Small Business It Network Setup – Having a smoothly running computer network can mean the difference between missing a deadline or losing a project.
But what is a computer network? How does this work? And why is it good for your business?
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Here’s our ultimate guide to the basics of computer networking and how it can help your small business.
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When two devices are connected to share data, it becomes a network. These devices can connect via WiFi, Bluetooth or network cable.
You are already using a network to access the Internet. Your computer is connected to the modem through a router. You connect to the router via cable or WiFi. The Internet itself is a large network. A large network of cable and satellite servers that can be accessed from your computer or mobile phone.
For a small office network, the network can allow all employees to access printers, scanners, files, and more. This allows for a streamlined workflow and minimal disruption.
File Sharing: Files can be stored and accessed quickly, meaning your employees can easily share documents to increase productivity.
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Resource sharing: Networking allows computers to connect to devices such as printers, scanners, and more. This means that a printer can be shared between multiple employees instead of each employee having their own printer or sending an email to ask another colleague.
Backup: It is easier to back up multiple computers over a network rather than backing up a single computer.
Central Database: You can store all your contacts and information in a central database that everyone can access.
Control: Gives you control over what users see and use on the network. You can limit access to websites and files for everyone, selected users or network guests.
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Freedom: Your employees can work from anywhere in the building (or around the world) and still have access to the same tools. It is perfect for flexible working or companies with multiple locations.
Security: A well organized network is more secure. You can fully control all devices on the network and detect most security threats entering the network before they cause damage.
Every business network is different, depending on what you need for a particular network. However, all micro-networks have the same basic components.
Modems take data from the Internet and convert it to Ethernet. Then it can be added to your network. Most modems come with an Internet package, but you can purchase your own.
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A router connects two networks together. In most cases, a router will connect your network to the Internet. Routers sometimes come with wireless capabilities, meaning you can connect via an Ethernet cable or via WiFi.
Wireless Access Points (WAP) help extend your WiFi coverage. They connect to the network via an Ethernet cable and act as WiFi hotspots. Users can connect to the Internet through WAP. A wireless access point can draw power from a PoE network, so no electricity is needed.
A network switch is a hardware device that switches data between devices in a network. Switches help manage device traffic so that the network continues. Switches help provide more ports, meaning more devices can be connected.
Managed switches come with software capabilities, allowing you to run tasks. Unmanaged switches do not come with software. Smart control switches have some software functionality but cannot perform complex or advanced functions.
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All three types of switches can have PoE functionality. PoE stands for Power over Ethernet. It allows you to power certain devices in the network with electricity without plugging them into a socket or cable.
Ethernet cables connect everything together. Most cables are connected to RJ45 connectors. Ethernet cables connect computers to switches, switches to routers, and more.
Firewalls come in a variety of software and hardware. A software firewall resides on your computer, but the hardware version resides in your router/modem and the rest of the network.
Firewalls read every packet of information that enters your network and scan it for viruses and other worrisome characteristics. A firewall will block all data packets, which can be dangerous for your network.
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Once you have these basic components, you can connect your nodes and devices. You can connect a whole range of devices, including:
A simple office network might look like the picture below. This simple system can be scaled up or down to suit your needs.
Whenever a device needs to join a network, a signal is sent from the device through a cable to the firewall router and onto the network. It will then go over the internet to the appropriate server. Then ask for data. This data passes through routers, firewalls, and networks. Then it goes to the device.
IT networking is full of confusing acronyms. But don’t worry, you’ll pick it up quickly. Let’s take a look at some of the most important acronyms you’ll encounter when setting up a computer network.
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A local area network is a network of computers that exist within a limited physical space. This physical location can be a home, office, building or school.
Wide area networks cover large physical spaces. Basically, a WAN consists of multiple LAN networks connected to a router.
A WAN can connect satellite offices to a headquarters building, allowing employees around the world to access the same information and equipment.
The most popular WAN is the Internet. The Internet consists of many LANs and servers connected to a larger network that everyone can access.
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Wireless local area networks provide network connectivity through WiFi, Bluetooth, or other methods. Many homes and small businesses rely on WLAN rather than wired options. This is usually for simplicity.
A local area network is a network that has users within a radius of less than 10 meters. These may include laptops, printers, and connected and interactive telephones.
A virtual private network is used to connect devices that do not have a physical presence. VPNs are often used to give remote workers access to a company’s network.
The model establishes a framework for protocols in seven layers. The protocol is usually shown below
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Often referred to as the syntax layer, this section is devoted to data representation. Layers translate from application to network form and back again. This is usually associated with image files, such as JPEG, MIDI, GIF.
This layer controls the communication between computers. The session layer establishes, manages, and terminates connections between local and remote connections. The session layer deals with things like NFS, NetBios names, RPC, SQL.
Layer 4 provides end-to-end data transfer and handles end-to-end error recovery and flow control. These include SPX, TCP, UDP.
A data link is a multi-step process responsible for converting and processing data packets into bits, physical error handling and flow control.
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The data link layer is divided into two layers: the Media Access Control (MAC) layer and the Logical Link Control (LLC) layer.
The physical layer carries electrical or light signals, which contain data information. These include Ethernet and fiber optics.
Wired and wireless networks each have their advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on what kind of network requirements or desktop setup you have.
Speed - Wired cables usually transfer data faster, so you’ll get faster speeds. Since cables are less likely to suffer from “deadspots”, some areas are less likely to be slower than others.
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Security – Because data is transferred over the wire, not over the air, it cannot be intercepted. Most switches come with port protection so that unauthorized devices cannot access the network.
Movement – the cable network is firmly fixed in place. You are limited by how many cables you have.
Installation Time – Installation of a cable network may take some time. For larger networks, you should at least consult an IT professional.
Wiring – You probably have a lot of wires everywhere. If not installed correctly, the cable can be dangerous.
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Mobility – Your employees can move anywhere around the office. This means you can use a heated or flexible workstation
Reliability – WiFi can be environmentally friendly. There are many things like microwaves, baby monitors, metal objects, and fish tanks that block WiFi radio waves from reaching them. This means your WiFi signal may drop frequently.
Security – WiFi travels through the air using radio waves. These waves are easily blocked. Also, many devices on WiFi networks are visible, which means they are vulnerable to hacking.
You don’t have to have one or the other. You can have both. A strong and reliable wired network will be a good foundation for a Wi-Fi network based on access points. This gives your employees the benefit of two networks.
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It turns out that workers are happier when they are free than battery farm workers. Being able to work where you feel most inspired helps you be more productive. Going to the office, yet having a wireless connection when needed can help employees gain more freedom.
To have a safe and secure network, you still need switches and cables. But you also need access