Building a usable small business network means navigating thousands of network company advertising to determine the hardware you really need.
Do you buy the least expensive items available and hope for the best? Do you need a three-year support package? What about that switch with 10 gigabit performance?
Building a small business network
When building your small business network, you should aim for:
- minimum 95% network uptime
- Firewall security
- No network bottlenecks
However, you may have limitations including:
- Small budget
- No on-site or dedicated technical support
- No data center or rackable or air conditioned space for the equipment
- DSL or fiber Internet connections
The minimum hardware requirements for a small business network are as follows:
This decision is often made by your internet service provider or ISP. In the US, this is most likely Comcast or one of the other large providers.
The router is responsible for connecting your office or home network by receiving and analyzing the network traffic, followed by forwarding the data packets to their expected IP address. A single router is sufficient for a small business network relying on LAN. Routers are quite popular since they can easily share a high-speed internet connection to multiple devices. In addition, they are proficient in prioritizing the data to find an intact network while routing the traffic through various paths.
A firewall is a gateway that monitors and filters incoming and outgoing traffic based on established security rules. It scans all the data packets and acts as a barrier for unauthorized packets. Having a network-based (hardware) firewall enhances network security. It’s crucial since 60% of small businesses shut down within six months because of data breaches or cyber-attacks.
Every ISP provides a router that does simple port management firewalling. In other words, the firewall blocks unwanted traffic coming into your office or home network.
Some firewalls have local network ports where you can manage wireless access points and have a comprehensively secure network. Both Cisco and SonicWALL offer such networks.
If you have more than 10 to 12 devices (or people) actively connecting to the internet, you will likely need a 24 to 48 port switch. If you are powering wireless access points or IP phones, you may need PoE or PoE+ ports. PoE ports over less power through
Switches operating at the data link layer forward the data based on the destination MAC address. On the other hand, switches operating at the network layer forward the data based on the destination IP address. However, layer 2 (data link layer) switches are quite popular that often connect the devices through Ethernet cables.
Switches are indisputably the essential hardware components for a small business network. You can opt for an unmanaged switch that creates more Ethernet ports to connect more local devices or a managed switch that offers much more control over the traffic prioritization.
4. Ethernet cables
Ethernet cables (and patch cables that are short versions of ethernet cables) are a simple but important part of your network. There is nothing more frustrating than troubleshooting switches, routers, or firewalls only to discover that you have a bad ethernet cable.
5. Wireless access points
Wireless access points (WAP) transmit and receive data over WLAN (wireless local area network). You can create a network using WAP within your business to connect to a hub, switches, or router via Ethernet cables.
The best part of having wireless access points is that you can manage the number of WiFi users within your network and grant limited guest access without compromising your business network security.
Repeaters and range extenders have several pitfalls. Add more wireless access points throughout your house or small office rather than trying to extend the network reach with repeaters.
Spares and upgrades
Ideally, have a backup for each component. Your spare does not have to be of the same quality. It just needs to be good enough to keep your office online until you can replace a failed component.
Update software and upgrade components as often as you can. There is no need to buy every new model, but keep an eye out for new and improved technology.