When you decide to grow your business from a one-person operation into something bigger computing needs may not be the first thing on your mind. There are many competing demands for your time, but it is so important to get your infrastructure set up well in the beginning. Spend some time outlining what you currently need and where you think the business could go within 12 months. Speak to a local IT expert to get a greater understanding of what quality small business networks may be able to do for your business. You may find that you can achieve great results with strategic investment that leaves ample room to expand as your success increases. Let’s cover what you’ll need to think about before you commit to any solutions, from capacity to cyber security.
Before you start purchasing any hardware it will benefit you to take stock of any equipment you have on hand, and to imagine how the day to day operation of your business will look like. How many devices do you think will need to connect to your network at the same time? Include desktop computers, point-of-sale terminals, wireless printers, Internet of Things-connected items, staff devices and possibly personal devices, too. When you understand how many users and end-points will be connected to the network you can begin planning the resources you’ll require to support them. You’ll need to consider your design options, your data needs and security protocols.
A Local Area Network is likely to provide the best connectivity for a small business. Individual computers can share files using a server as a central repository for data. Other authorised devices can also connect to it. Each user will have a password-protected profile that grants them access to the business data. As the business owner you can create levels of authorisation to restrict access to sensitive information. Local Area Networks are usually hardwired with ethernet cables. This is because cabling provides a reliable and stable connection that operates with good speed. Cabled networks function well for system-wide back-ups, data analysis and other data-intensive operations. Wireless networks are becoming popular as businesses move toward flexible workspaces, but the speed and connection strength may be less than optimal. Separate wireless networks can also be provided with extremely limited access. It’s not uncommon to have both cabled and wireless networks to serve the needs of a business.
Controlling access and storage
As a business owner you may be ultimately responsible for any activity that is conducted on company devices or using company networks. You can control how much access your staff have to information stored on the company networks. There is also the option of restricting inappropriate or illegal websites – this has a twofold benefit of protecting your business from potential legal issues and may also help curb time-wasting activity by staff.
Do you have staff (or plan to) that are mobile or work remotely? If you need them to have access to common files or information while they are away from the office, you can establish a Virtual Private Network. A VPN functions similarly to a Local Area Network in that it requires permission-based access. It also provides an additional layer of security when remote staff access the internet using public unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots.
Data storage options can vary for a small business looking to establish its first network. Remote servers are often the most secure option, as all company data can be backed up and stored separately from the location of the business. This helps to secure it in case the building is compromised by theft or fire for example. Remote servers are also often hosted by experienced IT companies that have complex security protocols in place to protect your data – it’s likely that remote servers are more secure than data stored on local servers in the office.
Data security concerns
Your small business network must be protected using as many strategies as possible. Cyber security can be a complex field but there are many options you can put in place to protect your data.
- Ensure each staff member has a unique log-in profile,
- Require users to change passwords regularly,
- Store highly sensitive data on a separate network,
- Transit any sensitive data via cabled connections,
- Use VPNs for remote staff,
- Establish a guest network for visitors so they cannot access company information,
- Educate staff on appropriate online behaviour including phishing email identification.
A note on hardware
Once you’ve worked out how many devices will connect, how many user profiles you’ll need and how many networks you’ll need, it’s time to look at hardware. It can seem confusing but there’s a simple way to look at how networks are built. You will need a combination of switches and routers to bring the individual computers together on a network.
A switch opens up communication between computers, but it’s a closed system – they cannot send or receive information outside of that switched connection. When all your computers, printers and nominated devices are connected using switches, they form a network. This network is isolated until you connect it to a router. The router connects the network to the internet. Your router is a powerful tool that can prioritise traffic and create an additional cyber security layer of protection for your data. Your router will allow each device to connect to the internet without needing separate connections for each device.
Whether you’re expanding for the first time or organising an office relocation due to new growth, a basic understanding of how networks function will help you to make the best decision for your business as you move forward.
Computers in the City, your cyber security partner
Computers in the City is London’s longest standing IT partner. With over 20 years’ experience, we can assist you to meet your IT support, digital security consulting and cloud computing needs. Let us help you develop secure internal networks in your business. We’re proud to be local, offering 24 hour support in straightforward language that takes the stress out of IT support.