server, utilizing the latest disk drivers and optimised disk configuration, can even increase the performance of existing servers. It can also allow you to use the full size of the drive beyond 8gb size limitations.
Upgrading network cards, hubs and cable are somewhat interrelated. Faster cards will provide benefits as long as the hubs and switches are of the same speed. We typically recommend using 100Tx Fast Ethernet Cards & Switches running on Cat 5, 5e or ideally Cat 6 Cable. If you have some computers utilizing slower cards and you already have a high-speed hub or switch, some improvements are possible by changing the older network cards.
Changing the Hub or Switch to high speed without changing the cards will provide little improvement. Usually these two must go hand in hand to optimise performance benefits.
If you are running cable for the first time or replacing defective cable we strongly recommend going with Cat 6 Cable. This is the best cable and supports speeds up to 1000Tx. Not all servers will support cards of this speed but if yours does, 1000Tx cards coupled with 1000Tx Hubs & Switches and Cat 6 Cable will provide the best possible network transmission performance.
Assuming your server, cards, hubs and cable are optimised the next step in boosting network performance is to upgrade strategic computers to those with faster processors. For as little as $300-$400 a user with a Pentium I or Pentium II computer will gain a substantial increase in speed by upgrading to a Celeron or Pentium IV based computer. Users that run time consuming reports and procedures will have their computers freed up in a fraction of the time, hopefully resulting in positive productivity gains at the same time.
In general, upgrading an older model server provides the best overall bang for the performance buck. After this, I recommend individual computer upgrades. Upgraded cards, hubs and cables provide additional modest performance benefits to the end user.
While you are looking at upgrading computers, newer Flat Panel Displays can reduce eyestrain, save desk space and even save substantial amounts of electricity. LCD technology also offers lower radiation levels and environmental benefits as well. They typically last longer and are less of a disposal issue as compared to CRT monitors. Keeping employees working at their computers can have positive performance benefits as well.