Small Business Networking Solutions: A Beginner’s Guide
When you run a small business, you know all too well how important a robust network is. Now, we’re not talking about the kind of networking where you shake hands and follow LinkedIn profiles– although that’s a critical aspect of business as well! Rather, in this article, we’re going to talk about small business networking solutions that serve as your operation’s IT infrastructure.
What are small business networking solutions?
A business computer network solution is a way to connect all the computers and devices in a company so they can share information and resources. These solutions combine various technologies, services, and strategies that are used to manage and optimize computer networks. Likewise, networking solutions can help organizations improve network performance and reliability, and meet the growing demands of modern businesses and users.
It’s like a highway
You can think of it as a highway that your devices (such as your laptop, smartphone, etc.) use to talk to each other. This highway is made up of hardware and software components, such as routers, switches, and access points to make sure everything works together to provide a robust internet connection.
Just like a highway system connects different cities and towns, a computer network connects different devices like computers, printers, and smartphones. Likewise, while highways have different lanes for different types of traffic, a computer network for a small business has different protocols and services for different types of data. For example, email traffic might use one protocol while video traffic might use another. Lastly, as highways have on-ramps and off-ramps for entering and exiting, a computer network has access points that allow devices to connect to the network and communicate with each other.
Devices that make up small business networking solutions
There are many hardware and software components that a small business computer networking system requires. In this beginner’s guide, we’re going to go over four of the key players.
A router is a networking device that connects multiple devices to a computer network and routes data packets between them. It acts as a central point that forwards data to its intended destination within the network. Essentially, a router functions as the “traffic cop” of a network, directing data to its appropriate destination while ensuring that all devices in the network can communicate with one another.
Switches play a critical role in connecting devices within a network, similar to routers. They enable the creation of internal networks and facilitate data sharing between devices, allowing a single router to be used efficiently. Without switches, setting up a network for a small business would be rendered impossible.
3. Access points
A crucial feature of small business networking solutions is access points. Access points allow wireless devices to connect to your network wirelessly. This makes access points a necessary component for laptops, mobile devices, and any other devices that require a wireless connection.
For many small businesses, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and using mobile devices in your organization are the norm. If this is the case for your business, access points are even more vital since wireless devices are abundant.
A firewall acts as the security guard for your online operations. It’s an important security system for a small business computer network that acts as a filter between your internal network and the internet. By monitoring and controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic according to your preset security rules, it effectively protects your business from unauthorized external access. Thus, it ensures the security and integrity of your network.
How to set up a small business computer network
Setting up a small business network involves several steps. A few of these steps include determining the network’s requirements, selecting the appropriate hardware and software components, installing and configuring the network devices, and testing the network to ensure its reliability and performance. While this can be a bit of a complicated process, it’s likely that it won’t be your DIY project. Rather, it’s best to hire an IT professional to make sure everything’s installed properly and configured accurately.
Types of small business networking solutions
Three popular types of networks in business are LAN, WAN, and WLAN.
A local area network, commonly known as LAN, is a popular network design prevalent in many homes and businesses. It links devices located in a single, limited location, such as a building or a house.
While the geographical area a LAN can reach is limited, the size or quantity of devices that it can support isn’t. It can range from a large enterprise network with thousands of connected devices to a small home network with just a few devices.
A wide area network (WAN) is a computer network that connects groups of computers or communication devices across large distances. Unlike LANs, WANs aren’t restricted to a single geographic location. As a result, businesses often use WANs to connect their office networks located at various geographical sites– each of which usually has its own LAN.
So, let’s say you have offices located in Milwaukee and Los Angeles and you need to link their local area networks to reap the benefits of a connected network. But building your physical network infrastructure with cables, routers, access points, etc., over vast distances isn’t always easy. Thus, you can leverage WAN technologies to set up a business connection that spans a large geographical range.
WLAN is an abbreviation for Wireless Local Area Network. As the name implies, WLANs create a LAN by connecting devices using wireless communication instead of relying on wired Ethernet connections. This cuts the need for extensive cabling and frees your mobile devices to move around since they don’t need to be tethered. So, a WLAN is a great small business networking solution if many of your employees work from their smartphones.
How does WLAN work?
This wireless network for small businesses relies on high-frequency radio waves and typically incorporates one or more access points that enable users to move within its coverage area.
When a wireless signal emitted by your wireless equipment is spread out across a particular area, everyone who’s in that area can access it. To take this back to our highway analogy, the wireless signal is like a kind of invisible internet highway that travels through the air. And, if you’re close enough to it, you can jump on and use it to connect to the internet.
Why small business networking solutions are a priority
A fast and reliable network setup for your small business is critical to stay ahead of the curve. Whether you’re running a small retail store or a growing tech startup, your business operations rely heavily on a secure, fast, and stable network.
So, let’s talk about how robust computer networking for small businesses can boost productivity and streamline communications.
Fast network speeds can significantly enhance business productivity by allowing employees to quickly access and transfer large files, streamlining collaboration, reducing project time, and increasing efficiency. Faster speeds also enhance the performance of cloud-based applications, facilitating remote work and access to data from multiple locations.
Effective communication is crucial for business success. A strong network allows for seamless communication between team members, enabling quick updates, feedback, and questions. This is essential for timely project completion. Also, a robust network enables global communication with clients and teams across different time zones, resulting in increased productivity and faster project completion.
Choose the right small business networking solution
Your small business network needs to be able to effectively support your online operations. Thus, there are a few important factors you must think about when deciding on which networking solution to go with.
To design an efficient business network setup, study your office floor plan and identify the location of endpoints, including devices and Wi-Fi-connected items. This will help you determine the optimal placement of switches and access points. Take inventory of electric outlets, network jacks, and patch panels. A thorough understanding of your office layout will enable quick and accurate assignment of switches and/or ports to appropriate subnets, optimizing network performance.
The number of users is a crucial factor when considering a small business networking solution. This is because the number of people who will be using the internet directly affects the amount of data that the network must accommodate at any given moment. Also, you must remember that in addition to counting the users, you also need to factor in how many devices each user will connect to the network.
Small businesses need to ensure that their network is scalable to accommodate future growth. This can be done by choosing hardware and software that can be easily upgraded or expanded.
The bottom line for small business networking solutions
A strong computer network is an essential component of any small business, as it enables seamless communication, secure data transfer, and efficient workflow. It can provide numerous benefits, including increased productivity, improved collaboration, and streamlined operations.
By investing in a reliable network infrastructure, your small business can stay ahead of the competition, adapt to changing market demands, and grow in a scalable and sustainable way.