A computer network is essential to a business of any size because it allows your computer to connect to the Internet, enabling you to update your website, check your e-mail, or teleconference. You can even communicate with other computers on the same local network. If you own a small business, you can save some money by setting up the network yourself. This article will show you how to get your small business network up and running in no time.
Creating a very basic network is incredibly easy, requiring only a computer connection to a router with an Ethernet cable. However, if you want to share files, add multiple computers to your network, share a printer, stream multimedia, or determine which computers are allowed access to data on the network, you’ll need something a little more technical. Just to make things easier on you, here are the steps you should take and the gear you should use to set up a small office network.
Choosing a Wireless Router
It’s impossible to create a small office network without a router, which means you’ll need wired and wireless connections. Thankfully, a wireless router provides both.
Essentially, routers act as bridges between your local area network (LAN) and the wide area network (WAN), otherwise known as the Internet. Routers are also responsible for sharing the connection between all the computers connected to the network. Lastly, routers also act as a network's DHCP server, which allows each device connected to it to have a private IP address.
This last router characteristic is especially important for those who need the devices on their network to communicate with each other. Aside from providing wired ad wireless connections wireless routers also have another major advantage: embedded firewalls that protect networks from threats.
Choosing a Networking Standard
Another important decision you must make is which wireless networking standard to choose. All of the latest routers, wireless devices, and desktops are being released with the 802.11n networking standard, otherwise known as "wireless N.” If a majority of the devices on your network support N, you should run your network in N mode. This mode can be accessed through your router’s various settings. It is widely reported that N devices have a maximum transfer rate of 540 Mbps, but you’ll never see 540 Mbps because of factors such as interference and overhead, among others
If you happen to have older devices that don't support N, it won’t prove to a problem in terms of connectivity. Routers that are 802.11 b and g capable are still capable of connecting to wireless-N routers, but only if the router is operating on what’s called “mixed mode.” That being said, it’s important to remember that an older device connecting at b or g can slow down your entire network. If it won’t strain you financially, you should really consider upgrading your devices to N.
Wiring Your Network
Desktops and laptops transmit data faster when using a wired Ethernet connection, as opposed to a wireless connection. This is particularly true when large media files are being streamed. Ethernet cables come with things such as routers, gaming consoles, and NAS drives, but you might need to buy extras as you expand your network and wire more devices using Ethernet.
All Ethernet cables are Cat5, which are twisted high-signal unshielded cables. They are mostly used as structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet, but there's also Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat7. So, which do you choose? If you have devices using Gigabit Ethernet (denoted as 10/100/1000), it is necessary to use Cat5e. Most Ethernet cables sold today are Cat5e anyway, so figuring out which to buy should be easy enough.
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