Small Business Network Setup Checklist

Small Business Network Setup Checklist
Businesses today simply can’t do without a computer network. By connecting several devices together — including computers, printers, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices — it’s easier to share data and information as well as other resources. With a reliable business network, your employees have access to the tools they need to perform their responsibilities, whether it's communicating with clients or developing new products. If you are setting up a network for your Orlando business for the first time or considering expanding your operations, here are a few considerations you will want to make.

Identify your needs

Before building your network, assess the needs of your business by asking the following questions.
  • How many computers and other devices will connect to your network at one time?
  • What type of mobile devices will access your network?
  • How much wireless coverage will you need?
  • What applications will employees use?
  • What type of files will be exchanged and stored?
  • Will you need virtual private networks (VPNs) for remote workers?
Taking these questions into consideration before purchasing hardware will go a long way to ensuring your small office network setup can handle your business needs. After all, you wouldn’t want to get stuck attempting to transfer large files over an outdated wireless network when buying the right access point would have addressed the problem. At this phase, it’s best to consult with a managed IT services provider (MSP). They’ll take the time to look into your budget, goals, and needs, and ensure you invest in the right technology for your business.

Consider wired vs. wireless connectivity

Many are still skeptical about the reliability and security of wireless networks, but these have become very popular because of their convenience. Sure, wired networks are generally faster, more reliable, and easier to secure. And if most of your business PCs are desktops, then a wired network will suit you just fine. But it isn’t built with mobility and portability in mind. What’s more, although a wired network can theoretically offer speeds of up to 40 Gbps, an up-to-date Wi-Fi network should have no problem accommodating most daily tasks, like streaming HD video calls. So unless you regularly move massive data files (e.g., detailed drawings or CAD files), the difference in speed between wired and wireless networks is moot. Most modern businesses implement both wired and wireless networks. They might use Ethernet connections to attach printers and storage devices to a network that employees can access over Wi-Fi. Think of what you value in a network and consider the following:
  • Wired networks are generally more stable and reliable.
  • When configured with appropriate firewalls and other security measures, wired networks are well protected against unauthorized access.
  • Wireless networks allow for easier installation and greater mobility for users.
  • Implementing wireless networks is relatively inexpensive.
While it’s not difficult to incorporate wireless access points to a wired network, it’s best to know if wireless connectivity is a requirement from the get-go. This will help you choose compatible hardware and streamline the installation process.

Select the right equipment

Most small-business networks are comprised of the following equipment:

1. Server

The server is the heart of your network, providing centralized management of your business’s data and resources. It can reside on-premises or in the cloud, and it hosts your business applications and provides a variety of services, including security, disaster recovery, authentication, and storage. Choosing the right server depends primarily on the applications you will run on it. To figure out the type of server as well as the storage and security requirements your business needs, you’ll want to talk to a specialist.

2. Computer

When choosing new desktops or laptops for your business, there is no single best choice. Depending on the functionality you require, you might need a powerful desktop that can run resource-intensive applications or a lightweight laptop that you can bring to client presentations. In reality, you’ll likely need a combination of computers customized to the specific needs and roles of your employees. For the most part, you’ll want to take into account the type of processor, amount of memory, and storage capacity of the computer you’ll be purchasing. Consider how often the machine will be used, the features you must have, and how much money you’re willing to shell out for it.

3. Network Switch

A network switch is a piece of hardware that connects all the devices in a network. This device facilitates the sharing of resources by allowing connected devices to communicate with one another and exchange information, regardless of where they are in an office. It’s important that your network switch is large enough so that there is a port that every device within your network can connect to.

4. Router

If a switch connects several devices to form a network, a router connects several switches to form an even larger network. This then allows connected computers and network devices to access the internet. When building a small-business network, you will typically need one or more routers (although these are often already provided by your internet service provider).

5. Firewall

A firewall is a security device that analyzes incoming and outgoing network traffic, then accepts, rejects, or drops them based on a set of security rules. It’s used to combat spam, viruses, and intrusions. Firewalls are sometimes built into the router, but there are stand-alone models that are more advanced.

6. Access point

A wireless access point, or simply an access point, is a device that allows wireless-capable devices to connect to a wired network. The way it works is the access point connects to a wired router or switch via an Ethernet cable and broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal to a designated area. The size and layout of your office will often dictate how many access points you need. This is because various mediums including walls, furniture, and even people can impact Wi-Fi signals. Therefore, it’s crucial to have ample, properly situated access points throughout your office to avoid signal issues.

7. VPN

A VPN enables you to establish a more secure connection to your network over the internet. It can be a stand-alone device or run as a service on a server. Essentially, it creates a virtual tunnel that hides your data and IP address, giving you online privacy and anonymity. This keeps others from snooping or interfering with your online activity. This can be especially useful if you have employees working from home or constantly traveling.

How much does it cost to set up a small-business network?

The cost of setting up a network depends largely on the size and needs of your business. These will dictate what type and how much equipment you need, and how complex the installation will be. Fortunately, computer networks share common devices, functions, and features, so an MSP can provide you with a list of the exact components you need to build a reliable network. They can also recommend optional items that can improve user experience and productivity. Unlike material costs, however, the cost of installation may be harder to estimate. This is because the process timeline is variable, as it involves running cables, installing hardware and accessories, configuring the network, and other factors that vary greatly from one project to another. So while one job might take only 30 hours to complete because a business already has existing network components, a brand new installation of the same quality might take twice as long. Additionally, you must factor in the monthly cost of internet service when setting up a small-business network. After all, you will need to make sure that your business internet consistently meets the demands of your network.

Contact Us To See How We Can Help Setup Your Business Network

If you need more information about setting up a small-business network, we at Data Cube Systems can help. Contact us today for worry-free, innovative IT solutions that are optimized for your industry.
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