Nearly every business, big and small, operates with some sort of computer network. Most communications, reports, and projects are done with the help of said network. Although a network may be a given, many organizations do not take full advantage of up-to-date technology features that are currently offered. One tool that provides numerous benefits for any organization is a virtual local area network (VLAN). A VLAN can increase network security, performance, and manageability – all while decreasing IT costs.
What is a VLAN?
Before diving into what a VLAN entails, it may be helpful to understand a local area network (LAN) first. A LAN is essentially a group of computers within a certain geographical area (like an office) that are all connected.
A VLAN shares similar characteristics to a LAN, but a VLAN allows different computers and devices to be connected virtually to each other as if they were in a LAN sharing a single broadcast domain. In a way, a VLAN acts mini separate networks within a LAN. A VLAN is helpful for organizational use mainly because it can be used to segment a larger network into smaller segments. As shown in the figure below, different VLANs can be used for different groups of users, departments, functions, etc., without needing to be in the same geographical area.
Benefits & Uses of VLANs
Segmentation of a network helps to increase security, reliability, and efficiency of a network. There are a variety of ways a VLAN can be utilized to fit an organization’s needs. One popular use of a VLAN is to separate guest traffic from staff traffic through segmentation of the network. This allows guest users to access the internet without being on the same network as staff. VLANs can also be used to limit user access to a certain network segments, which then allows only authorized users to have access to networks with highly sensitive information. The guest/staff example fits this scenario, but another example would be to separate financial employees from HR employees. This segmentation not only separates user traffic, but it increases both safety and usability.
Most businesses operate with the purpose of making a profit, and because of this, most business-related decisions revolve to some degree around cost. Every successful organization operates with the help of budgets, which usually include an IT budget. Use of a VLAN configurations can help save organizations money by reducing the need for network upgrades. Instead, VLANs utilize existing bandwidth and uplinks in a more efficient manner.
A major positive aspect of using a VLAN are the security benefits it provides. The separation of traffic on a network prevents unwanted and unauthorized users and devices from traveling on a specific network, reducing threats and risks and protecting sensitive data. Different security software and firewalls can be installed for each VLAN in a network, which helps prevent compromisation of the entire system if one VLAN faces a breach.
By segmenting different users to different VLANs, the network performance increases with the reduced broadcast traffic. VLANs allow for easier prioritization of traffic, ensuring that critical application data flows as it should. This in turn makes it easier for users to efficiently communicate, work on projects, and achieve goals and objectives.
Simple IT Management:
VLANs allow for easier and simplified IT management of the network system. If VLANs are segmented based on users with similar network requirements and/or functions, this allows IT to manage each VLAN and groups of devices in a simpler fashion. For example, management can establish specific security controls based off of the users in each VLAN, and if there is an issue with one VLAN, troubleshooting problems can be solved much faster due to different users operating on different VLANs. Each VLAN can also easily be named to fit the characteristics of the VLAN (examples include: “guest,” “staff,” “finance,” etc.).
Along with easier network management, VLANs also provide flexibility for both the administration and users. VLANs allow geographically-dispersed users and devices to easily connect with other users. Even if a user moves desks in an office, for instance, the user can stay on their same network. Utilizing VLANs also set organizations up to be prepared for future business growth; a reliable, expandable network is essential for growth.
- A VLAN allows different computers and devices to be connected virtually to each other as if they were in a LAN sharing a single broadcast domain.
- A VLAN is helpful for organizational use mainly because it can be used to segment a larger network into smaller segments.
- VLANs can limit user access to to a certain VLAN, which then allows only authorized users to have access to networks with highly sensitive information.
- VLANs can be used for different groups of users, departments, functions, etc., without needing to be in the same geographical area.
- VLANs can help reduce IT cost, improve network security and performance, provide easier management, as well as ensuring network flexibility.
If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to contact us! Also, if you would like guidance regarding installation of a VLAN for you or your organization, we would be happy to assist you!