Now, more than ever, your network infrastructure plays a vital role in driving your business forward. It connects computers, smartphones, and other devices such as printers, allowing easy and efficient data access, resource sharing and collaboration, and communication among your team and with your clients.
Proper planning and deployment of your network infrastructure is key to increasing your business’s efficiency, and it all starts with choosing the right equipment for your networking needs. Here’s a checklist of the equipment you need for a reliable and functional office network:
☐ Ethernet cabling
Ethernet cables are the most common network cables in wired networks. They connect the devices, such as PCs, routers, and switches, within a local area network (LAN). In most modern networks, Category (Cat) 5 and 6 cables are used. Cat 6 cables can support bandwidths of up to 250 megahertz (MHz) and comply with the latest performance standards set by the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).
Ethernet cables are available in various lengths and with different jacket colors so you can color code the devices in your network (blue for PCs, red for servers, etc.), especially if there’s a lot of them. You can also choose between solid or stranded Ethernet cables. Although they’re prone to cracks and breaks, solid Ethernet cables offer better protection against electrical interference than stranded Ethernet cables, ensuring stable data transmission within your network.
A modem is a device that bridges communication between your internet service provider (ISP) and the devices in a network. It translates the signals from your ISP into an internet connection, giving connected PCs, smartphones, and other devices access to the web.
Broadband or high-speed modems use advanced signaling techniques to achieve high network speeds. They support both Ethernet and USB network connections. Of the two, Ethernet is preferred for connecting a broadband modem, since Ethernet cables are more reliable for networking, can reach longer distances, and do not require device driver software to be installed.
☐ Routers and switches
A router connects devices within your network and manages traffic between them. It does this by forwarding data packets between devices or from devices to the internet. If you have a modem, a router may not be necessary, as you can easily hook up PCs to a modem and connect to the internet. But connecting your modem to a router — whether wired, wireless, or combination wired/wireless — gives multiple devices internet access. What’s more, a router increases security for systems on your network with its built-in firewall and advanced security features like web filtering.
A switch, on the other hand, filters and forwards data packets to devices within a single LAN, particularly one with many users. A large network may contain several switches that connect various systems. While a switch is similar to a router, it can only be used for communication within the same network, but a router can forward packets between two or more different networks.
☐ Patch panels
Also known as patch bays, patch fields, or jack fields, patch panels consist of a set number of ports for connecting and managing incoming and outgoing network cables. In a LAN, they connect computers to one another and to outside lines, enabling the LAN to connect to the internet. These connections are made with patch cords.
Patch panels make it easy to organize and manage the mass of cables in wiring closets or server rooms. With patch panels, you can centralize cables in a single location and you can also label them so that troubleshooting issues with your network is much easier. Patch cables also offer you more flexibility, as they eliminate the need to re-run cables if you need to make changes to your network infrastructure.
☐ Wireless access point (WAP)
Though not necessary, a WAP is a piece of equipment that’s nice to have in your office network. It allows Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network by transmitting and receiving wireless radio signals. In business networks, a WAP is used to accommodate mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, which are increasingly used in the modern workplace. A WAP can stand alone or be incorporated into a wired router.
While it’s possible to set up your new business network yourself, partnering with a managed IT services provider like Nye Technical Services (NTS) will ensure that it gets done right the first time. NTS is Pennsylvania’s trusted network design, implementation, and support partner, helping small- and medium-sized businesses get the infrastructure that suits their needs. Call us today to see how we can work together.
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