How to network your business on a budget

Networking your business on a budget

For many SMBs, having a dedicated IT team or external managed service provider is a luxury that can rarely be afforded.

Yet, virtually every business requires some form of IT infrastructure, whether that involves a few PCs linked via a local area network, or an infrastructure consisting of desktop computers, tablets, printers and servers. This may present a conundrum for an SMB that needs to dedicate budget for growth and not IT.

However, there is a solution: DIY networking. Whereas setting up an IT network may once have been a complicated process of carefully matching components and dealing with a mass of different cables, it is now a much more straightforward process, requiring minimum IT knowledge.

As such, taking a practical approach need not be time consuming, and the money saved and experience gained could be a boon for a company in its early stages of business.

Much of consumer and SMB grade networking hardware is built and configured to the same IEEE standard and features Plug & Play functionality, enabling various products to be mixed and matched. This gives businesses the scope to take a highly tailored approach to DIY networking.

Furthermore advancements in networking technology have presented several tools that can help SMBs get the most flexibility and performance out of their networks without exhausting budgets.

Data on a circuit

Despite the popularity of Wi-Fi connectivity, wired connections still offer the best performance and security when it comes to data transfer. As such, Ethernet cables are often required to be routed across office floors and through partition walls – this is not always the most aesthetic or risk adverse option.

Powerline adapters offer a solution to this problem. By exploiting an office's internal electrical circuitry, these adapters allow data to be piped from a router across electrical wiring to another point, cutting out the need for lengthy Ethernet cables and avoiding trip-hazards.

Power over Ethernet

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a technique that enables the transfer of an electrical current as well as data along an Ethernet cable; this means networking cables can be used to power as well as connect networked devices, such as voice over IP (VoIP) phones and IP cameras.

As a result, PoE can help businesses avoid the cost of routing power sockets to under-supplied parts of an office, and cut down on a mess of extension leads and adapters needed to bring power to numerous devices.

In addition, Ethernet switches with PoE can be configured to manage the flow of power to various Ethernet connected devices, only providing power to devices that need it. This on demand approach to power supply means energy costs can be reduced, as devices are not oversupplied with energy.

Doubling bands

In a building with multiple offices using multiple Wi-Fi routers, some interference in wireless connectivity is likely, as many routers occupy similar frequencies along the standard 2.4GHz band.

Such interference could be severely disrupting for a business where even the slightest amount of downtime can prove to be highly costly – particularly for companies with online-centric business models.

Dual band routers can help bypass these issues, by offering a 5GHz band alongside the traditional 2.4GHz band. With a wider but a shorter frequency range, the 5GHz band is less likely to suffer from interference when in close proximity with other devices that broadcast across wireless frequencies.

The expanded bandwidth of the 5GHz band also helps to improve the reliability and capacity of data transfer – highly beneficial for companies using cloud-hosted services, NAS drives, and RAID set-ups.

These three innovations in networking will enable an SMB to create a flexible and fully functional IT network that can significantly undercut even the cheapest of external IT services.

Taking this DIY approach will help businesses to bypass the need for an internal IT team, meaning resources can be dedicated towards driving growth.