How To

The Beginner's Guide to Setting Up a Business Network

By Ernest Hamilton , Nov 11, 2019 09:41 PM EST
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When you're launching a new business, you may be excited about the concept itself and growing the business, but in order for that to happen, you also need to have a strong foundation in other areas, including your technology.

There are a lot of moving parts that come with the launch of a new business or even being in a period of expansion including getting funding and legally setting up your business. At the same time, you also have to think about your technology foundation. 

You can't function without the right technology and computer equipment, and setting up a computer network can be incredibly overwhelming if it's not something you've done before. 

For example, you'll have to figure out what you need currently as well as how your technology investments will allow you to scale up when you're ready. You'll also have to consider how much money you have to spend and if you're going to try and save money with the use of used equipment, you'll need a vendor who's dedicated to making sure all the internal components are working properly.

So, where do you start? The following provides a layout to start planning your computer network for your small or growing business.

What Is a Computer Network?

A computer network is a term to refers to the fact that there are multiple computers involved and used. A network can also include other types of equipment. Even just having two computers in your office may mean you need to set up a network. 

Sometimes very small business owners believe they don't need to set up a network, and they lose a lot of the advantages that can come with it, including competitiveness and efficiency. 

A computer network just means that computers are connected and communicating with one another, along with sharing data and resources. 

If your business needs it, you might use a computer network server. 

This is a centralized point of storage for your files so that all computers connected to the network can access files and share and modify them as needed. It improves security and collaboration because employees aren't emailing all of their files back and forth to one another. 

Networks also connect things like tablets, laptops, and printers, which again reduces the need to email files, and you don't have to buy printers for every workstation or use USB drives to copy information. 

In a modern workplace environment, there are two other significant benefits of a wireless computer network. With a wireless network, it supports employees being able to work remotely because everything is saved on a server. 

A wireless network can also promote better network security.

What Equipment Will You Need?

Once you have an idea about the benefits of a computer network and how it can bring business advantages to your organization, as well as the general components of a network, you can then start to think about the equipment you'll need. 

You don't necessarily have to be an expert when it comes to IT to start planning the specific components you need. 

You'll need computers, and beyond that, should those be laptops or desktops? What about tablets? Will they play a role in your network?

You'll also probably add at least one printer and maybe some additional storage. 

As far as equipment setup goes, a good starting point for this might be thinking about your internet router. You can get a router and then a switch device, which will allow you to add more devices if you need to. You may also be able to connect wirelessly. 

As you're defining exactly what your needs and requirements are, you'll want to think about the kind of data and files that will likely be most often sent over your network. Also, take into consideration the software applications members of your team are most likely to use. 

Will your employees need access to data from their mobile devices, as was touched on above?

Get Online

Of course, you'll have to have online access as part of your network. You'll need to find a package that works for your needs and your budget, and this may require some comparison shopping. 

When you're deciding between wired and wireless connections, both have benefits and downsides. For example, wired connections are fast and reliable, and wireless connections may have issues if there are too many devices on the network. 

Buying Equipment 

After you have a plan in place, you can begin shopping for equipment. The two most basic elements of your computer network beyond things like the computers are a router and server. 

Routers again can be wired or wireless, and a server can be physical or cloud-based. 

There are advantages of cloud-based servers, particularly for small businesses, because they're flexible and scalable. 

For routers, purchasing your own for your business can be wise, and it lets you create a virtual private network. A virtual private network server offers safe remote access for employees to the network from wherever they are. 

When you're ready to buy your equipment, you can go with new or used options. Buying used network hardware makes a lot of sense, especially for new or small businesses. 

Equipment is expensive, and you may not have the budget to buy it new. Even if you do have the funds available, it's a big financial liability. 

When you buy used equipment, look for a vendor that carefully goes over everything to make sure the components are working properly and offers an in-house warranty. A reputable vendor will test everything on its own to ensure it's operational the way it should be. 

Finally, look for a vendor that stocks their own inventory if they're a reseller because they're going to have a lot of expertise on the equipment they have available, and that's beneficial if you're not really sure where to start. They are also likely to specialize in certain things, so again you'll get the value of their expertise.

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