Your to-do list when building a network for a small business

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Credit: Kalawin

Setting up a network for your small business can be a great idea. It provides a number of benefits that can help make operations smoother, or at least reduce the time involved in some monotonous daily tasks. In general, it also isn’t particularly difficult because the nature of modern technology is to be easier for the end-user, rather than just something strictly for the tech-heads in the crowd.

However, it can still seem daunting to set up a network of your own. You want to get it right, after all. This could be a huge investment of your limited time and resources, so you want to make sure you hit the ground running. So here’s some advice on how to set up a network for your small business.

What Does the Business Need?

First, consider what the business needs are, in terms of networking. Do you need access to the internet reliably or is this just an intranet? Do you need it for sharing files between terminals? Is there a need for devices like phones and tablets to access it, necessitating a wireless component?

Knowing what you need will help determine what the network will look like. List your requirements, from the bandwidth to the number of users you estimate you’ll have. Note the number of devices hooked up to it, from terminals to networked printers. This is going to be essential because it shapes not only what your network requirements will be, but also informs you of what kind of hardware you will need.

Check the Physical Space

A related aspect of this is the physical layout. Where will the cables go? Where will you place infrastructure like routers and switches? Do you have the necessary cooling equipment for any servers you might require? Are there any areas where the OTS cable will require special protection or arrangements? This isn’t often a major concern for small businesses or offices, but you shouldn’t risk physical damage or interference.

Consider Professional Help

Get a professional. Even if you know your way around the tech and terms, it’s usually best that you get a professional to handle installations. The typical small business owner just doesn’t have the time to run the enterprise and oversee a network installation at the same time. If you don’t have an in-house IT guy to handle it, hire an expert.

Routers and Switches

Now, let’s look at what most experts consider the most important pieces of hardware you’ll have for a small business network. These are the switches and the routers. The two look almost the same physically, but in terms of purpose, they differ. They both fulfill different functions, and both have a role to play in your network.

The Switch

A switch is hardware meant to connect devices on the same network. Typically, you’ll use these for networking things in the same building. They allow the machines to communicate with each other, share information, and interconnect. In other words, if you want the benefits of sharing files and perhaps even some edge computing, you want to have switches to allow the terminals to “talk” to one another.

The Router

Routers, on the other hand, allow networks to talk. It allows your internal network to speak to the internet. By doing this, you let every computer connected to the network to get to the internet with only one connection The router will dispatch the data, seeking out the best route for the transmissions. It also functions as a means of protecting your data and can be set up to prioritize access between terminals.

Get Business-Grade Equipment

When you’re setting a network up for a business, you don’t want just any routers or switches. You want something that’s designed for the needs of a business, rather than one that’s built for a consumer. In general, consumer-grade hardware just isn’t designed to keep up with the increased speeds and bandwidth needs of an enterprise. Getting them might make the network installation cheaper, but it throttles your performance and can cause unforeseen issues over time.

Accounting for the Future

For a business network, you might want to look to the future. Every business has a chance to expand unless you’ve set yourself up for failure from the get-go. This means that you want to set the networking up so that it has room to grow along with your operations. Determine your current needs and then add a little more, to anticipate future situations.

Redundancies

Finally, keep in mind that in every business venture, you want redundancies. You want your network to be the same. It provides you with continuity and the ability to keep going even if one component fails. This will minimize disruptions to the business and give you time to attend to the problem without causing a dip in operational efficiency.

Conclusion

Setting up a network for your business can be greatly beneficial for your operations. File-sharing alone can make things so much easier when communicating with different parts of the office, or if multiple people need to work on one file. So while it may seem like a bit of work, you’re getting more punch out of it by making sure the network is set up correctly.



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