How to Set Up a Small Business Computer Network

0 smallbiz intro   How to Set Up a Small Business Computer NetworkSetting up a computer network is a good way to get more out of your system and its components. This is especially true if you are running a small business. Networking allows you to manage all of the operations of a small business – like communication, data transfer, and storage – more easily.

By setting up a network, your computer will be used to its full potential and all your business needs will be met. You can access the Internet with any computer on the network, as well as share files and devices across it. An effective computer network design can make a big difference for you and your business.


In this article, I am going to walk you through the necessary steps on how to set up a small business computer network. I will attempt to explain what you need to know to make it all work.

Networks – Wired vs. Wireless

The first decision you will need to make about your new network is whether you would like it to be wired or completely wireless. These two methods obviously have their upsides and downsides, but either one is suitable for your business needs.

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Wired (or Ethernet) networks are said to be extremely reliable, economical, secure, and easy to install. If you have a lot of components you would like to access the Internet with, however, you might opt for a wireless network, which allows you to have broadband access from a distance. Wireless networks have become very easy to install as well, thanks to Wi-Fi. You also eliminate the need for wires or cords in a wireless network, hence the name.

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Wired networks are more geared towards desktop PC setups and wireless is more of a laptop thing. If you have both a desktop and laptop in your office (like me), you can simply use a combination of the two. For instance, I have my desktop physically connected to the Internet with an Ethernet cable and my laptop connects via the wireless router.

Network Setup – Peer-To-Peer Vs. Client-Server

The next step in how to set up a small business computer network is deciding whether to make it a peer-to-peer setup or a client-server one. Both networks connect computers so that resources can be shared between them. The fundamental differences are in the setup configuration.

Peer-To-Peer Setup

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In a peer-to-peer setup, every computer acts as both the client and the server. Each computer communicates directly with the other computers in the network and resources can be added or removed. A peer-to-peer setup is much more common in the home.

Equipment You Will Need:

Setting up your network peer-to-peer only requires you to have a router (possibly with wireless capability) and the necessary Ethernet cords to run the router to the modem and from the router to all of your computers.

Settings You Will Need:

Depending on the operating system your computers may be running on, you should have some built in functions for a network. In Windows, for example, you can opt to put all computers on the same Workgroup (XP) or Homegroup (Windows 7) and enable print/file sharing. The built-in Network Setup Wizard in the control panel will walk you through your setup.

Client-Server Setup

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In a client-server setup, multiple clients (computers) connect to a single, central server. Public data and applications are only installed on the server and the clients connect to the server to use the resources. This type of setup is more typical in larger offices or businesses.

Equipment You Will Need:

In order to create a client-server setup, you are probably going to need a server, or at least a server-friendly operating system. Microsoft Windows Server Edition and Linux are very good for this.

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You can install one of them on a PC and use it as a server if you like, but if you have a large business it would be wise to consider purchasing a stand-alone server for the job, especially if you are going to be adding or expanding to your network in the future.

Settings You Will Need:

Hooking up the network properly is half the battle. Once hooked up, your server – or the computer running the server OS – should be pretty straight forward to configure. All of your client computers should have computer names (e.g. Steve-Desktop1). You can use these names to set restrictions or grant┬áprivileges┬áto any or all of the clients on your network.

Securing Your New Network

Network security is also important to consider when you’re running a small business, particularly in a wireless configuration. (See: Is Your Wireless Network Safe?)

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Log into your router settings by navigating to 192.168.1.1 in your browser. Depending on the brand of router you are using, you should be able to locate a security tab of some kind. The current security standard for encrypting wireless networks is Wi-Fi Protected Access, or widely known as WPA and WPA2. If your router supports this option, select it and enter a strong alphanumeric password or passphrase.

For tips to create a strong password, refer to these posts:

It’s also important to protect each computer on the network individually with passwords, restrictions, and programs such as firewalls anti-spyware, and anti-virus programs.

Conclusion

Setting up a small business computer network is all about preference. Once you decide on the layout and pick the tools you need to do the job it’s just a matter of hooking everything up and tweaking a few settings here and there.

Do you have any tips to add about how to set up a small business computer network? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Image Credit: Cylonka, mrgoose, bigevil600, Linuxgeek

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10 Comments -

0 votes

USBman

Seriously? After all that hard work writing an otherwise nice article, you advocated the use of WEP encryption? That is old, and easily broken – not to be trusted. WPA (if available) is a much more secure method, and your readers should be made aware of that – especially for a business application!

I very much enjoy reading this blog on a regular basis, and was rather surprised to see such a blunder.

0 votes

Steve Campbell

Thanks for catching that.

0 votes

spaceman

Nope, any fool with a laptop and Airsnort would snap through you WEP defences in no time. Please do not advocate using WEP ever.

0 votes

Steve Campbell

Thanks guys. Good catch.

0 votes

USBman

Seriously? After all that hard work writing an otherwise nice article, you advocated the use of WEP encryption? That is old, and easily broken – not to be trusted. WPA (if available) is a much more secure method, and your readers should be made aware of that – especially for a business application!

I very much enjoy reading this blog on a regular basis, and was rather surprised to see such a blunder.

0 votes

Nat Jay

I have a setup that includes machines with different OS’s — two laptops with Windows XP/Windows 7 and one laptop with Mac OS X. I also plan to add a Linux-based desktop PC in this. Basically, I’d like to see articles that show how to network and share information securely between machines that are of different operating systems.

0 votes

Steve Campbell

Thanks for the recommendation Nat Jay. A lot of people like using different operating systems and computer for different tasks. I’ll see if I can create an article to accommodate your needs in the future.

0 votes

Bernhard H.

Dropbox! Runs on every OS, easy to set up, secure, free, no need to care about network …

0 votes

RobertoTNK

@ Nat: I’d like such an article on how to set up a network with mixed OS (Linux, Windows and Mac)

0 votes

Akash Mahajan

You shouldn’t be recommending anything less than WPA2 with AES encryption for any kind of office network. Even though Windows XP SP2 require a patch[1] to connect to such a wireless access point Mac OS X and all updated Linux distros will connect without any issues.

There are no known attacks against this combination so far. But cracking WEP is very trivial and fast and there are attacks against WPA2+TKIP combination.

1. http://support.microsoft.com/k