Your computer network is the backbone of productivity in your office. If it doesn't work efficiently, modern office workers just can't function.
It gives your workers access to the tools they need to get their job done, whether it's communication with clients or designing new products.
That's why your small business network setup is essential if you want your workers to be as productive as possible. But. designing a network that's reliable, secure, and quick enough can be a challenge.
That's why we're going to guide you through everything you need to know to help you design the right computer network for your small business.
Before you start ordering hardware, you need to think about how to design your network. You can only do that by looking at what your objectives are when designing it.
What exactly does your computer network need to offer you and your workers?
One of the most important decisions you'll make when you're designing your network is the size of it. The number of PCs and connected hardware you'll need will have an impact on the networking hardware you'll have to buy.
Allow yourself a network that can scale up with you. You may find you need more PCs and connected hardware, like network-attached storage devices or VOIP equipment, in the future.
Buy network switches with spare capacity for growth. If you're going wireless, consider the number of connected devices you'll need. Only buy wireless equipment that can handle the demand of the number of devices you'll need.
You should also design your network around your physical environment. Install switches and access points to allow for the least amount of interference or difficulty in installation.
If you work in an office that uses a lot of mobile devices, or you're worried about the cost of a wired network, you should consider going wireless.
It doesn't have to be a question of one or the other, as a wireless network can work in conjunction with wired devices on a wired network. One of the main advantages of a wireless network is that it's a far more portable setup.
There are some potential disadvantages to remember.
An unsecured wireless network can put your entire network (and by extension, your business) at risk. Use enterprise-level security for any wireless access points you install.
Speed can also be a disadvantage. While the newer 802.11ac wireless specification can achieve speeds of over 1 gigabit per second, this is in an ideal environment without walls or other electrical interference.
A wired network will offer you more speed consistency for your business devices. If this isn't a major concern, you should choose to install a wireless network, either alongside a wired network or as your sole choice.
Terminology can be a little confusing when you're designing a new network. One of the basics of networking for small business owners to understand is the difference between a switch and a router.
Switches allow the devices on your network to communicate with each other. They're the point of access for your devices to be connected up to the rest of your network.
Routers offer that, too, but they also offer other features, such as connection to your internet provider. They can also offer wireless network access in some cases.
In your own home, you might only need a single router for your devices. An office network, with more devices, is going to need a combination of a router for internet connectivity and switches for other devices.
You might not need to buy a router for your internet connection, as your business internet service provider might provide one to you. Choosing the right ISP is next on our list of priorities to consider in your networking setup.
You need an ISP that offers the right speed and bandwidth availability for your business. So, consider if the internet speeds on offer are enough for the number of devices or workers you have.
Consider, too, the support services the ISP offers. Do they offer priority support if you're having issues with your connection, to get you back online quickly? Do you need to know how to set up a router, or will your ISP do it for you?
Choosing the right internet connection for your business can make all the difference to your office network. Choose the right small business internet provider with these 5 tips.
Not every IT service your business needs has to be run from your office. Cloud-based service providers can offer you many of your business computing essentials.
Cloud-based services and saas tools such as office suite, project management tools, vendor and contract management, cloud storage etc. will have an impact on your initial network design.
You won't need as much capacity for additional hardware like local servers, but you will need a firewall that can allow access to remote services. Storage, collaboration and communication tools, security firewalls. They can all be run from cloud service providers. You won't need to buy specialist equipment to offer the same services, as the cloud providers host them remotely.
Cloud-based services will have an impact on your initial network design. As a bonus, you won't need as much capacity for additional hardware like local servers, but you will need a firewall that can allow access to remote services.
Firewalls can allow for encrypted connections to cloud service providers without creating risks to your wider network.
Once your network is installed, you need to consider how you're going to maintain it. Part of your maintenance plan should include deciding when it's best to repair, upgrade, or replace your equipment.
A study of small business owners found that over a third were using outdated PCs with high costs for repair. They found that the average cost of repairing outdated PCs was estimated to be $1500 a year per PC.
Consider replacing your hardware every few years, as it may prove more cost effective.
You should also consider the preventative maintenance you could do on your network. Think about regular software updates for your PCs, as well as having a policy for monitoring your critical network equipment.
Having the right security protection in place will keep your network running efficiently. An infected network with PCs running malware can cause network slowdowns and breach your network security.
You can avoid this with up-to-date business-grade anti-virus software. Hardware firewalls can also help to protect your internal network from intrusions.
Design your network with these points in mind to give your business a competitive edge. You can learn about network managment from online courses platform such as Udemy.
Think ahead with a network that can scale depending on the demands of your business. Secure your network with good security, including wireless encryption and an enterprise-grade firewall.
Don't forget about your internet connection, either. Choose an internet connection that supports your small business network setup from one of our business internet plans for organizations like yours.