What you need to know when setting up a LAN

A LAN can expand the capabilities and benefits of your small business.

It’s a technology you already use but probably don’t fully understand. We’re talking about a local area network (or LAN). Got a computer and laptop hooked up to a printer at home? Congrats! You have yourself a local area network. Simply put, a LAN is just a group of computers and devices in the same location that are connected to each other.

If you have a small business, a LAN allows you to perform a host of business-related tasks including:

  • Communicating with other computers in the office
  • Sharing resources, such as printers, scanners and storage devices
  • Email
  • Accessing the Internet
  • Video conferencing
  • File sharing
  • Instant messaging
  • Backup and storage of information on a network attached storage (NAS) device or through the Web

Components of a Network

A network consists of two or more computers, an Internet connection and basic networking equipment, such as a router, and peripherals (i.e., keyboard and mouse).

Internet Connectivity: The Internet is the lifeblood of most businesses. A company can purchase Internet service from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for a monthly fee. The ISP can assist the business in determining what speed options are appropriate for the company. Bandwidth is typically determined by how many users and devices will be part of the network, along with the tasks for which employees will utilize the Internet. When the Internet service has been installed at the business location, the user can connect to the Internet using a computer or computer network.

Router: A router is required to connect multiple computers and assigns individual IP addresses for each device. Many ISPs provide a basic router as part of their installation. Business-grade routers are designed with advanced features for extra security such as a firewall, anti-spam, anti-virus and wireless options. These offer more control over customization. This type of router also enables the setup of a virtual private network (VPN), which allows the company’s employees to connect to the network if away from the office. If the ISP doesn’t provide a router, there are several designed for small businesses or home offices that have special software, which will guide the user through the setup—further simplifying the process of establishing a network. A typical router has several ports to connect multiple computers or other devices and allows the user to share the Internet connection across those devices.

Cabling: An Ethernet or fiber optic cable is needed to connect your router to the computer or to connect multiple computers. Which option is best for you depends on your budget and your bandwidth and security needs. Fiber is more pricey, but generally offers faster speeds, and since it carries data through light instead of electrical signals (as Ethernet does), it’s less vulnerable to interference or being intercepted. Ethernet is getting faster, with Category 6 (CAT6) cables that can support transfer rates up to 10Gbps, but it has limitations with regard to distance.

Once a business has set up the equipment and the network components, a user can manage his or her network through the computer’s operating system (OS), such as Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS. Most operating systems have built-in functionality for managing a small network, allowing the business to add users, files and folders, and enable printer-sharing options. If the laptop or desktop is relatively up to date, then it should be fairly straightforward to complete the network set up.

If you’re ready to set up an LAN or are in need of a reliable Internet connection, Astound Business can offer you a wide range of services to ensure you have the right equipment in place to support all of your networking needs.