Can you setup a computer network for your small business yourself?
This is a question asked of me by a business owner I currently do some consultancy work for. The business has been trading for around 5-6 years and has a healthy turn-over. The business owner currently employs a full time IT support person. The owner feels that this is a cost that a business of this size may not need (20 employees), it may be that this cost saving could be made and benefit the business.
Initially, in this case I would suggest that the best option would be to sub contract the IT support for this business. Generally, if you select a good IT Services company you can expect to get guaranteed response times for IT related incidents that are inevitable for everyone (let alone businesses). In addition you will typically receive a greater wealth of knowledge at your disposal, given that specialist IT support companies will have a larger number of staff and the good ones at least will be constantly training and keeping their employees professional certifications up-to-date. Typically, small businesses that employ a single IT technician find it difficult to shoulder the burden of constantly loosing days of productivity to achieve the necessary training and seminars required.
Given the sheer size and depth of skills under “IT” section, you can see the problem, it would be hard for a small business to employ and expert in Networking, Security, Email, Applications, Critical business applications, disaster recovery, data replication, backup, voip phone systems, cisco, wire shark, MS Office etc… the list is truly endless.
But back to the question: Can you (the business owner) setup your own SME computer network. And I will add in the additional questions of “is it worth it?” and “why do I need it?”.
Why do I need a network?
Networking allows a single broadband line to be shared amongst multiple computers and devices. It is also a good way of getting the most out of your PCs, macs and peripherals. You can share files easily between machines and you can in turn access media and other resources which are stored on other devices within the network.
What do I need to setup a network?
Typically you will need (at the bare minimum) operating systems on your devices that allow networking. All of the big ones do support this and some have been designed specifically to aid networking buy a non-technical person (a little IT skills always help though). So you’ll need something like Windows vista, windows 7 or windows 8. We no longer recommend the XP release of the operating system as Microsoft dis-continued support for this product earlier this year. This means that they will no longer update security patches for this product, which over time will degrade the security of your network.
If your on a mac, Apple’s OSX also will enable networking capabilities. wikipedia osx entry
Wires! You will also need a way of connecting the machines in the network, unless you opt for a wireless option…..
More to come in part 2, stay tuned!