An office network can be a big step forward for a small business.
In addition to creating smoother workflows and data management, a small business network can open the door to a variety of business applications that require server technology (e.g. CRM software solutions).
Unfortunately, many small business owners hesitate to install a network because the technology intimidates them. Although today's business networks can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be, most small business owners find that a typical office network isn't as complex as it seemed.
At its core, a small business network is designed to exchange data between office PCs or other devices. Networks are commonly used to exchange e-mail, share files, connect to the Internet, enable shared printing and facilitate more advanced business applications. Office PCs require some essential elements for network connectivity, including the following:
- Network application. All of your PCs will require a program to send and receive data. This program is often an FTP client, but depending on your setup it could also be a web browser, e-mail program or other software application.
- Network protocol. Network protocols facilitate the exchange of information between computers on your network. Most operating systems automatically install TCP/IP protocols, the most common network protocol for office and home networks.
- Network configuration. Each PC requires a network configuration that uniquely identifies it on the office network. Network configurations appear in the form of IP addresses, e.g. 10.0.2.25. Network configurations can also include a subnet mask which is an additional set of IP address numbers.
- Network adapters. A network adapter is a piece of hardware that each PC users to connect to the network. It can take many forms including a PCI card in the PC's motherboard, a PCMCIA card that is inserted into a laptop or an external USB connection.
- Network drivers. It's important to make sure that each PC has the appropriate network driver. Drivers let your operating system communicate with your network adapter and are often found preinstalled in your OS. If they aren't already installed, the appropriate drivers can usually be downloaded from the Internet.
- Network cabling & server. In a wired network configuration, CAT 5 cabling connects PCs to a server. Wireless networks have different hardware requirements but still need to connect to a server or other central hub.