Small business Network Design
Your technology and network infrastructure keeps your business running. All your systems, applications, software, and your day-to-day operations is built on top of your computer network. So, it is reasonable to say that planning, design, and security for your business computer network should be a high priority for any small businesses.
Before you begin building out the computer network, or re-building your network for your company, you should think about a few things. For a computer network to run efficiently for a business, it is very different from a home network. A business network should always adhere to the requirements that your business needs, with security and complexity of your small business taken into account.
First of all, you will need to buy some hardware. Here are a few examples of what is needed.
- Network Switch
- Access Point
- Patch Panel
- Network Rack
- Lan or Patch Cables
- Fiber Cables
- See below for an example of a small business network setup:
Simple Office Network
How a small business office network setup is typically constructed begins with your internet connection. This will come from your internet service provider (ISP) and then to your router. The firewall filters and blocks any un-necessary traffic from the internet and allows what is required. This traffic is filtered from your firewall and then goes to your network switch. From there, your network devices gain access to the internet by plugging into that switch or connecting to Wi-Fi.
Details of your network devices. Here is what you need to know about the technology necessary for your small business network setup.
Main hardware components of an office computer network
A modem is a hardware component of your small business network that helps your computer and other devices to connect with the internet. This device converts the digital data that the computer understands to analog data that is transmitted over the cable.
The modems typically sold are modems that support DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), which is used to transmit the internet over coaxial cables. This is how you can gain access to television, internet, and digital phone over the same cable from your ISP.
Thanks to Fiber Optics, modems are quickly becoming obsolete. Fiber cables are able to transmit a much higher bandwidth over a much longer distance. In a business network, you typically require a much higher internet speed, so it is more likely that you will use a Fiber Optic connection. With using Fiber internet, you will not be required to use a Modem.
A router is the device that connects your internal network to the modem or fiber connection. Put simply, this device grants your network access to the world wide web.
In a normal business network, the internet cable connects from your modem to the router, allowing it to transmit information from the internet. All the other devices in your computer office network connect to the router using the network switch, which grants them access to the internet.
Which router to choose for your business?
Most ISPs will give you a router/modem combo to use. In a business office network, you almost never want to use these as your main router. You need to purchase one and here are a few considerations before doing so.
Check the count of devices on your network
Desktops and laptops are not the only devices that need to be counted. You should consider all devices connecting to your network before purchasing that router. Here are some examples of devices that connect to a typical office network.
o Network Printers
o VoIP phones
o Conference Equipment
o POS systems
o IP Cameras
o Guest Devices
o IoT Doorbell
o Google Home
If the count of devices is more than 20, you will need a business grade router. Consumer or home routers are only able to handle a limited number of devices.
If your office is in a very densely populated area such as downtown Phoenix, it is almost guaranteed that your network will face interference from your neighbor’s Wi-Fi. You can use a dual-band router to get rid of some of the interference.
A good practice is to use the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi for IoT devices and older printers, while reserving the 5 GHz band for mobile devices such as laptops and cell phones. This helps keep your 5 GHZ network free of congestion. Also, the 5 GHZ network has a much shorter range, allowing you to use additional access points without the risk of interference. Most business class Wi-Fi equipment can use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands at the same time, and automatically force your devices to the best option available.
If you are wanting to allow guests to use your Wi-Fi network, you should create a separate SSID (service set identifier) for visitors and guests. This allows for much more flexibility and security, as you can give your guests internet access without granting them full access to your internal network. The separate SSIDs are able to be assigned different security policies, encryption, authentication, and more. To absolutely ensure an added level of security, guest Wi-Fi should be set up for your office network. Thankfully, most business grade Wi-Fi hardware allows for this to be configured.
Choosing the right router is one of the most important parts of your small business office network. You should take your time in deciding on what fits best for your business.
A firewall is the main security system for your office network. It controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on the security filtering rules set up by you or your IT provider. This firewall hardware device, when configured correctly, is what keeps the good traffic flowing through your network and blocks the bad traffic to protect your business from unauthorized access.
Do I need a firewall for my network?
You may have noticed that your computer comes with a built-in software firewall, however this is not enough to keep your business safe. Network infrastructure devices are primary targets for cyber attackers and without a hardware firewall, your office network and all devices connected to that network are targets as well.
A dedicated hardware firewall adds a layer of protection to your network. This firewall comes with advanced features that you do not get from a typical router, such as VPN, Remote Access, and Web Filtering. Similar to a router, these devices can only handle a limited number of users. That is why it is very important to get a firewall with the capacity for your business growth.
A typical business router will come with the built-in firewall capabilities you need. You may not need to purchase a separate router and a separate firewall, but make sure because a dedicated firewall is critical for your network security.
· Network Switch
A network switch is an important piece of your small business network design. It is a device on your network that allows other device to communicate and share information. You will have PCs, printers, storage devices, servers, VoIP phones, etc. on your network and the switch ties all these devices together and allows them to communicate with each other.
A network switch is important for your small business network because you will have multiple network devices such as a router, a firewall, an access point and more. It may be a bit confusing because at home you may only have, and may only need your modem/router combo for your entire network. Just remember, a switch is the device that connects your devices within your network, while a router connects your network to the internet.
Which Switch to Choose?
For small and medium businesses, there are two main types of switches to look out for:
An unmanaged switch is the simplest form of a network switch. It requires no configuration and should work right out of the box. These types of switches lack advanced features and work best for small offices that have simple networks.
A managed switch allows you to control the operation of the switch. You can set up these types of switches in order to decide how your network consumes your internet connection. This type of switch can be configured via CLI (command line interface) or a web interface.
A managed switch allows you to set how much bandwidth on a single port and create or modify VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks). Managed switches are typically more expensive than an unmanaged switch, and require some technical knowledge. One additional advantage is that they can be managed remotely and are very useful for large offices or businesses with multiple locations.
· Patch or Lan Cable
A solid wired network is your best bet for a speedy and reliable network. Your network cables are responsible for connecting your network devices together in order to operate. Using the most up to date cable standards such as CAT6 for your LAN wiring is a very smart investment in this day and age. Your devices such as printers, VoIP phones, etc can be connected to the wired network, which frees up your wireless network. This allows for less interference and a better overall experience for the devices that rely on wireless to operate. When you are buying your hardware switches make sure that your switch is able to provide Power Over Ethernet (POE). Using POE, you can eliminate the need to plug your wireless access points and VoIP phones into power, and power these devices directly with your Patch cables from your network switch.
Ideal Small Business Network
I hope this blog helped in thinking about what is needed to setup and design your small business office network. You will need the proper hardware and know-how to get it done.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need assistance with your small business network setup.