Networking for SMBs: 10 Things You MUST Have to Compete

Networking for SMBs: 10 Things You MUST Have to Compete

A Trusted Network Advisor

Too many small companies believe they can build their network access themselves. Helping you avoid the mistakes made by other companies in your situation may be the single most valuable service offered by your trusted network access advisor. You know your issues better than anyone, but an outside expert knows how other companies have solved similar network access problems. 


Some consultants specialize in fixing do-it-yourself networks full of ready-to-purchase components. Don't be the next company that calls one of those network access consultants.


Trusted network access advisors are everywhere, but they are hard to find. Local network access resellers sometimes offer comprehensive services, but many focus on selling a short list of products and mash your problems onto their products whether they fit or not. National resellers often have trained staff to help small companies pick the right products and services for their needs from the many offerings available. Larger local resellers often have the overview needed to guide your company to the right tools for your situation.

How do you know when you've found a trusted network access advisor? When they ask questions, they listen to your answers and respond with a range of options to satisfy your needs. They will understand and work with your budget constraints. They will explain the components and services of network access they suggest until you understand how those will benefit your business. And they will keep you looking forward to your network access doesn't hit a brick wall.

Your trusted network access advisor may be an individual consultant who coordinates services from diverse network access vendors to solve your problems. And you may need two or more network access advisors, depending on how wide-ranging your information network access service needs.
You don't do your own taxes, roofing, plumbing, legal contracts, or automobile repair. Why try to build your own information services system, when mistakes mean your company can't function in the modern business world?

A Solid Physical Foundation

Just as your kitchen relies on a solid foundation with reliable electrical, gas, water, and drain support, a modern network needs reliable physical components. Electrical power capacity and outlets must be available to support your devices. 


Network connections for hard-wired devices must be available and able to support high-speed data transfers. Wireless network access devices must be secure and provide the throughput necessary for unfettered data access. Check out the Networking Market Primer for a detailed list of the physical building blocks for modern network access, along with a glossary and a list of network access vendors.
When you rent, lease, or purchase office space, demand the physical network access infrastructure in the space be certified to handle modern networking needs. You'll never have more leverage than you do before you sign the lease agreement or purchase contract, so put network infrastructure on your "must-have" list for space. Paying for a network access infrastructure audit will certainly cost less than just hoping the plugs in the wall connect to something somewhere.


Wiring contractors can handle networking, telephone, surveillance camera, network access security, and environmental wiring and connections. When you need to add or adjust your physical foundation, build in more capacity and plan for the future. And make sure battery backup systems for your network access digital devices are rated for the load you require. 


Better yet, you can be on the lookout for office spaces that have already taken all of these network access requirements into account and already come equipped with all the networking requirements for a modern network access business. 

 

Reliable Internet Access

Some businesses don’t need Internet access, believe it or not, but your business is not one of them. Every modern business that communicates quickly with customers and suppliers needs Internet access, and that access needs to be reliable. You must talk to an ISP (Internet Service Provider) or NSP (Network Service Provider).


The more services you need, and the more users connecting regularly to the Internet, the more bandwidth you need to support them. Ask suppliers for their SLA (Service Level Agreement) that specifies the percentage of time they guarantee you will have network access, and how they reimburse you if they fall below those percentages.


Routers with dual-WAN options that support two broadband providers offer an inexpensive way to build Internet network access redundancy. Each office will need its Internet network access service, and offices linked together can share resources.

Security

Once your company connects to the Internet, you can reach the world. Unfortunately, the world can also reach you. A solid network access security plan is necessary for all connected businesses, and the time to organize network access security is before you get connected.


Network access security must be enabled at the entry point to your network, meaning your router. Smaller businesses tend to buy "all-in-one" router network access security packages that include a firewall, NAT (Network Address Translation), spam filtering, and more. Larger companies with more volume tend toward separate network access devices to handle specific security functions, but that raises the cost and complexity.


Each intelligent device on your network needs protection against spam, viruses, and browser-based attacks. Security network access client software ranges in price depending on how comprehensive and manageable the security utility is. Companies that believe they are too small to be targeted are wrong, and a lack of network access security will lead to serious issues in a short time.

Email

Every modern business needs email, but not necessarily an email server. Small companies save money and management time by outsourcing email to any of the thousands of hosted email providers available. Google provides an excellent email service as part of their Google Apps suite, and even Microsoft now offers hosted Exchange services for a few dollars per user per month.

What are the benefits of using a hosted email service? They handle security and spam. Insecure email servers, many in small businesses, are hijacked and used to send spam. Hosted services stop that. They also stop the vast majority of your portion of the trillions (with a T) of spam messages sent each year.

Secure Shared Data

Letting users store and manage their data files leads to lost files that aren't backed up, can't be found when needed, and are invisible to other users. Every business will benefit from some type of shared file storage.


NAS (Network Attached Storage) units offer enormous amounts of storage space. Each unit will provide a place for private files per user and public files for all to share. They make backing up those files easier and can also segregate network access files by user groups for network access security purposes. Some network access files are only meant for small groups of authorized employees, and a secure shared storage device makes that possible.


The next step up from a NAS is a file server, usually based on Microsoft Windows. The separation and network access security features are upgraded, as is the price and management complexity.


A few small companies, especially those geographically dispersed, store, secure, and share all their files through online services. These make collaboration easier, and remote user network access security is handled by the service, not the company, providing peace of mind for a few dollars per user per month.

Reliable Backup System

Data files must be protected from damage and disasters through a reliable backup system. If you lose your data files, you lose your company.


The network access system must automatically back up files without user involvement and reliably restore those files when needed (run regular tests). Files must be stored offsite to protect against disasters large (hurricanes) and small (sprinkler system malfunction). Companies that lose all their network access data files rarely last more than a few months after the loss.


Hundreds of online network access backup services provide gigabytes of storage for a few dollars per month. The old "backup is a lot of bother" excuse no longer works, and neither does your company when you lose all your data.

User Access Controls

Yes, a small business is a family of sorts, but families have secrets and so should your company. Restricting network access to data files, resources, and communication services reduces risk and is a requirement in all regulated data situations. If your company takes credit cards, for example, your regular audit will demand to know who has network access to those card numbers, and how you block network access to other employees.


The securely shared data requirement above makes this possible for data files. Other sources, like network access to non-business Internet sites, requires configuring the router and security tools properly. You will almost certainly need outside to lock down Internet network access controls.

 

Access Whenever Necessary

Even the smallest business has two locations: the office and the owner's home. Data provides value only when users can use that data, and that may mean from a branch office, a home office, or random hotel rooms.


Routers can accept connections from remote computers or other routers using VPN (Virtual Private Networking) technology. Microsoft clients can make use of Remote Desktop Services to access other computers. 


Nowadays, most business-related software comes with cloud suites to make data accessible from anywhere with an internet network access connection. You may want to consider cloud support offered by any network access software vendors to ensure that your data can be mobile. 

Voice Services

Although not normally considered a network service, voice now uses the same data networks and products as your computer files. Smaller companies particularly have adopted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as a cost-effective phone technology that provides more features for less money than traditional small business key systems.


However, the worlds of telephone and computer resellers don't overlap enough yet. You may well need to rely on your trusted network access advisor to recommend a specialist in modern telephony and to coordinate the intersection of the two disciplines.

That said, when your phones don't work, you don't. Investing in a modern phone system will keep your phones, and your customers, active.