Office networks have dramatically transformed many small business workplaces.
File sharing, data archiving, powerful business apps – it's all possible if you invest a little time and resources into creating a solid business network.
If you're a complete technological novice, you may want to consider hiring a third-party provider to set your office network up for you. But many small business owners discover that setting up an office network isn't as difficult as it sounds. Using just your company's existing IT personnel and/or your own abilities, there's a good chance you can handle the lion's share of office network setup without third-party intervention.
But regardless of whether or not you employ a third-party provider, there are a handful of office network setup tips and suggestions you'll want to keep in mind as you begin the implementation process.
- Internet connection. One of the first things to consider is how your network will connect to the Internet. It's likely that you already have an Internet connection in your workplace, but the question is whether or not it is capable of handling your new network's requirements. There are lots of options for broadband connection – just do your research and make sure you have the connectivity you need before you start to install the network.
- Type of network. There are a wide variety of network configurations available for small business use. Your network can be as sophisticated or as simple as you want it to be. However, there are two general types of networks you'll need to be aware of: Wired networks and wireless networks. Wired (or Ethernet) networks run CAT 5 cabling throughout your workspace to connect computers and a server. Wireless networks eliminate the mess of having to wire your office, but also tend to be less secure and reliable.
- Network setup. If you're setting up a basic network (e.g. connecting multiple PCs to the Internet via a single wireless router), you can probably handle your own network setup by following the simple instructions that came with your hardware. But if your network is more complex (e.g. a server installation), you're going to need someone with a little IT know-how.
- Security. Security is a major concern in small business networking. Wired network configurations are generally considered to be more secure than wireless ones, but there are measures you can take to protect your company with either configuration. Familiarize yourself with things like firewalls, security encryption and WEP.