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  • Network Requirements for Small Businesses – Cutting Through the Jargon

    December 20, 2022

    How does your office share files? Are you still emailing them or passing them using USB connections? If so, your small business should consider setting up a small business computer network. It makes remote work possible and improves cybersecurity defences.

    A small business network lets employees be more productive. They don’t need to wait for a file to be sent. They can access the information directly. With the right computer network, remote employees can even send documents to an office printer or copier.

    If you’re considering an internal network, the following discussion outlines the network requirements for a small business.

    Setting up a Computer network

    What Type of Network is Needed?

    Deciding on the type of network is the first step in determining the requirements for a small business network. Networks can be wired, wireless, or a combination. The best network is the one that works for your business requirements. Here’s a quick overview of the three types of networks.

    Wired

    Wired networks use Ethernet cables to connect devices. They can transfer data from 10 to 1,000 Mbps and are the most secure because they are self-contained. They use cabled connections, eliminating disruptions from obstacles.

    Costs may be higher because cables must be run from each device to a central location. Depending on the distance between devices, the process can be time-consuming and labour-intensive.

    Wireless

    Wireless networks are easy to set up because they do not require cabling. They usually cost less than wired networks as less hardware is required. Data transfer rates on a wireless network range from 10 to 600 Mbps; however, the actual speeds are usually less than the maximum.

    Walls, metal objects, and other obstructions can disrupt a wireless signal. Depending on distances, a wireless repeater may be needed to boost the signal.

    Hybrid

    Hybrid networks combine wireless and wired networks. They provide faster wired connections for in-office devices such as desktops and printers. Wireless equipment provides connectivity for tablets, smartphones, or IoT devices.

    Hybrid networks use hardware designed for both wired and wireless connections. Careful planning can optimise network capabilities to reduce cabling costs and secure a wireless network.

    Network Cabling

    What Are the Hardware Requirements for a Small Business Computer Network?

    Hardware requirements depend on the network type and the functionality required. The following list discusses the network use of each device.

    Switch

    An Ethernet switch detects data coming from a connected device and identifies the destination of that information. Switches are available based on the transmission speed of 10, 100, or 1000 Mbps and the number of device connections or ports.

    A switch should have enough connections for the devices on the network. Hybrid switches are available for networks using both wired and wireless connections. Wireless networks do not require a switch.

    Router

    Routers help control the data flow on a network. It can determine priorities and set security standards to protect the network. Since most small businesses use an internet connection, they will need a router that allows multiple devices to use a single internet connection.

    A router has memory and a CPU, which means it can do more than just route messages. Many have anti-spam and anti-virus capabilities and support a virtual private network (VPN) connection.

    Wireless networks use wireless routers. The average range is about 30 metres. A wireless access point can be added if the area requires more coverage. If needed, add WiFi adapters to the devices to help with signal strength. Hybrid networks should use hybrid routers that support both Ethernet and wireless connections.

    Adapters

    For wired networks, each device needs an Ethernet network adapter. Most desktops have built-in adapters. Portable devices may have an Ethernet port as well. Every device connected to a wired network requires a network adapter.

    External wireless adapters can be added to wired devices if they don’t support wireless connections. Wireless adapters can be added to wireless devices to improve connection strength.

    Modems

    Modems send and receive information over telephone wires or cables. They are needed to connect to the internet available from an internet provider. One modem should be sufficient for a wired, wireless, or hybrid network.

    Cables

    Network or Ethernet cables connect devices to a switch or router. Each device needs a wired connection. Cat 5 or Cat 6 cables should be used. Professionals should run cables to ensure proper configuration.

    Ethernet cables

    Firewalls

    Firewalls protect computer networks from hackers trying to access a company’s private network for malicious purposes. Firewalls may be software-based and incorporated into host- or network-based devices. Firewalls may also be hardware devices connected to the network and managed separately.

    Whether firewalls are software or hardware, they are the first-line protectors of a small business network setup. They enable small offices to defend against viruses and malware attacks. Firewalls give administrators visibility into users and their devices while establishing security policies and encrypting network traffic.

    Network Configurations

    Switches let businesses create local area networks or LANs. Routers let companies deploy wireless local area networks (WLANs). A local area network is a group of computers or other connected devices that are within proximity, such as an office. They share files, printers, and servers as part of the same network.

    WLANs perform the same function using wireless networking technology.

    Servers

    Servers are designed to handle complex tasks involving multiple users. They handle database management, file sharing, and printer services, among other tasks. Because their ongoing performance is crucial to operations, they are constructed to be more reliable than a single-user desktop.

    Servers may be physical devices that reside in an office or be cloud-based servers. More companies are moving to the cloud because of low up-front costs and a fixed subscription price. Which configuration is best depends on the business. Make sure the solution has room to scale, whether a physical or a cloud server.

    Storage

    Servers aren’t meant for long-term storage of volumes of data. Several storage devices can work for small businesses. These include:

    • Network Attached Storage (NAS). NAS is a specialized storage device for consolidating data for improved efficiency and reduced costs. It resides on the network and simplifies the administration of data files.
    • Direct-Attached Storage (DAS). DAS devices include hard drives or optical drives that connect directly to a computer accessing the device.
    • Storage Area Network (SAN). SANs are computer networks that access block-level storage.

    The cloud is another storage option if on-premise solutions are not workable.

    How Tech Seek Can Help

    What network devices, wired routers, or other devices should be used? Finding the right network equipment to set up a small office network can be overwhelming. Tech Seek provides IT services to small businesses, including on-site installation of network equipment. Contact us if you want to install or upgrade your business network.