Networking your computers. A Guide for Small Businesses

March 15, 2017

If you are looking to increase efficiency and collaboration in your business and you are not currently operating a secure network then it’s something you need to consider. Your IT provide network installation services across Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, and Sheffield and have installed and configured networks for numerous businesses of different sizes. So we’re well placed to advise you on why you should consider a network and what you’ll need to think about.

Network technology is becoming more accessible and setting up a small business computer network is easier than ever. You may not even require an on-site visit to get set-up as most software and peripherals can be set-up remotely by an IT Support company or consultancy.

If you’ve got more than one computer in the business than you’ll probably benefit from a network. Having a network ensures you get the most from your equipment and allows users to share broadband connection and peripherals such as Wi-Fi routers, network drives, printers, and scanners. Using a network you can also store your files and data in a single central location, increasing efficiency as this will allow employees to share information and work collaboratively more easily. A network can also help with organisation; a variety of scheduling software is available making it possible to arrange meetings without checking individual calendars. This software will usually include other useful features such as shared contact lists and to-do lists.

Different types of network

An entry level network would be suitable for a small business with 5 devices or less. In this case we would be able to link the computers without the need for a central server. This type of set up would allow everyone to share an internet connection, files, and peripherals such as printers. This type of network is fairly simple and inexpensive to set-up, but we’d still recommend getting your IT support provider in to help. If you don’t they may struggle to support you after installation.

An intermediate network would be suitable for between 5 and 25 users. You’d need additional hardware in the form of an entry-level server which would allow shared file storage and allow important files to be backed up. The company could also run a basic, centralised customer database. A network like this will likely cost £2,000+ and will require installation by a professional IT support or network installation company.

Companies with more than 25 users will need a far more powerful server. This would allow the company to run its own intranet, customer relationship management (CRM) and collaboration software. Several shared printers might be installed and you could offer wireless connectivity in meeting rooms etc. If required individuals would be able to access the server remotely enabling home and remote working. Again you’ll need experts to install a system of this kind.

Once you’ve decided you need a network there are some things that you are going to need to consider:

Planning your network: decisions you will need to make

You’ll need to start by mapping out what you need. By working out exactly what you what your network to achieve you’ll be able to determine what software and hardware you require.

Here are some key questions you’ll need to know the answers to:

  • What types of computers or devices will be used on the network and how many of them will be connected to the network at any given time and?

Think about how many devices you’ve got in the office and how many will be connected to the network at any given time. Make sure you include laptops, tablets and phones and staff that work out in the field but will come into the office to carry out admin tasks.

  • Will you be sharing large amounts of data or media? How much bandwidth do you think you will require?

This is linked to the number of users but also the types of files that you share. Graphics, videos and other large files require greater bandwidth so if you regularly work with these types of files you’ll need to take that into consideration.

  • Do you want a wired or wireless solution?

Many small businesses opt for a wireless network and this certainly has some advantages. There are no unsightly wires and increased flexibility in being able to move things around the office. There is also the ability to contact to the network from any computer, anywhere in the office and you can allow visitors, customers, and clients to access your internet connection. However, you can have signal issues and wired solution are often faster, more reliable and cheaper.

  • What sort of security is required for access to files, apps and other network resources?

Attacks on small business account for over 40% of all cyber-attacks, there is a very real threat to the small business as cyber criminals see them as less well protected. Security is a huge issue and so you’ll want to complete a risk assessment and decide what the risks are and the type of hardware and software you’ll need. You’ll also need to consider staff training in this area. This is definitely an area where you should take advice from your IT support provider.

  • Where do you see yourself in the future?

You’ll want to try and ‘future proof’ your network as much as possible. If you’re looking to recruit lots of new staff over the next two or three years’ time then you’ll want it to be extendable at as little cost as possible. Nobody can predict the future but building in additional capacity now can save large amounts of money in the future.

What else will you need

The good news is that most operating systems such as Windows 10 have networking capabilities built in so you won’t have to change your computers, however, along with a server if you need one, there will some other hardware that you will need. The main pieces of hardware are routers and switches; these perform similar functions but there are some differences that you should be aware of.

Switches

A switch is a piece of hardware that allows your different devices such as computers and printers to talk to each other. Switches can either be managed or unmanaged. A managed switch has more features and you can programme and monitor it; this type of switch provides more control but requires more technical ability to operate correctly. Unmanaged switches are an out of box solution that are fine for those that do not require more robust monitoring.

The more ports a switch has the more devices can be connected and so you’ll gain need to think about your future needs and make sure you’ve got enough ports for planned growth.

Routers

A router acts as the gateway for all of your devices and allows them to contact to a single network and the internet. It directs the flow of internet signal to your devices and protects your computers from incoming threats. Depending on the set-up of your office you might need more than one router.

The price of switches and routers vary depending on their capabilities. You may need one or the other, or both. This is something you’ll need to discuss with your IT Services provider or network installation specialist.

There are massive advantages to getting networked so speak to us today about network installation in Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and Sheffield. We offer a free initial consultation and we’ll work with you to provide a solution that meets all of your needs. Call 0115 7980704, Email Us or complete the Contact Us Form

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