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Setting Up a Small Business Computer Network

Braintek Staff Feature

Are you a small business in the Houston metro area looking to set up a computer network but don’t know the right questions to ask? Maybe you’re just wanting to educate yourself before seeking outside help from a local computer network installation and support firm in your area. If so, keep reading. We’ll provide you with a few basics to help you make the right choices.

What is a computer network?

In it’s simplest form, a computer network is an arrangement, or matrix of intersecting computing devices and peripherals. This interconnectivity allows all of the devices to share and/or have access to the same resources. This simple matrix is called a Local Area Network – or LAN for short.


small-business-network-setup-diagram


Why install a computer network in your small office?

Setting up a small business computer network helps businesses cut costs and increase workflow efficiency by allowing workers to share common resources and devices; such as broadband Internet, printers, files, documents and file storage resources.

Wired vs. Wireless Connectivity

Connecting or linking each device to your LAN (Local Area Network) is accomplished by employing a transport medium to send and recieve packets of data between devices (also referred to as data transfer). This transport medium is either wired, wireless or a combination of the two. Wired medium is referred to as ‘Ethernet’ and requires a category 5, 6 or 7 copper cable be connected to the device – while a wireless medium employs a wireless signal.


wired-vs-wireless


It is generally a good choice to run cable (Ethernet) rather than to use wireless. Ethernet is more reliable. A wired connection rarely suffers from data loss and random outages. Wireless on the other hand is prone to interference and attenuation (reduction in signal strength). Further, wired connections can operate at higher speeds than wireless connections. A gigabit switch can provide a full gigabit of throughput to each device, whereas a wireless router operates at roughly 300 Mbps – depending on interference and distance.

What equipment is needed to setup an office network?

Your office network will consist of hardware and software. Together this will provide the required configuration. Depending on whether you will be using wired or wireless technologies, the basic network hardware could consist of some or all of the following:

Hardware

  • Ethernet cable
  • Ethernet jacks – wall plates
  • Patch panel – connects Ethernet cable to port on switch or router)
  • Network switch
  • Network router – wired or wireless
  • Network server – main computer
  • Work stations – user PCs and laptops
  • Surge protection – prevents electrical surges from damaging equipment
  • UPS – Uninterruptable power supply or battery back-up
  • Cooling – when needed to maintain optimal operating environment

Software

  • Operating system – MS Windows

6 Questions to Ask Yourself

With all of this said, it is important to know more about the business and the type of work is being done to more accurately determine which network features are required. So, these are some questions to ask:

  1. What type of business is this? Network configurations for a business performing basic sales and administrative tasks and only needing access to relatively small files such as documents or pictures, is quite a bit different than a business whose workflow consists of video production, graphic design or CAD design work.
  2. What types of files and how much storage will you be needing to store for employees and staff to be able to access?
  3. If Ethernet is being used, will you be running new cables or using existing cable? What is the grade and capacity of the existing cable?
  4. How much of a budget has been allocated to your network setup?
  5. Who will maintain the network after it’s installed? Will you be hiring a full-time network administrator or will be outsourcing your network IT support to a local managed services provider (MSP) in Houston?
  6. How often and what system will be in place to monitor your network and to perform regular data backups? If no system is in place, how will you respond to a catastropic data loss?

These are just a few basic details about setting up a small office network. If you are unsure as to what your particular network needs are, contact Braintek or your local network systems provider for further guidance and assistance.