In the old days, a famous automobile advertisement once said, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” We’re not talking about cars now, but in a sense the same mentality holds true for computer technology, as this is not your father’s networking environment. In times gone by, a small school network setup consisted of a few desktop PCs connected to a modest file server. Nowadays, school is actually big business; a single PC can now contain gigabytes of mission-critical information. Gone are the days of 56kbps dial-up Internet access, too, as even the smallest ‘Small Office Home Office’ operations most likely have high-speed connections now.
While all of this new computing and networking firepower brings great benefits to one’s small business, it can also bring great disasters if proper care isn’t taken from the very beginning when one’s computer network is first established. The following five suggestions should be on the top of your priority list when setting up a new computer network for your business:
1. Determine your network’s purpose
While this may seem obvious, many small business owners don’t actually take time in the beginning to determine the purpose of their network. Is the network intended to link up computers locally or provide remote access as well? Will there be applications and data shared from a central repository or distributed amongst various desktop and laptop PCs in a peer-to-peer fashion? Understanding the purpose of your network will put you in a better position for procuring the right components and setting up the proper connections necessary to meet your networking needs.
2. Establish a budget
Failing to establish a budget for your network can lead to a multitude of problems in the future. Not knowing just how much you are able to spend on networking hardware such as routers, switches, wi-fi hot spots, cabling and firewalls could lead to purchasing the wrong hardware or hardware that may not be best suited to work with pre-existing infrastructure. Without knowing how much a small business has to spend on networking from day one could lead to money shortages before all of the right hardware is purchased and installed. Buying the greatest backup system on the market, for example, isn’t going to be very useful if there isn’t enough money to install, operate and maintain it.
People don’t really recognize the need for security until it is too late. When it comes to a school computer networking, security needs to be established from the very beginning. Have software to block spam, advertisements and malware from entering your network. Keep all operating system software and user applications fully patched and updated. Insist on the use of strong passwords for all accounts, file-shares and encrypted data. Keep important systems physically secured in lockable server rooms as well.
Training is closely related to security, as a lot of staff training should be devoted towards understanding proper use of the network so as to prevent it from becoming compromised. Staff need to be instructed on what constitutes proper use of school networking resources so as to prevent malware and viruses from ruining the system.
Computer networks need to be maintained to continue operating effectively. Unfortunately, network maintenance can often turn into a full-time job, something that school managers owners just don’t have the time, money and know-how to do properly We discussed this topic in great detail within our previous article titled “Network Support: In-House or Outsource?” Often times it makes better sense for school to obtain network support from a professional Technology Consultant, but who are you going to trust?