If you’re running a business without much knowledge of IT, the concept of setting up a business level IT network might be daunting – however, you likely already work with one and have some understanding of what they can do for you.
In this article, we’ll explain what a business IT network is, what it can do for you, at establishing at what point acquiring one might become vital for your business.
What is an IT Network?
To put it simply, you create an IT network just by connecting the IT devices used in your business together. Obviously, this isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds – and often requires the support of a specialist networking company, but this is the basic idea behind all the complicated stuff happening in the background.
Connecting all of the devices in your network creates a LAN (Local Area Network) – if you then add devices in different locations, whether that’s down the street or across the world, you’re creating a WAN (Wide Area Network). The connections made across different locations in a WAN are usually done using leased telecoms lines.
There’s a wide range of methods you can use to connect the devices in your network, but you’ll usually either be working with wireless connections or wired ethernet connections. When the data is traveling between devices in a WAN across the telecommunication circuits, it’ll be moving across fiber optic cables or bonded copper lines.
You can imagine the chaos if each device was physically connected with wires alone, so there are other devices that need to come into play. However, this area can get pretty complicated, and if you don’t want to have to learn the many differences between hubs, switches, routers, bridges, and other similar network devices, you can leave it to the professionals and still have a good amount of control over your network.
What can a network offer my business?
By connecting your devices together, you’ll be able to access a huge number of benefits that would have otherwise been difficult to impossible. These include:
- Shared accessories
By creating just a simple network, you can connect all of your employee’s devices up with the various peripherals they’ll need to work. This includes printers, scanners, photocopiers, and other important machines that would otherwise be tethered to a single computer.
- Central application access
On a daily basis, you’ll most likely be utilizing a range of mission-critical applications that are vital to running your business. By centralizing these applications with a simple network, not only can you ensure that everyone is working together on the most recent version, but you can also prioritize the data that is transferred between your users and your business’s most important tools.
- Security controls
Under the most recent European data protection laws, sensitive information is only able to be accessed by a select necessary few in your workplace, even digitally. Through the use of a network, you can ensure that appropriate levels of access are granted to particular users, keeping important and sensitive data secure and on a need to know basis.
- Shared Storage
By centralizing your storage rather than having important data scattered across a range of different devices, there are two clear benefits. Firstly, you have greater control of your business’s data, and therefore of who can access it. Secondly, although it may seem that keeping all of your data in one place creates a security risk, it actually improves the safety of your data – most breaches are the result of a human error, so by reducing interaction with multiple devices, you’re reducing the number of chances for accidents to happen.
- Off-Site Access
If you have any employees who work on the road, any people on your team who would benefit from working from home, or any employees who visit client sites, a network can make data access far easier. An IT network can mean that any employee, regardless of location, can enter the network as long as they have an internet connection, essentially eliminating the need for people to be tethered to their office desks.
- Decentralized Management
In the past, the management of a network was typically handled by a Managed Network Provider (MSP), meaning that it was difficult to get into the details of your off-site network. With an increasing number of IT networks utilizing an SD-WAN as a control system to remotely unify network management, it’s far easier to keep track of what’s happening in your network.
Do I need a Network?
Of course, it’s your business, and there’s no guarantee that implementing an IT network is automatically the best choice for you. Many large companies get by through handling their data locally without needing a connection, and similarly many smaller ones are incredibly reliant on their network.
If you want to decide whether a network is right for your business, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself. If you think any of these areas can be improved, a network may be a great place to start:
- Would we be able to meet the latest data protection laws working only locally?
- Do we work together effectively as a team?
- Would our team benefit from utilizing remote access?
You can ask many more questions to determine if a network is right for you, but fundamentally, these are the areas that you first need to address.
How can I afford a network for my business?
To put it plainly, creating a network for your business isn’t cheap – even with all the benefits that come with it, the initial costs can prove intimidating.
However, the recent technological progress in the field of cloud-based software means that many tech companies are offering software and networking infrastructures on the ‘as a service’ model, in which you subscribe to the company and only pay a monthly fee, circumventing some of the huge initial costs. If you’re determined to grow with the competition, this predictable cost can be factored into your budget and may prove less risky than a much larger expense right off the bat.