Bandwidth Simplified gets asked about VLANs at least twice a month and the term is usually asked when a client is implementing a VoIP phone system. A VLAN stands for Virtual LAN and LAN stands for Local Area Network. You can think of a LAN as your office’s entire network and most organizations have a single LAN or network.
There are certain business cases in which you would want to have multiple LANs. Rather than run additional network drops at each location, it is cost effective to implement a VLAN which simulates the separate networks. To implement VLANs within your network, the only piece of hardware you need is a managed switch which allows you to slice and dice your network traffic into VLANS. A managed switch is essentially a typical network switch but has memory, a processor and the intelligence to program and manage the network traffic that passes through it. A managed switch will typically cost about 70-150% more than a non-managed switch, but that increase is small in comparison to running new Ethernet cables to locations. When you configure your managed switch, you will name the new simulated networks something like VLAN0 (voice) and VLAN1 (data), and then program your devices (VoIP phones) to utilize their assigned networks (VLAN0).
The two most common reasons to implement a VLAN are: 1) You need to separate the data on your network for security purposes, such as you have two separate businesses within the same building or you have a guest WiFi and want to keep their network traffic from your servers/network. 2) You need to separate the network traffic for quality purposes, which is very common if you have VoIP phones. By separating the data and voice network traffic over separate VLANS, you ensure a higher quality of voice because you can ensure no network congestion and you can prioritize the voice over data traffic.
Please let us know if you have any questions on VLANs and how they could help either secure your network or improve your VoIP quality.