How to Set Up a Small Office Network

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Office Design

Ease of use and functionality are the essential principles you should remember when designing a small office network setup. This is crucial if you want to meet the needs of your fast-growing company. 

But you need to consider that the latest networking hardware that is perfect for your company now won’t be up to the task after several years. It will also be a waste of your resources if your use of the hardware exceeds its capacity before it becomes obsolete. Knowing some things about networking hardware is the first step in designing an office network that fits your needs.

What You Will Need

Setting up an office network for your business is a lot more complicated than building your home network. First of all, you need to ensure that your network is secure so that your business will run smoothly. Also, you need to consider your business’ needs, and that can be much more demanding.

Standard Office Equipment

To build a network, you must have devices that would connect to it. You’ll need to have:

  • Desktop PCs
  • Laptops
  • Printers
  • Servers
  • Network-attached storage (NAS) devices
  • An Internet connection

Network Hardware Requirements

Aside from the devices that will connect to your network, you must have equipment that will ensure that those devices would receive data efficiently and be protected from security threats. You need to have these devices before setting up your network:

  • Modem/router
  • Port network switch
  • Wireless router
  • Print server
  • Ethernet over power adapters
  • 10-m patch cables

Router vs. Switch: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the difference between a switch and a router can sort out a lot of the confusion you might have. Doing so will lead you to make the right decisions about your business’s networking hardware.

A switch is a piece of equipment that enables your network devices to share information and communicate with each other. When you have a wired network, switches connect desktop PCs, printers, network-attached storage devices (NAS), voice over IP (VoIP), servers, surveillance systems, and other devices connected through Ethernet. 

On the other hand, a router connects different networks inside and beyond the office network’s physical location. Most small business network setups use routers to connect their devices to the Internet. In most cases, a router is “smarter” than a switch since it optimizes data flow from the web to your devices and protects them from cyberthreats. 

But if you own a financial services company and don’t have time to learn this all yourself, you can call New York cybersecurity company Triada Networks to take care of it all for you.

Wired vs. Wireless Routers

When configuring your IT network infrastructure, these are some of the things that will help you decide whether you want to go with either a wired or wireless network:

Wired Networks

Pros:

  • Control: You will have more control over what devices can connect to your network. So, you will also have more control over the security protocols on the said devices. It also makes the chances of malware infection almost nil. 
  • Security: Again, wired networks are more secure compared to wireless ones. It is significantly harder for malicious hackers to gain access to a wired network because of the owner’s control over the devices connected to it. 
  • Speed: Wired networks are considerably faster than wireless networks since they are less likely to be affected by interference.

Cons:

  • Maintenance: Since wired networks need wires, they tend to be a lot more complicated to maintain than their wireless counterparts. A simple software update can’t fix the most common issues encountered by wired networks.
  • Cable Management: Wires can look ugly when not hidden properly, and since you would likely need to connect a lot of devices to your network, you would have to spend a lot of time planning how to hide those pesky wires. If not, your office space could be extremely cluttered with cables, potentially causing a hazard.
  • Mobility: Devices connected to a wired network can only be used near a cable or port. Your employees won’t be able to use their devices anywhere, which can be a problem if they often need to move around the office for meetings. 

Wireless Networks

Pros:

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): This is a very popular policy in a lot of businesses since wireless networks can make connecting them more seamless. 
  • Mobility: Your employees can share and access important files anywhere in the office if you have a wireless network. So, they can use their laptops or phones during meetings and easily look up information from shared documents, making meetings a lot more efficient and productive. 
  • Organization: Wireless networks don’t need cable management since there are only a few wires that you need to hide. It also lowers the cost of maintenance since almost everything can be done through the software.

Cons:

  • Security: Your bandwidth and information are a lot more vulnerable on wireless networks. With this kind of network, it is very easy for malicious attackers to hijack your signal for their use or access sensitive information.
  • Speed: Since wireless networks are more susceptible to interference from walls, other devices, etc. this can significantly reduce your company’s productivity.

Choosing Your Data Storage

The best data storage solution for small businesses is the network-attached storage (NAS) device since they are considerably cheaper than other options. It’s now possible to host several terabytes of data on your network at a fraction of the cost of a typical server or storage area network (SAN).

Things to look out for when buying NAS hardware:

  • Look for upgradeable NAS chassis that can accommodate additional drive bays.
  • You should also look for those that use USB or SATA ports, which can be useful for adding more storage temporarily or for doing backups.
  • If you need faster speeds, NAS devices with 10G Ethernet add-on cards (more expensive models have this built in) are already available.
  • Your NAS should have a redundant power supply unit (PSU) so that you’ll have a backup if your main PSU experiences a critical failure.

Setting Up Your Printer

Although these steps apply to most printers, you should always check the printer’s manual to adjust the set-up to accommodate your specific model.

  1. Plug your printer and connect it to your network through Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable, depending on your model.
  2. If your printer uses Wi-Fi, you can input the password using the LCD. Make sure the printer is near the router so that the signal won’t drop. For models using Ethernet, you can set it up on your desktop PC.

Enabling VoIP

Here’s how you can add a VoIP system to your office network setup:

  1. Figure out how many users will access the system: This will enable you to have a good basis for your decisions along the way. It will also help you decide how many lines you need, whether you need to connect to the Internet to support the call volume, and the features you need.
  2. Make sure your internet connection is fast enough: Test your internet connection to see if it can handle the expected call volume. This can prevent you from having poor call quality and keep you from wasting your time.
  3. Set a VoIP budget: Setting up the budget early will enable you to make smarter decisions and make sure that you will not spend on features you won’t need.
  4. Determine which features are important: You need to find out why you’re getting this system first and what will be its primary use. You also need to do more research to see if you have other features that you need.
  5. Choose a VoIP service: You need to look for providers that have the features you need, good user reviews, and good customer service. Also, make sure that they are within your budget and easy to use. 
  6. Buy the devices you need: After choosing your preferred VoIP service, you need to look for your hardware. Special phones are often not required to avail of this service.
  7. Set up and configure your VoIP system: This is the easiest step because, in most cases, you just need to plug in your phone to an Ethernet cable, configure the settings, and you’re all set.

Conclusion

No matter what you need your office network setup for, the most important thing to remember is that you should plan 3-5 years to scale your network. Performance is also another factor to consider since you will likely need to transfer large files over your network. Having a better performing device will save you time, but that can often be more expensive. Also, every office is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all networking solution, so you need to assess your needs properly. Doing so will not only allow you to prepare your setup for future upgrades, but will also save you a lot of money.

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