Small Business Technology Needs – Networks
Intranet vs Internet
A small business technology needs networking to connect internal users’ computers to each other, and to the outside world. The two elements of a small business’ network are an internal network – an Intranet or LAN (Local Area Network) – and the connection to the outside world – the Internet , often via WAN (Wide Area Network).
Internet Service Provider
Starting from the outside, a small business technology needs an Internet Service Provider. Many home ISPs also provide Internet services for businesses, but with varied terms and features. This provider may provide limited hardware for your business’ Internet connection.
Web Hosting Provider
Be sure not to confuse your ISP with your web hosting provider. If you have onsite server racks, you may choose to host your own web servers. If you do not have these facilities onsite, you can pay a web hosting company to maintain your web presence. Again, terms and features vary from host to host and package to package. This is generally unrelated to your business’ network and can be accessed from any Internet-enabled computer.
Small business technology needs routers just as home users do. A router is a device to route packets appropriately within a network. It’s the electronic receptionist, referring all enquiries to the right department. A business router may need to be considerably more heavy-duty than a home router, depending on workload, so a larger office may need an enterprise router.
Switches and Hubs
Network switches operate as bridges between devices on your office network, making it possible to have more network traffic with fewer slowdowns. The number of switches you will want to configure into your office network depends on the number of devices you will have on the network, how much network traffic they will be generating, and how much network slowness you are willing to accept as a result of this traffic. Hubs are similar to switches but at a more local level.
All these elements of the network will need Ethernet cables to connect them. Every computer and printer and fax machine on the network will also need cables to attach them to the network. Cables are not very expensive, but they are an essential part of the network. Even computers that are equipped with WiFi will need to be plugged into the network if they are going to perform high-bandwidth tasks such as software updates or transferring large files, because the Ethernet cables have much higher throughput than WiFi.
If you are planning to use WiFi within your office, a small business technology needs to include a wireless router in its network. If your office covers a considerable area or has extremely solid walls, you may even need a wireless bridge as well, depending on how well the signal extends to all the areas you need it to.
Many computers these days come with WiFi (wireless technology) included. There are various “flavors” of WiFi and it is important to make sure the computers are compatible with the type used by your wireless router. 802.11n is fairly standard these days and should be compatible with any wireless cards.
Any computers within the small business office will need to have an Ethernet port to join the network. Once connected by Ethernet, the Network Administrator should be able to allow the computer access to other parts of the network and/or the Internet outside the LAN, according to needs.
As well as the basics to create a network, it is important to take some safety into consideration. With cybercrime always on the rise, it’s essential to have a good firewall and antivirus security in place. A firewall provides a barrier to unwanted incoming traffic, and every machine on the network needs to have antivirus software installed to prevent infection and cross-contamination of the network.
You can configure your internal network, to set it up so that nobody outside the network (on the rest of the Internet) can access anything inside your office. This is generally preferred by business owners as it’s more secure. You may also be able to configure Remote Access, which is a way to use a secure login to tunnel into your office network from outside. This can be a very useful tool if you have employees needing to work from home.