Networking your computers will enable them to share programs, files and peripherals. If you have two or more computers, and they are not networked, then you are missing out on the benefits and efficiency of collaborative computing. You can set up a simple “peer-to-peer” network between two or three computers, where they share information with each other and are directly connected to each other via a network Ethernet cable. But once you get three or more computers, it’s best to set up a “client-server” network, where individual client computers are connected to a central server computer that serves data and services (Internet access for example) to the clients on the network. I would suggest you ask a technology consultant to do this for you.
If you are creating a “client-server” networking environment, you’ll need to install a network operating system (NOS) on your server. The NOS will manage users, computers and other devices, and will also centrally manage server-based databases, e-mail, Internet connections, remote access, printing and other server functions. A few vendors are making “turnkey,” all-in-one servers that contain a small computer server (some about the size of a large dictionary) and bundle a network operating system with easy to manage and set up Web hosting, Intranet, corporate e-mail and other services in one box.
A listing of some these integrated servers is given at www.smallbiztechnology.com/smallbizarticles/integratedsmallbizservers.htm.
Networking is an entire industry, and this guide can only give you the briefest introduction to it, so check with a technology consultant before you network or buy networking products. You’ll save lots of time and money. Securing your networking from unauthorized access is very important.
Types of networking
You may choose to use a wired or wireless networking solution for your office. A wireless network—networking via radio waves (no wires are needed between client and server PCs)—gives you the flexibility to move wherever your PC can reach the radio signal. A wireless network may also be a cheaper alternative to a wired network if there is a lot of wiring that you must do, but a wired network may offer more stability and security than a wireless network, and can be cheaper if there’s no major wiring to be done.
You may choose to mix a wireless and wired network: for example, a wired network for most of your office work areas and a wireless network for your conference room and guest areas. Wireless networks come in different flavors or protocols. The most common is a protocol known as 802.11 or WiFi, which provides more than 10 megabytes per second of data transfer. Two other protocols are infrared and Bluetooth. These two protocols are ideal for devices that will be used close together and for low amounts of data.
Wired networks also come in several flavors:
•Traditional Ethernet, consisting of a network card in each PC and network cable.
•Networking via phone lines (special phone-line network adapters in each PC connected via regular phone lines) for home offices.
•Networking via electrical circuitry (special electrical-circuit network adapters are installed in each PC and data flows through a home’s electrical circuitry) for home offices.
Excerpted from the report “Technology and the Growing Small Business” by xynoMedia Development in partnership with SmallBizTechnology.