Choosing the Right Networking Hardware for Your Small Business
There are several reasons your small business might be in the market for new computer networking hardware. You might be expanding your operations, opening a new location, or your present equipment might have reached the end of its life cycle. Whatever the reason, you’re about to make a significant investment of business capital, so you want to make the best possible decisions.
As with any major purchase, you need to ask yourself what your goals are. Obviously, you want to enable your computers to “talk to” each other, store data, and manage workflow. But consider how important each of these qualities are for your new system:
- Speed — How fast does your network have to be? If you are dealing with extremely large files, or doing a fair amount of videoconferencing, you’re going to require greater speeds than if you’re just performing standard data entry tasks.
- Connectivity — Naturally you want all of your computer stations within your office to feed into your network via ethernet hookups. But how much wireless connectivity do you need for devices within your office? And what about remote connectivity? If you need to connect several branches of your business or you have a sales team in the field that needs network access, your needs will be exponentially greater.
- Security — Skimping on security can expose you to liability if your customers’ privacy is violated. Strategically placed firewalls are a must to protect your business against breaches. Your security plan must be scaled to the size of your network. Costs include not only the hardware, but a subscription to a security service.
- Storage — How much storage space do you need? How do you plan to back up your data?
- Energy usage — Have you taken a look at your monthly utility bills lately? If so, you know you don’t want to be wasting electricity. Bringing a network online that is substantially larger than your current needs will create an unnecessary drain on your resources. You also must be sure that you have a reliable source of energy to maintain your network at all times. If your area is subject to brownouts, those fluctuations in current can not only slow your network, but they can damage your circuitry. Fortunately, there are solutions ranging from battery backups to generators, known collectively as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).
- Resiliency — If disaster struck, how fast could you get back online? Or rather, how fast would you need to get back online before you began suffering unrecoverable losses? Your company needs a business continuity and disaster recovery strategy that requires a combination of appliances and services.
- Flexibility — Like all business owners, your goal is to grow your company. That inevitably means adding to your network. But you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel when you expand your operations. When scaling your network at the start, you should picture what your business might look like in three to five years.
- Budget — Once you have a sense of the size and scope of your network requirements, you can begin to draw up a budget. Depending on your available resources, you might overhaul the entire network at once or create a technology plan that allows you to transition your network in stages, but as quickly as possible.
Understanding the goals for your network enables you to plan for the type of system you need. From there, you can begin your research:
- Familiarize yourself with the names and uses of various pieces of network hardware, such as modems, routers, firewalls, switches, LAN cables / patch cables, access points, repeaters, and patch panels.
- Ask several acquaintances who work for similarly sized businesses about their network experiences
- Read online reviews of equipment and systems
- Consult an expert
If you are like most small business owners, a DYI company network is not the most feasible approach. You’re already putting in long hours directing your business operations. Adding in the time it would take to become an IT expert, so you can comparison shop various components, is not going to be cost-effective. The most practical course would be to consult a trustworthy IT contractor, such as KMF Technologies. We can review your network requirements in detail and design a technology plan that addresses your needs and works within your budget. In the time it would take you to investigate the various options on your own, we can get your system up and running, making your business more efficient and secure.