Small Business Network Design & Infrastructure Basics
When you run a small business, budgeting is typically tight, so creating an effective, available network may seem intimidating. However, you don’t need the same (often expensive) equipment and advanced setup that larger businesses require. There are plenty of ways to design a useful, reliable, efficient small business network infrastructure without breaking the bank. If you’re setting up a network for your company, here’s what you’ll need to know.
Switches vs. Routers
As a small business owner, you might have already started looking into small business network design best practices and infrastructure basics only to find a lot of instances where switches and routers are mentioned but not fully explained.
A switch is a device that connects multiple devices into a network by allowing them to communicate with each other. For example, a computer, a printer, a server, a surveillance system, and a scanner might all be connected to a switch. This allows the surveillance system and the scanner to send information to the computer to be readily accessed, have that information stored on the server, and be able to send such information through this network to the printer.
A router connects separate networks to each other. If your business is large enough to require multiple switches, the router allows devices connected to one switch to communicate with devices on another switch. Furthermore, the router connects your network to the largest network available: the Internet.
What Type of Network?
Most small businesses are going to use either a PAN, LAN, WAN, or VPN for their network infrastructure. A PAN (Personal Area Network) is typically used in very small offices or home offices. A PAN is more commonly found in offices that consist of a single, small room and with one or two computers, a printer, a scanner, a fax machine, one or two smartphones, and perhaps a few other peripherals.
A LAN (Local Area Network) usually covers an office floor or entire office building, depending on the size. Most modern LANs are based on Ethernet via either twisted pair cables or wireless connection to a switch. A WAN (Wide Area Network), on the other hand, can cover multiple office buildings in close proximity to each other or across the globe. The Internet, for example, is actually a WAN. These are more popular with small businesses that have two or more locations because they allow devices in multiple locations to communicate with each other.
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is becoming more popular among some small businesses that want to offer remote access options. A VPN allows small business employees to access the network from anywhere at any time through an encrypted connection. These also can facilitate desktop virtualization, which permits employees to access the entire desktop system from a laptop, another desktop, or a mobile device. This is great for businesses with BYOD policies, as lost devices do not actually hold the company desktop information.
Do You Need Really a Server?
A computer that you use for storage and that is running all the time in a closet isn’t really a server, especially since such systems don’t usually have any business network redundancy functionalities and they aren’t designed to run 24/7. But does your small business network really require a server? A business with three or fewer computers might be fine without a server, but servers actually can make your business more efficient at sharing, storing, and securing data, especially if you have four or more workstations.
With a server, your company’s data can be accessed more quickly and easily than with a peer-to-peer network (where the computers are linked together without a central data point), and you can also have a more secure data recovery plan in the event of a disaster, especially if you use cloud disaster recovery services. Of course, nowadays, you don’t necessarily need to have an in-house server for your small business, as data centers or colocation providers are readily available, as are cloud computing options.
How Much of an Investment Should Your Network Be?
Obviously, you don’t want to break the bank with your network infrastructure, but you shouldn’t take shortcuts either. For example, home network hardware isn’t meant to handle the same amount of information as commercial-grade network hardware, but not all commercial hardware is meant for large corporations. You want to operate within your budget while getting hardware that will manage what you need for your company now and within projections for the next few years, so you want to make sure your network infrastructure is easily scalable. Find the quality of components that will last your company for several years without having expensive features that you will likely never use.
Setting It All Up
Now that you’ve got more of an idea of the general concept of designing a small business network infrastructure, you’ll need to get into the actual planning and implementation phases. The first thing you should do is determine what types of hardware you are going to need for your network, including your wiring and cabling needs. You’ll need to also find the appropriate housing and server racks that will combine security and utility if you are choosing to have an in-house server or colocation arrangement. Make sure to follow small business network infrastructure best practices for data center design and cabling, as well, throughout your setup process. Select the right type of network and features that will best suit your company’s needs.
Most importantly, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask the experts. Customer 1st Communications has years of experience in network design and installation. We’ll make sure that you get the hardware you need with the features appropriate for your business’ size, and we’ll do it in your budget and your timeframe. For a free consultation, call 855-TECH-C1C (855-832-4212) or contact us online!