The network you didn’t know you had!

server room

For many, the age of complex IT, with air-conditioned server rooms packed full of racks with servers, switches, patch panels, and row upon row of blinking lights, is thankfully a thing of the past. We are now in the age of cloud computing where most of this kit has been made redundant by the provision of cloud services such as Microsoft’s Office365 and Azure.

However, most offices still rely on some form of network, even if it is wireless, so that users can connect to the internet and their Office services.

So, it may come as a surprise, but often the backbone of this network is the ‘free’ router supplied by the current internet provider.  Basically, this router provides a connection for every device that needs to see the internet – this could be laptops and desktops, but it also includes printers, phones, tablets, and ‘smart’ devices.

For small offices, it is not uncommon to find 10, 20, 30, or more devices all connecting to these low-cost units which often present a performance bottleneck as well as a security risk.

home router

The problem is that while these work fine in a home environment, as the demand for connections grows, so does the contention for performance. Most small routers have no way of prioritising network traffic so guest WiFi users are given just as much importance as the sales team or the managing director.  Additionally, there is no segregation of the network so Internal staff are effectively on the same channel as external users which has all sorts of security implications.

Often, the first time a business discovers the weakness of their network is when it introduces a card payment machine and the service provider insists on a security compliance audit.

professional grade router

Fortunately, the solution for most offices is usually quite simple.  The supplied router gets replaced by a professional-grade unit which is then configured with separate channels called ‘VLAN’s, grouping appropriate users together.  Depending on requirements, it may be necessary to introduce a firewall gateway and to reconfigure the WiFi so that external users such as guests or staff phones are kept apart from the main office network.

Setting up and configuring these networks is not a job for the DIY enthusiast.  Good network engineers require a wealth of technical expertise and experience to deliver a high performing yet secure system.  If multiple units are required such as WiFi access points, gateways, and distribution switches, it is important to consider how this network will be managed and maintained.  The cheapest option is the ‘set it and forget it’ approach which is fine until something goes wrong.  The business is then faced with either getting the original engineer back to fix it or pay a new engineer to discover, diagnose, and trace the fault.  A managed service on the other hand will have the configuration fully documented and will usually include an element of remote monitoring so that faults can easily be detected before they become a problem.

Even though most small businesses are completely dependent on their computers and IT, they often overlook the importance of having it maintained or regularly reviewed.  At PC-FIXED we like to change that by offering a range of options designed to help businesses stay online and grow, with tailored solutions to match every budget. Why not start today by calling us to arrange a free discovery meeting free of obligation or pressure?

Credit: Pc-Fixed

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