Small businesses often need to set up a digital infrastructure with a unified server. Without a network, you essentially don’t have a framework or ecosystem for your business. When a small business network is set up, it allows different computers to communicate with the internet, one another, and other devices.
With the set-up of a small business network comes many different considerations and things to keep in mind, and security along with general functionality are top priorities. Many of the elements of a small business network are cloud-based, but there is still the need for hardware components as well.
The following are considerations and things to bear in mind when setting up a small business network.
One of the most important elements of a scalable business network is one that is designed for growth.
Every device in your business that is connected to the internet is going to have an IP address. You need to manage your IP addresses from an organizational standpoint but also because of security. The world depends significantly on IP addresses, and this includes not only small business networks but even personal devices.
If you have any device that has an internet connection, it relies on its IP address. Cloud computing and new technology like the Internet of Things or IoT, have significantly increased the demand for IP address space.
Companies face problems tracking what IP addresses are assigned to which devices if they don’t proactively create a management plan. If a small business relies on something like a spreadsheet to manage IP addresses and connected devices, there is the risk of duplication and outage.
With IP address management solutions, there is a centralized place where networks and IP addresses are maintained. This allows your small business network administrator to keep up with records of IP assignments and addresses that are available.
Switches and Routers
In terms of hardware, switches and routers are a necessary part of a business network. A switch is something that will connect different devices that are on the same network. This might include servers and printers in addition to computers.
With a switch, any device that’s connected can “talk” to other services.
Depending on the size of the small business office network you’re building, you may need one router or more than one. The router connects all the computers that are part of the network to one Internet connection.
The router plays an important role as far as keeping your network safeguarded against security threats.
When you’re building a small business, invest in business-grade switches and routers. You’re not likely to find the scalability you need with home network products. You want to build a scalable network framework that can grow with the needs of your business.
Sometimes there can be confusion between a switch and a router, or a lack of awareness about the differences between the two.
Knowing the distinctions is critical. A big point of confusion comes from the fact that wired routers tend to have an integrated switch, and a wireless router also is an access point, as is a switch.
There are different types of switches available. For small business networks, unmanaged switches tend to be the optimal option. They’re fairly simple to install.
A managed switch provides more control, but if you’re a small business without a dedicated IT team or department, this may be beyond your capabilities.
Selecting a Router
The importance of a router can’t be overlooked, but one of the biggest mistakes a lot of small businesses make when setting up their network is that they don’t put enough emphasis on the router, and they go with a personal home option.
The router is the part of your network that receives the signal from the modem and provides connectivity to devices.
There are wireless routers for Wi-Fi, and there are wired routers.
When selecting a router for small business use, it should have built-in firewalls. It’s more expensive to find this, but well worth it for businesses.
A Unified Threat Management device or UTM may be an option for your small business network too.
There’s no way to overemphasize the importance of scalability in building a small business network. Choosing switches with a higher number of support for Ethernet ports is helpful.
A server can be a device that physically sits in your office, or it can be cloud-based. You may have multiple hardware-based or virtual servers, depending on the needs of your business.
The server is a way for there to be one point of data storage and collaboration. You don’t have data stored on individual computers, and instead, the data is stored in the central repository that is the server.
If one computer breaks or something happens with it, you don’t have a fear of losing data. With a centralized server, your employees can also work together more easily, and it should help you in terms of cybersecurity because you have a greater sense of control over who can access information.
Computers and Devices
Of course, a network will have computers and devices too. All of the computers that are on your network should communicate via your switch and not the Wi-Fi network.
Even having a well-thought-out small business network isn’t going to do much good if the people operating the devices aren’t well-trained on best practices and cybersecurity. Any time a business network is being set up, these factors need to weigh into it.
You can secure your network with a good firewall, and you can also limit how much access your employees have to the Internet, but these steps don’t eliminate the need for comprehensive employee training.
Once you have the core elements in place your network should be an asset that can grow with your organization and continue to serve your needs in a secure, efficient way. Taking the time upfront to put the basics in place is typically wellworth the investment of time and money.