Regardless of the nature or size of your business, having a computer network dedicated to it will go a long way in improving your operational efficiency and security. Though we’re living in times when computer infrastructure is relatively easy to come by, you may be having a hard time figuring out what technology you need and especially how to set up a small business network with a server.
While you may be operating a business similar to the guy across the street, your businesses’ computing dynamics and needs are not necessarily the same. To maximize efficiency, a computer network should be tailor-made to meet a business’s specific operational needs.
Most business computer networks have pretty much the same abstract structure. At their bare minimum, most computer networks provide a link between different parts of the business to help with having a continued and synchronized flow of operations in the business.
Here are some insights to help you understand how to set up a small business network with a server and the workings of a computer network from the perspective of a small business just like yours.
What is a Business Computer Network?
A computer network is an interconnection of computing devices, like computers and mobile phones, to exchange information. An example of this would be a home network, where you would have your smart tv able to communicate with your phone or sound system wirelessly over the home WiFi network.
The computer network can be centralized, based only on a single physical location like your business premises. Or the network can be distributed, which means it’s able to communicate with devices in other networks.
A Checklist for Setting up Your Business Network
Since the network infrastructural needs of businesses vary, it is important to carefully evaluate your business layout to know what you will need for your network. Here are some factors you should put into consideration as you set up your business network.
- The physical layout of your business
Understanding your business’s floor plan will let you know what you need and how much of it you need. Hardware components like network cabling and wireless access points can vary depending on the size and layout of your office floor plan. Having this preliminary study of your premises helps in identifying the optimal locations of devices.
- Internet service provider rates
It is also important that you research the available internet providers and get testimonials from those around you. Depending on how sensitive your operations are, at times, you’ll be at the mercy of your ISP’s reliability.
- Electrical and networking infrastructure
Getting to know what is already available in your business premises will save you the loss of unnecessary expenditure on infrastructure already present in your building. This includes considerations like the number of electrical and ethernet outlets you already have versus the number you’ll need.
The Hardware You will Need for Your Business Network
- Network Cabling
This infrastructure ranges from basic cables like those connecting printers to computers to cables that connect routers to switches. Different cables offer different functionalities, and what you settle on depends on your business needs.
If your business computer network is connected to the internet or other external network, you should have your Internet Service Provider (ISP) connect you with optical cables. These have far superior data transfer speeds than electrical-based cables and are not prone to signal disruptions like Electromagnetic Interferences (EMI).
A server is a high-powered computing device used as a central control point in a computer network. In your business computer network, a server can either be a physical machine on your business premises or a cloud-based server.
A cloud-based server is physically operated in a separate location and is connected to your business computer network via the internet. An example of this would be you running a business in Boulder Colorado. At the same time, the server has most of its complex data processing and data storage done offsite on a hosted server managed by an IT company in Atlanta Georgia.
- Data Storage
While most both your server and computers will come equipped with storage facilities of their own, you need to have a local data backup. This external storage facility usually comes in handy whenever there is a failure in your business infrastructure and the risk of data loss.
This data backup is usually in the form of a Network Attached Storage, which makes frequent backups of the transmitted data through your network.
- Network Switch
A switch is the central point of data transfer within a computer network. It is designed to integrate different communication technologies implemented by various devices, making it possible for different devices to communicate.
The type of switch you’ll need for your business computer network depends on your business needs. For example, if you plan to use certain functionalities of your business remotely, you should use a Power over Ethernet switch. This gives you the capability to supply power to other devices through your network switch.
- Network Access Points
Devices like WiFi routers provide wireless access points to your business network, as well as a connection to other devices in the network. To better cover your business network, you should have multiple access points distributed over the business premises.
Having multiple and reliable access points allows for consistent network access as well as continuity in business operations.
- Computing Devices
These are pretty much one of the most critical parts of the business network since they allow you and your staff to access the network and interact with it. While computers in your business premises provide an entry point to the network for you and your team, the same computers also provide an information security risk and should therefore be always kept secure.
You will use a firewall to regulate what goes in and out of your business network. This can apply both to your business operations and the internet connections of your customers through your WiFi network.
How to Set up a Small Business Computer Network with a Server
Once you’ve acquired all the hardware infrastructure you’ll need for your network setup, here’s a checklist for when you’re setting up the network using the Windows infrastructure.
- Operating System installation
There are several operating systems available in the Windows software suite. To set up a server, you should install the Windows Server 2012 operating system in your server machine.
On your other computers, you can install any of the available operating systems. This depends on your preference, as well as the hardware capabilities of your computers. You should consult a professional and have them recommend an operating system that will offer you the functionalities you need and maximize the potential of your computer hardware.
- Network Configuration
Depending on the operational requirements of your business, you can set up either a wired or wireless network. Both networks have their advantages and drawbacks; therefore, you should have a professional help you decide on the tradeoffs.
When you have a combination of both a hardware and software network, the result is a hybrid network and with which you get the benefits and challenges of both networks. Regardless of its cumulative benefits and drawbacks, this network setup is the most efficient.
For the optimal effect of the hybrid network, you should have the wireless network on the customer side of the business, giving them wireless internet access, while you should set up the wired network on the business-side operations, which has added security and reliability benefits.
Once you have finished your network configuration, it’s good practice to have the network configuration files backed up externally either on a flash drive or any other external facility like an email storage account. This saves you the hassle of having to start configuration from scratch in case there’s a failure in your network’s logical structure.
- Network Security
Here’s a network security checklist you could follow to ensure your business network infrastructure is sealed off to unauthorized external access.
- Monitor the traffic that comes in and out of your business network firewall. The best way to do this is to have a member in your workforce who understands the data and can make recommendations if any network threats are experienced.
- Stay updated on emerging network security threats, which are regularly posted online or communicated by software service providers or relevant authorities.
- Ensure your firewall hardware and software infrastructure is up to date and not prone to avoidable attacks.
- Train your workforce on the different personal measures they can take to ensure they’re not susceptible to being used as entry points to the business network by attackers.
- Have a data backup mechanism in place, either in the form of hardware or software data protection solutions.
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