So you are growing steadily and you think you have a need for a Small Business Network, but you are unsure where to begin. The purpose of this article is to give you a general idea of what kind of questions to ask yourself and what you will need to get started. This information is centric around Microsoft Enterprise solutions but could also be targeted to Linux backend environments. And in the interest of keeping things as simple as possible, much of the technical detail will be absent. You can safely assume that every topic addressed in this article has varying technical detail and difficulty behind it. If you have more questions or an interest in starting your own Small Business Network, feel free to contact us directly and we will be happy to assist you!
First and foremost, are you going to be hosting your own email onsite? This is an important question since email infrastructure can still be cumbersome to set up if you are unfamiliar with the steps. For the purpose of this article, we will assume you have an email provider that you can already access via a web browser or an email client. You can add email onsite or hybrid hosting at a later date anyhow and is not necessary to get things going if you do not require that email infrastructure.
The main purpose of a Small Business growing enough to build a Small Business Network is to easily and securely share information with a team. Although this isn't the only reason, this seems to be a primary driver of maintaining your own network.
It is true that you can do some simple file sharing with a small network similar to setting something up at home, however you lose some granular control over access security to those files. If file access security, identity management or file integrity monitoring is not a concern of yours, then modelling your network off of a home network should fit your needs. You just need a router* (wired or wireless), connect everyone through that device and you are off to the races! After a few minutes of being connected to the router, the devices should start recognizing each other.
* - Router: A networking device that can 'route' network traffic from one type of network to another, eg. Wireless Ethernet to Wired Ethernet or Ethernet to Cable/DSL Internet. A Switch is similar, but it does not route one type of network to another, it manages different connections of the same network type.
So, now what? A home setup won't work and you need to get going. Here is what you are going to need:
+ Internet Modem - to connect to the Internet.
+ Router - to route traffic from your internal network to the modem.
+ Wireless Router - to route wireless traffic to your wired network.
+ Patch Panel - this is the panel which combines all the wired Ethernet cables from your offices
into one place so you can then bridge them to the switch.
+ Network Switch - to manage network traffic between devices.
+ Domain Controller/Identity Control Server/File Server - to host your Enterprise services such as
identity management, DNS, DHCP, Printer Management, etc. and file sharing.
+ Backup System - to backup your data. This could be tape backup, backup to an external hard
drive or backup to the cloud.
+ File Server - if you want your files to be hosted on a different server than your Domain Controller.
This is optional however it is recommended.
You will want to set up your Domain Controller first. One of the basic things you need to know when you get started is the name of your internal Domain. This should not be the same name as your website address or email address, for example, itcs4u.com. It can, however, be just about anything else you want, but with .local as the suffix, for example itcs4u.local. This distinguishes it as an internal network and is used as a standard naming convention among corporations. It is highly recommended that you only use .local for your domain suffix, using a .com, .net or other public facing suffixes will cause problems with your DNS.
Once the Domain Controller is set up, go ahead and start getting everything else configured for your network. If you are familiar with setting up your home network, this process is nearly identical. The Internet Modem is connected to the internet via cable or DSL. Your router will connect to your modem and also to your network switch. In some cases, you can connect your modem directly to your switch without the router in between. You will also connect your wireless Ethernet device to the switch as well. The patch panel may be unfamiliar to you if you do not have a home network wired in every room at your residence. The function of the panel is to allow the bridging of that wiring to the network switch.
At a very basic level, you are now off and running! There are many things that still need to be done, such as setting up DHCP, DNS, adding computers to the Domain, etc. etc. however that is outside the scope of this article. If you are looking for further information, feel free to contact us here.
Jimmy Andrews has been working with computers for nearly 30 years, semi-professionally for over 20 years and professionally for over 15. His experience ranges up and down the IT scale, from the grunt work of fixing and installing PCs, to managing and administering hundreds of servers and Enterprise technologies, up to the Business side of IT where decisions are made at a 50,000 foot level.