A small business network makes your company more productive, efficient, and secure, but you only realize these benefits with thorough planning and implementing. While every business and their network needs are different, this guide will show you general considerations to keep in mind, as well as basic steps in the setup process that all networks can benefit from. Poorly planned and haphazardly implemented networks increase costs and risks exponentially over time, so follow these points as close as you can to avoid future disasters.
Make a plan and draw a map
Before implementing your new network, you need a clear picture of what it will look like and what you want it to accomplish. Start by writing down all of your company’s requirements. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- How many users does it need to support?
- What kinds of endpoints, operating systems, or software does it need to include?
- Will we utilize onsite servers or connect to the cloud?
- What kind of internet connection do we need, and how fast must it be?
- How wide of an area must it cover?
It’s also helpful to draw a map of your new network so you can visualize how devices connect to each other and any potential problems, like network bottlenecks. This is where you will decide your network’s topology, which is the system of how your devices are linked and how information flows from one place to another.
Depending on the particulars of your small business network, you might have to plan out the physical cabling and wiring needed to connect devices together. Every company’s network needs are different, so if you are having trouble deciding on what’s best for you, it’s worth it to ask a professional network designer for input to ensure your requirements are met efficiently.
Secure your assets
Many companies get so focused on getting their network up and running, they neglect their network security. This is a recipe for disaster, so plan out your network’s security measures along with its structure, and make sure they are implemented before you connect your network to the wider internet.
Here are some features that all small businesses should at least consider:
- Firewalls – Some routers have firewalls built in, though additional, purpose-built firewalls may be required.
- Encryption – For wireless networks, ensure they are encrypted with WPA3 encryption. This can be done from a router’s dashboard and does not require additional purchases.
- VPN – A virtual private network is a must have if your employees plan on connecting to your network directly from outside the office, but it’s also a good security tool for just about everyone.
- Multifactor authentication – MFA should be standard for any small business network.
- Guest Wi-Fi – If your customers/clients come to your business’s physical location, create a secure network that allows them to access the internet, but not your private network.
- Compliance management – If you are subject to data security regulations (HIPAA, PCI, etc.), then you should thoroughly research the requirements for compliance and what assets your network will need to meet them.
Prepare for the future
When setting up your company network, leave room for growth. When you grow and require a larger network later on, it will be faster and cheaper to expand into a network that has been prepared for scalability instead of having to carve out more resources or start from scratch.
Monitor performance to troubleshoot problems
Once everything is up and running, don’t rest on your laurels. Utilize network performance monitoring tools to test speeds and measure efficiency. It may be tempting to dive back into work after finally getting things set up, but it’s much easier and more cost-effective to fix and optimize your network early instead of trying to do it during full operations.
A poorly planned and implemented small business network not only hampers your productivity now, but also compounds problems that will be even more costly for you as time goes on.
If you need professional advice and assistance with creating an efficient network that will stand the test of time, contact CDS. Since 1994, our experienced teams have been helping small businesses of all kinds in LA and Orange Country to create excellent networks that meet the unique business needs of our clients.