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Small Office Network Growing Pains

Do you add equipment to your office network on the fly? Are you ready to expand your network but unsure how to?  Usually the small office network has been added to as needed, without a plan for future growth.  I recommend having a plan for your technical growth and modifying it as needed.  By having a plan, you can easily add components with little disruption and downtime.

Most small businesses will have the same basic network layout when starting out. You should have a business grade Internet package, see article Taking the Less Expensive IT Route..Is It Worth It. Your connection will then connect to a router which will probably have 4 network ports and wireless connectivity. For the very small office, this is all you may need when you start out. As you grow, you will need to add additional equipment for this growth.  This may mean adding networked printers, scanners, desktops and shared file storage.

Have you decided to add additional devices but find you do not have enough network ports to accommodate this? A switch can be installed which can add 12-24 additional network ports to your existing network structure. I would recommend all fixed devices (printers, desktops etc.) be connected with a network cable. See article on Wired and Wireless networks to determine which devices should be wired.

Are you emailing documents around the office or using the “sneaker net” to transfer files? Adding a file share on your network can greatly reduce the amount of time you run a USB key to your co-working computer. A file share can be as simple as a NAS (network area storage) or even a re-purposed XP system with a shared folder. This will reduce the amount of wasted time, running files from one computer to another.

Are you hiring additional staff? Or do you requiring remote access to the office? Then it may be time to consider a server solution. Windows and Apple both provide sever solutions for small businesses. Adding a server can allow you take control of your network and devices.  A server can provide remote access, share files and provide backup storage for your computers. Watch for a follow up a blog post discussing the advantages of adding a server to your office.

These are just a few examples of hardware that can be added to expand your network. As your small business grows, your technical and network needs will also grow. Your IT Specialist can assistance you in planning and minimizing disruption when growing your network.

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