What do I need for a small business computer network?

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Your small business network setup is foundational.  Done right, it will be secure, and support your cross team and client communications securely, and without latency issues. Done poorly, and you could be looking at constant internet problems, VoIP problems, weak cyber security and even internal data loss, leaks or theft.

Of course we rarely think about possible bad outcomes when we are starting a new business - but these things do happen.

This post will walk you through just what you need to setup a small business network well.

In this post we focus on a physical local network setup. Browse our blog for 100% cloud or virtual network setup and remote work solutions.

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Replace Your All In One Device

Small business network components should be compromised of equipment suitable to the job.  All in one modems supplied by Internet Service Providers (ISP) are insufficient for business today.

All in one devices are a modem, a router, a switch, and WiFi all crammed into one box, using low quality components.

This gives you just enough technology to get online with, or get away with, but not enough to function well or optimally.

For good or optimal network performance, each component inside an all in one device should be a separate, more powerful device.

Here is a list of basic network components.

Basic Network Components

Modem

A modem from your ISP. Enables your business to access the internet. All other features should be disabled to allow the more powerful business class device to perform in lieu of the all in one device.

Router

A router is what shares an internet connection with multiple people. A dedicated router has more powerful range and features to improve internet connectivity for teams.

Power Over Ethernet (PoE) Switch / Network Switch

A PoE switch is what your cables plug into to allow power to various network components. Your switch size depends on the size of your network and how many components you require. Common switch sizes are 8 port, 16 port and 24 port switches.

A second switch may be used to power secondary components not directly related to the primary network, such as VoIP telephones. An alternative would be multiple cables running back to the main wiring closet in your office, and this is preferred from a technical standpoint, but from an aesthetic standpoint, a single cable connected to a secondary switch may be preferred.

Every network design is different. Your IT Consultant or network support company will guide you based on your team size, office size and layout, availability of cable drops, and technology needs.

WiFi Access Points

These are used to extend WiFi signal in an office, beyond the limits of what an all in one device can offer. is the two access points (UAP-AC-Pro), you would not be able to cover a space as large as the new one is using your Bell all-in-one modem.

Firewall

A firewall is an IT security device which filters incoming and outgoing network traffic for cyber threats, and stops threats from reaching your network.  A firewall is just one layer of good IT Security, and multiple layers are needed to screen for and prevent various types of internal and external cybersecurity threats.

The images below conceptualize how your emails and info interact with the internet with and without a firewall.

 

depiction of network without a firewall
depiction of network with firewall

Rack or Wall Mount

Network components should be stored in a manner that prevents or limits damage from dust, flood, overheating etc. Networking equipment should be stored in a cool, well ventilated room, and be kept off the floor. There are endless models of network and server racks as well as wall mounted racks to house network and server equipment.  Your IT consultant can guide you based on your space and technology.

Uninterrupted Power Supply

To limit the risk of hardware damage caused by power surges, power failures or rolling power / brown outs, all your critical network components and servers should be plugged in to an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) with Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR), not directly into a wall outlet.

AVR technology will boost or reduce power to your devices as needed, which helps to reduce associated hardware failure.

The cost for a good UPS can range from $250-400 and is a good investment to protect your technology. The CyberPower CP850AVR LCD Intelligent UPS System is a good model, and something similar will likely work well. You can search Amazon or your local Staples store for a UPS with AVR to find several models. Invest in a good quality unit, or ask your IT Consultant for a recommendation.

Network Enabled Printers

To allow your team to share a printer, you will need to purchase a network enabled printer. Costs vary based on features, functions and print capacity. Heavy duty printing will require a decent investment in a fully featured printing station. Most small business can purchase adequate network printers to meet their needs at their local big box store.

File Storage & Sharing Devices (Server, NAS, Cloud)

Depending on your needs, your file storage and file sharing solution will most likely either be:

  • a small business server
  • a Network Attached Storage Device
  • a cloud based file sharing solution such as Google Team Drive or Microsoft SharePoint

A small business server will cost several thousands in hardware and licenses, but is the best solution for any business running server based database software such as dental practice management software, medical billing software, legal practice management software etc.

If you do not have database software requirements, you can choose a Network Attached Storage Device to locally house files and share them with your team. You can also opt to enable cloud sharing as well.

Or, you can avoid additional hardware and go for a fully cloud based solution.  Google Team Drives comes with your Google Workspace subscription for business grade email. Similarly, Microsoft SharePoint comes with Microsoft 365 email subscriptions.  Your IT services provider can guide you on which is best for your needs.

Secure VPN or Remote Access Tools

If you wish to enable secure remote work, you may need a secure VPN tunnel with endpoint management in place, or another remote access solution. We only recommend VPN solutions for company owned devices that are secured and managed by you.

If you plan to allow staff to use personal computers or mobile phones to connect to company network and data, best practices today would direct you to a full Identity & Mobility solution. This would include endpoint and mobile device management, as well as conditional access policies and data loss prevention policies to protect your data.

Additional Components

The above components are considered the basics for small and mid size business today.

Your business may also require:

  • additional cloud based cyber security software which filter for various types of threats
  • endpoint and mobile device management tools and policies
  • components to facilitate Disaster Recovery
  • additional scanners, business phones and end user devices to suit your needs
  • VoIP phone systems

The goal should be to put in adequate components to allow your business a stable and secure connection to do business with, and to choose components that can allow for scaling as you grow.

TUCU is an IT Support Company in Toronto Ontario.  We offer IT support services and comprehensive IT management services. Contact us us for your free consultation & estimate. We'd love to speak with you about your plans and how we can help.

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