Network connection speed is always increasing, and small business owners should think about how they can stay abreast of improvements and use new technology to their advantage. Since a growing number of commercial exchanges are gravitating from in-person transactions to online transactions, faster network connections translate into more revenue, better customer service, and increased efficiency. To unlock these benefits, however, business owners need to be equipped with the right technology and knowledge. Staples, a trusted source for office solutions and an expert in small business technology, has the following tips for small business owners that need help navigating these changes as they look to set up or update their network.
- Consider the number of people that will connect to the network and how it might change with time. Since a small business can employ dozens or hundreds of workers (and chances are its workforce will expand), the best networking option will be flexible to account for change.
- A wired local area network, when possible, is often the best option for operations that demand high bandwidth Internet connections. Setting up a wireless network inside a small office with an open layout may be the easiest option, however, as it doesnt require running wires to each workstation. Keep in mind that if a small business operates inside an office building with multiple levels and obstructions, the wireless signal may be disrupted. If this is the case, a wired connection or several business-grade wireless routers may be necessary. Consider the size and structure of the building. A small, standard-grade router will sufficiently supply Internet access inside a small building, but a stronger router, such as the newest 802.11ac router, is necessary to cover an expansive commercial space.
- Determine whether employees, customers, or a combination of both will connect to the network. It may be that you want to set up two networks: one for customers and one for employees.
- Decide whether employees will need to connect to the network while away from the office. Telecommuting allows business owners to expand their teams to include talented and qualified workers who cannot work on-site. Other small businesses may rely solely on remote workers to eliminate the cost of renting an office space. The most efficient and popular solution for setting up a remote office space is to establish a VPN, or a virtual private network. A VPN allows employees to access files, applications, and even office hardware remotely through secure software.
The exact type of VPN device a small business needs depends on the size of the company, the allotted technology budget, and personal preference. Regardless of what type of VPN a small business decides to implement, however, the most important factor is that a business-grade cable or DSL router that features a consistent IP address supports the network. Higher-tier routers are designed with businesses in mind, and they come packed with features to comply with the demands of a VPN.
- Taking the idea of remote business operations a step further, the practice of cloud computing is a networking option that is becoming popular at an ever-increasing rate. The idea behind cloud computing is to make all facets of a businesss daily operations available online. As a result, employees and owners alike can access the files, databases, or programs they need through the designated online cloud space, which is typically set up through a company website that features various layers of permissions and security. Unless a business is originally established using a cloud infrastructure, switching to this option can be a large undertaking. However, cloud computing can drastically reduce or eliminate the amount of money spent on office space, manpower, equipment costs, and more.
- Keep your data safe. With networking technology advancement comes an upgrade in on-board security features, which is an essential for business owners that want to keep their files and data safe. According to the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2012, 98 percent of small business security breaches occur at the hands of outside agents. Utilizing encryption software, taking advantage of penetration tests, and setting up a secure firewall are all viable steps a small business owner should take to keep important files, including finance information, safe from intruders.
- Dont fall behind. New and improved networking devices exist for a reason; as the average amount of bandwidth consumed per person rises, the technology that delivers that bandwidth must also grow. New technology like cloud computing servers and the 802.11ac router meet these demands by improving on previous models and networking techniques. Along with increased performance also come new features. The 802.11ac router, like the latest from Netgear, includes the ability to connect plug-and-play devices, such as printers or external hard drives, directly into the router, instantly making them available to any computer or device on the network. The ability to connect to a printer from a phone or tablet adds a new level of convenience that can simplify the daily operations of a small business.
Switching to or setting up new technology can be both exciting and intimidating for any small business owner, but the promise of prosperous, more productive work processes serves as a good industry motivator. Take advantage of the latest technology as it rolls out, and begin experiencing how upgrading your networking system can revolutionize the way you do business.