February 26th, 2021 Read Time: 7 minutes
Justin Sheil is the Content Marketing Manager at Electric. He has 5+ years experience writing about a wide range of technology topics. As part of his role at Electric, he currently functions as the head of the company’s Research & Insights division.
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While offices around the world might be closed now due the pandemic or operating in reduced capacity—that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for how you’ll execute your next network office build out once public health officials deem it appropriate for workers to return to the office en masse.
For any business, deciding to relocate into a new office space can be a challenging experience. Perhaps your company has outgrown the current space, or you found a perfect space to set your business permanently. Whatever the reason, setting up the office network is among the major items on your office's IT checklist that will position your company on the road to success.
Computer network infrastructure is a crucial pillar of your company, supporting all your applications and software. Therefore, building the network from planning, design, buying hardware, and security is a priority to every business and has to be done the right way.
Here is a simple guide on how to complete the network build-out at a new office.
Like any investment for your business, the first step is to make a list of what your business needs from your network, including:
How many workstations, computers, and printers are you looking to set up?
What types of applications will your business be running?
How do you plan to share and store your files? And how big are those files going to be?
Will you need wireless coverage for a variety of devices?
Do you need private or virtual networks set up for remote employees?
It’s just as crucial to plan ahead so you can purchase the right hardware that will be able to handle your business needs, even as you continue to grow.
Your network design determines the required type of hardware, although the basics include a switch, router, VPN, WiFi access points, and firewall. Routers and switches are the two most critical pieces of equipment required when building a small office network. Most of the time, the two are confusing among small to midsize business owners. Here are the 4 pieces of hardware you’ll need to complete a network build out.
A switch allows communication and sharing of information between networked devices. For example, you connect desktop computers, servers, printers, network-attached storage, surveillance system, and voice-over IP on an Ethernet network using an Ethernet cable port as switches link together all these devices into a network.
Through a switch, your printers, servers, and computers can share information and communicate with each other. Without switches to link the devices, it would be impossible to build a small business network.
Switches come in three types based on configuration options.
This type of switch does not require any configuration, meaning you can use it right away from the box. Although an unmanaged switch is less expensive, it does not have advanced features. It is the simplest kind of switch and suitable for small offices with simple networks.
A managed switch allows you to configure and control its operation, whereby you can determine the internet consumption by your network. Configuring the switch is possible through a command-line interface (CLI), web interface, or a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
It is possible to set port bandwidth with a managed switch and adjust Virtual Local Area Networks (VLAN). Besides, you can control them remotely and thus suitable for large offices. However, these switches require technical expertise to use them effectively and are more expensive.
A smart switch is an intermediate between managed and unmanaged switches. It is also known as a Layer 2/3 switch and allows Layer 2 control of the open systems interconnection model, thus smarter than unmanaged switches. However, a managed switch would be better if your small office network requires layer three controls.
Conversely, a router connects different networks that link your network to the internet. It focuses on the flow of information from the greatest network (internet) to your business's interconnected devices and guards your devices against cyber threats. The confusion usually arises because almost all wired routers have a switch incorporated into them. Moreover, wireless serves two functions, as a switch, and an access point.
When you embark on a network build outfor your small business, you will require at least one router. It functions as a dispatcher where it directs traffic and selects the most efficient path for information flow across a network in data packets. A router links your business to work and guards information against security threats.
When you buy a subscription from most Internet Service Providers, they give you a router for free. However, they might not give you the best service, and in the end, you will need to purchase one.
Below are the factors to consider when purchasing a router
Number of devices on your network
Although you might think that mobile devices, laptops, and desktops are the only devices to consider, you should also include VoIP phone systems, IP Cameras, POS systems, conference room equipment, and Guest Devices. You should consider purchasing commercial-grade WiFi equipment if you have over 20 connected devices in your network since consumer-grade routers only handle a few devices.
There are locations where you face interruptions from neighboring WiFi connections. To solve the problem, you can consider using a dual-band router.
If you plan to have guest users on your network, ensure you develop a separate service set identifier (SSID) for them. It gives you an added security level since guests won't access your internal network while accessing the internet. Therefore, choosing the appropriate router is essential in building a reliable wireless network.
A firewall monitors and manages the outgoing and incoming network traffic based on the security rules you put into place. This security system acts as a filter to protect your network from unapproved external access.
Computers usually have a built-in software firewall, but it is not strong enough to guarantee your business safety. You won't have to purchase separate firewall hardware with a business-grade router since it comes with built-in firewall capabilities.
For a fast wireless network, you require robust underlying wiring. Cables deliver adequate bandwidth to your access points and ensure your WiFi network works actively. Therefore, considering top-notch cables such as CAT6 for your Local Area Network wiring is an excellent investment. It is advisable to run dual cables to every wireless access point since the current and future standards will require additional wired bandwidth.
When choosing your network type, consider the budget you have for your network build out, the type of security you’ll need, and how you want to maximize your network in your office space.
There are three main types of office networks: wired, wireless, and hybrid.
Wired networks are secure, fast, and reliable, but every device requires an ethernet cable to a hub, switch, or router. This can be a hassle to set up if you don’t know what you’re doing, and it’s recommended to have professional help to make sure all your needs are being met.
Wireless networks, on the other hand, allow everyone in the office to move around freely and there are no cables required. However, wireless networks are easily affected by interference, such as walls, microwaves, and pipes. Most of the time, you’ll only get half of your rated speed, and wireless networks may not be as secure and reliable as wired networks if set up improperly.
That brings us to hybrid network, which is a popular choice to implement for an office network. You kind of get the best of both worlds — fast, reliable speeds when you need them, freedom to move around, and security to protect your company data. So if you feel that the convenience of a wireless network is necessary for your business and want to allow your employees to use a variety of devices, then a hybrid network is the perfect solution.
A well executed network is essential for in-office operations. Be mindful of your organization's current and future needs before moving or start the building process. Once it is safe to do so, many organizations are planning to utilize physical offices much differently than they were prior to the pandemic. Whether you are starting or have an existing IT infrastructure, it is critical to have an expert to help you sail through, especially if you are not sure of everything.
At Electric, can assist you in making the appropriate choices and ensure you fulfill all the required tasks of your office network checklist while considering security and efficient data use. Contact us today to discover more about how we can offer customized IT support to meet your company's requirements.