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9 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Small Business Office Network

Digital network conceptual illustration.

The term business network typically refers to a network of computers or a wireless network. However, it can be so much more than that. Your network setup can be a combination of several technologies and connect a variety of devices. It can be your business’s central hub for internet, phone, security, and more.

If you’re ready to plan a full-fledged business network, here are nine questions worth asking before you set yours up.

1. What type of business is the network for?

Different types of organizations will require networks with varying levels of complexity. For example, a small antique shop using a network for sales is going to have different requirements than a photography studio that edits and transfers large files with sophisticated software.

The business you have will also impact the necessary bandwidth, amount of storage you need, the kinds of files your employees access, and the security necessary to protect those files.

2. What does your five-year plan look like?

Don’t design your network without thinking ahead. The last thing you (and your budget) need is to build a system that becomes useless if your business expands next year. You’ll want to get at least three to five years out of your investment before it’s time to make significant updates.

Here’s an example of how to plan with growth in mind: Purchase a switch (a piece of equipment that lets the devices in your network communicate with each other) with more Ethernet ports than you currently need. As you grow, you can connect new computers, printers, or other office tech to those extra ports—without having to upgrade the network setup itself.

3. Is this going to be a simple network or one with multiple technologies?

You may want to connect just the computers and devices in your office (or offices). Or, you may decide to create an all-in-one network that encompasses every tool your business uses.

Here are a handful of the types of technologies that could be part of your network:

  • FiOS, or high-speed internet service
  • Business Wi-Fi
  • Remote access solutions like a virtual private network (VPN)
  • Phone systems, especially VoIP
  • Security (both surveillance and online security)
  • An all-in-one solution can save money and installation time. You’ll also have fewer individual tools to manage.

4. Do you want a wired or wireless network—or both?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types. A wired network is reliable, faster, and more secure. Wireless is flexible and accommodates mobile devices. A wireless network allows your staff to access files and complete work from anywhere in the office. You can also offer free Wi-Fi to customers and clients as a perk of doing business with you.

Do yourself a favor and get the best of both worlds.

5. What hardware do you have and what do you need?

There’s a variety of equipment needed to build an effective network. Here’s a sample of the different types you may need, depending on your network:

  • One or more Ethernet cables
  • Network switch
  • One or more business-class routers
  • Cooling system (especially if you have a server)
  • Devices like computers, printers, and more

Don’t forget to take office size into account here—a larger floor plan will probably require more equipment to get everything connected.

6. What software do you have and what do you need?

Software is just as necessary as hardware. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Operating system
  • Security programs (like a firewall and anti-virus software)
  • Cloud applications
  • Backup software
  • VoIP or other phone applications
  • Remote access solutions

Chances are your business internet provider offers at least some of these software necessities, so don’t be afraid to ask.

7. Who is going to maintain your network after it has been set up?

All networks take work to manage and maintain. Don’t forget to consider this when planning and budgeting.

There are a few options to choose from. You can hire a dedicated network administrator. This option can be unrealistic for most small businesses. You can outsource the management to an independent IT professional or firm. Or, you or an employee can learn the ropes and take on the extra responsibility, though this may not work for complex networks.

8. How will you monitor and protect your data?

Online security is critical to not only the success of your network but the success of your business. Use multiple defenses to protect your information. These could include software, a VPN, security settings on your router, and a setup that uses individual profiles rather than a company-wide login.

9. How will you back up your network?

More and more business transactions are handled entirely online. The same goes for daily work tasks. The cloud is a popular way to back up your data.

Be sure to back up your network often to ensure you have access to important files, documents, and information at all times. An easy way to do this is to automate the process.

Is there anything else you should consider?

A comprehensive business network can provide benefits like cost savings, increased productivity, and easy access to a central hub for business tools. Yet, it can be an overwhelming process. That’s where Frontier comes in. We offer a variety of services to help you customize your network to your specific business needs.