So much of workplace productivity today depends on the office network. If you’re in any doubt about that, try switching one off and see how quickly the phone starts ringing. An understanding of the fundamentals of networking is essential to getting the most productivity out of anyone who needs access to anything that isn’t on their own computer—which is probably everyone.
Laying the Right Foundation
The foundation of your network comprises switches and routers. They look similar but perform different functions.
Switches connect devices such as computers, printers, and servers on the same network within an office. The switch is what lets connected devices share information or “talk” to each other. You can’t put a network in your office without switches.
Routers take one network and connect it to others. Your office network will need at least one router (if you want your network to connect to the outside world).
It’s a router that will connect the computers in the office to the Internet and let them share a single connection to the Internet.
Think of your router as a dispatcher. It will find the best way for your information to travel to where it needs to go. A good router will even give some information priority and protect your network from intruders. A router with a firewall can do that by examining incoming data to thwart attacks.
A router can also allow for a virtual private network, so you can extend the security you’ve built into your office network to employees working remotely.
How to Make Your Investment Count
Make the grade
Switches and routers come in consumer and business grades. You want business-grade equipment for your business. Getting home-networking equipment for the office is a false economy because it won’t be able to keep up with growth in your business. You don’t want to have to pay to upgrade if you want to add the following:
- Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications
- Integrated messaging
- Video surveillance
Make it easy
Some equipment is easier to install than others, so go for easy. A switch with in-line power, for instance, will let you plug equipment such as a wireless access point anywhere there’s a network wall jack. Why install additional electrical outlets when you don’t have to?
Tell your supplier you’re looking for a solution that’s simple and cost-effective to install but robust and with enough capacity to handle growth.