How Much Does a Network Upgrade Project Cost?

How Much Does a Network Upgrade Project Cost


The words “network upgrade” are enough to make any CFO’s skin crawl. These large-scale projects are a necessary evil when it comes to technology, and the price tag is going to be substantial no matter which way you cut it.

After providing technology services to various small businesses, law firms, and nonprofits in the DC Metro area over the past two decades, you can imagine that we’ve encountered an upgrade project or two (or fifty). And it’s not like we can avoid these kinds of projects ourselves—especially with two datacenters full of network hardware that it’s our duty to maintain.

When it comes time to trade in the old for the new, what can you expect to invest? This is an important question to ask not only for the sake of your budget, but to make sure that you’re being fairly charged by any outsourced provider.

To help answer this question, we’ll work through the elements that most directly impact the cost of your project, along with sample pricing for different upgrade scenarios.

What affects the scope of a network upgrade project?

The four main factors that affect the scope (and price) of your project are:

1. The size of your network. You probably could have guessed this part. The more pieces you need to replace, the more your investment is going to increase. How many servers do you have? Firewalls? Switches?

2. How much you’re trying to replace. Do you take on a full-scale upgrade every 3-4 years, or do you have a more piece-meal replacement cycle where you’re replacing a portion of your network on a rolling, yearly basis? Are you only replacing your servers? What about your network infrastructure, like switches, firewalls, and wireless?

3. How long it’s been since your last upgrade. If it’s been a very long time since your last upgrade, you may find yourself faced with some incompatibility issues. For example, if you haven’t upgraded your Exchange server in the past 6 years, you will find that Exchange is only fully compatible with certain versions of Office (translation: you’re going to have to upgrade your Office licensing as well).

4. The state of your environment. Are you growing and in need of additional storage or processing capacity? Do you need to add any capabilities to your network such as remote access or a new line-of-business application? Or are you in the position to down-size?

5. What you’re upgrading to. Are you simply swapping out old physical hardware for new physical hardware, or are you opting to migrate your existing network into a virtual (cloud) environment?

To put it very simply, the more complex your upgrade project, the more you’ll have to invest.

What is the average price range for network upgrade projects?

As with many large-scale projects, there’s a sizeable range when it comes to the investment you’re going to make. To explore average pricing, we’ll take a look at two (real) upgrade scenarios at opposite ends of the pricing spectrum:

Scenario 1: Server Replacement for 10-person Organization

This project is a fairly standard server upgrade, which included a brand new server, firewall, and switch. Hardware, software, and labor investments combined for a total of around $16,000 ($7,000 of which went toward server hardware alone).

Scenario 2: Hardware, Operating System, and Exchange Upgrade into a New Virtual Platform for 90-person Law Firm

With this project, the firm capitalized on the opportunity to upgrade not only their hardware, but their operating systems, their email system, their software applications, their remote access, and their overall virtual platform. Implementation will break down into three separate phases due to the complexity, and will end up costing the firm around $150,000.

Clearly, the variables in play can have drastic effects on the total cost of your network upgrade project. While the latter example is a rather extreme case, it is not at all outside of the realm of possibility. The fact of the matter is that every upgrade project is different, and you’ll need to get a customized quote to determine your specific investment. Hopefully, though, this will give you a better sense of where you may end up.

For our thoughts on how to save money on these kinds of projects (you were just wondering the very same thing, weren’t you?), check out this article we put together—while it is focused on small business, the tenets hold true across industries.

More than anything, it’s critical that you secure a trusted resource to guide your upgrade from inception all the way to follow-up support; where the very foundation of your organization is concerned, you can’t afford to make a misstep.

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