Choosing the right networking solution should start with a thorough analysis of your business needs. After you have determined the type and size of your desired network, you can look for the solution that meets your requirements and fits your budget.

Computer networks are formed whenever two or more computers are linked together and can communicate with each other. The most common high-level business networking is called client-server, where a large number of client computers can communicate with each other and share data and applications using services that run on a central server.

With the growth of the Internet, networking has changed to adopt standards such as the TCP/IP protocol, URLs, and WiFi. Taking these principles into account, you can start defining your basic network requirements. Answer the following questions:

• How many concurrent users must the system support?
• How many client computers will be supported?
• How many servers are required?
• Will the servers be used to host websites?
• What applications will be run on the servers?
• What operating system or other software is required for the servers?
• Will the network be wired or wireless or both?
• What type of security and authentication is required?

Sizing your network

Establishing the size for your network is critical before you make a purchase decision. In some cases, a small office with only a handful of users could use a home network. These usually consist of a desktop computer and a wireless router. Other users can connect through the wireless network and used shared resources on the desktop such as printers, storage, etc.

Most businesses need a more robust network, however. For more than 5 users, consider the needs for server hardware and software, and whether you will be running websites on the servers.

Supporting shared applications and data

If your network is designed to host shared applications and data, you will need to meet a specific set of requirements. Make sure you have a clear idea from your application vendor of what type of network capability is needed. Applications also have operating system requirements, so make sure your OS and server specifications are correct.

Network security and wireless capability

You may have a need for enhanced security based on your business, so make sure your network is equipped with the right level of password security, encryption, or other method of protecting data that travels over your network. If you need wireless capability, your network should have the most secure wireless protection you can afford, to prevent hacking or data loss at the network level.

Knowing the specific requirements for your network will help you choose the best solution that fits your particular budget.

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