Tuesday

Planning An Office Network

computer networkAn office network is essential for any business that wishes to act in the modern commercial world. It enables employees to work together on projects from their own workstations, and allows a central place to store all files and to print from (a file-print server). For any network to perform at it's peak function, there is a lot of prerequisites that need to be met before installing and using the network.

The most important prerequisite is for the networking requirements to be determined. Questions that need to be answered include:

* how many computers (i.e. people) will be using the network?
* is there any remote access requirements (vpn)?
* what servers and other network attached devices are required?
* who will manage and maintain the network?
* are their specialised requirements for different departments?
* how is the connection to the internet to be maintained?
* is there a requirement for servers facing the internet - mail server, web server, etc?


Some estimation for the growth of the business needs to be included in the design as it's cheaper to add in the extra requirements during the initial build rather than tacking it on later.

Once all of these questions have been answered then the network can be designed and a shopping list can be prepared. While there are several good quality network providers, most companies choose Cisco products for their networks. There are several advantages to using Cisco:

* Cisco has very good support programmes, and can provide support 24x7 if required.
* Many computer professionals have the basic Cisco qualification - CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), and more these days have higher qualifications from Cisco - CCNP or CCIE. This makes it easy to hire new staff if needed to support the network from day 1.
* While Cisco is not the cheapest, over the longer term their equipment tends to perform better than other cheaper brands.
* Cisco produces network components for all aspects of the network - firewall, routers, switches, VOIP, etc.

It is advisable, when the new network is ready for installation, to install it in stages to eliminate outages to other aspects of the business. This assumes that there is an existing network that is being replaced, but is still a good idea when a new office is being set up. This will allow proper testing of each section of the network before the whole thing is installed.

While installing and running an office network is not a task for someone without good computer skills, it is quite possible for someone with a good understanding of computers, as well as a good understanding of the office's requirements to be able to perform this task themselves. There are many accountants, lawyers, secretaries, and other office workers who look after their company's network.

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