Separate Prepress Network or One Network

By | July 21, 2010

Recently I was asked to address the request by a prepress department in a printing company to be put on a separate network and not part of the overall company computer network. This question has been debated ever since desktop computing combined with PostScript Imagesetters. I wish I could say that there was a right answer or best practice but I can’t. There are two sides to this story and both are valid.

As a prepress and production person I usually side with the separate network idea, which is the prepress side of this controversy. The prepress staff typically talk about how the file sizes for the prepress network are much larger and that network traffic should be minimized to facilitate file transfers and how file transfers from clients may require different security protocols. And an argument can be made that prepress needs access to web sites that the company may not usually permit staff to access. These are support sites to post questions and answers such as NAQPs ListServe or WhatTheyThinks PrintPlanet.

On the other hand, I have heard and can understand management’s point of view which is that you need to maintain high security and you don’t want staff wasting time on sites that are not work related. Before making a decision, however, I think it’s important to understand what is motivating this request and test the validity of the request. Typically the prepress staff makes this request because they feel the network is slow or they feel they are constrained in their attempts to problem solve (access sites that may be forbidden) day to day issues.

If the network is slow then that is a serious issue and one that is pretty easy to see and fix. Anyone with experience on slow and fast networks can see quickly if a network is slow and identify the likely reasons. If the network is slow then that is an issue that needs to be addressed. I have seen slow networks that waste time and can cost a company enough to justify one prepress person’s salary per year. Ironically, network solutions have dropped in price so dramatically that it may only cost a few thousand dollars to fix network wiring, network cards, or the network router.

If you’re concerned that staff is wasting time on non work related internet activities, then you should confirm your suspicions. If you confirm your suspicions, then you have to create a formal internet policy for the company, communicate and confirm that everyone knows the policy, monitor behavior and confront those who are wasting time.

My recommendation was to figure out what motivated this request. If they have a valid issue such as a slow network or inability to access support sites, then you should address those issues. At the same time I would recommend monitoring their activities to ensure they are not doing things that they should not be doing.

Which do you think works best … one or two networks?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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One thought on “Separate Prepress Network or One Network

  1. Elizabeth

    Howie – great question. These days files across the corporate networks have gotten larger and larger (just have to have those photos in our Powerpoint decks don’t we?) therefore – if response is slow for the prepress department it is probably slow everywhere else too. Whether you have two networks or one – monitoring network activity is critical. There are issues of employee behavior, but there is also the potential for a desktop or server to be hacked and used as a bot for outside hackers – or infiltrated to get at your customers information. Regarding monitoring employees web activity (and even email) this has been in the news a lot lately. It is important and fair that employees know the rules and also know that they are being monitored. I used to tell my employees to behave as if I was standing behind their chair. (If you think it’s okay to take a break and play solitaire for a minute – then you shouldn’t flinch if I walk up behind you.) So – if you have to monitor your network and maintain the bandwidth and performance for everyone – why pay for it twice?

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