Essential networking tips for small business

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So you’ve seen the light and turned your sluggish PC into a productivity powerhouse with better, faster gear. That’s a great first step. But putting together a state-of-the-art PC workstation without having a fast, reliable network to help it run at its best is like leaving your souped-up new ride on blocks in your garage.

Check out the tips below for ways to upgrade your network and storage, and take your productivity to the next level.

Embrace the flexibility of wireless

Though its speed and reliability make ethernet a must-have for optimal PC performance, Wi-Fi has its place, too. Without it, you’d never enjoy the work-anywhere flexibility of your laptop or mobile devices.

Like other dual-band routers, this Linksys EA6200 lets you use the 2.4GHz band for most data and the less-crowded 5GHz band for heavier loads such as streaming.

Instead of choosing a run-of-the-mill router, go for something with a little more oomph. A simultaneous dual-band router offers twice the bandwidth—2.4GHz and 5GHz—essentially giving you two independent networks. Connect frequently used devices such as your smartphone or tablet to the 2.4GHz band, and reserve the less crowded 5GHz band for high-quality voice and video streaming.

In addition, if your router offers either a guest mode or a second SSID, you can provide a wireless network for people who are visiting you. Setting a simple, memorable password can save you from having to repeat your 20-character passphrase for the umpteenth time.

Streamline your network

A cutting-edge router isn’t worth much if the ethernet switch that links all your networked devices isn’t equal to the job. Make sure the switching capacity offers adequate bandwidth. As a general guide, an eight-port gigabit ethernet switch should have 16 gigabits per second of switching capacity (8 ports x 1 gbps x 2 bands) for full duplex. Anything less than 18 gbps would render the switch incapable of operating at full capacity on all ports simultaneously.

On a good router switch, you should be able to find the switching capacity listed in the device’s specifications. However, many lower-end switches omit this information, which is why picking up a cheap one from the discount section is a bad idea. Similarly, chaining multiple small network switches to work in tandem is a recipe for hard-to-diagnose problems and performance bottlenecks. Instead, look for a single switch that has enough network ports to meet your needs.

Double down on Internet access

Your Internet connection is crucial for communicating with clients and customers and for accessing your company’s website. Unfortunately, if your ISP goes down—for any reason—so does your business. To reduce the risk of suffering downtime, sign up with two different Internet providers.

A multi-WAN router like the Peplink Balance lets you manage your primary ISP and your backup ISP from one device.

Dual Internet access doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. One strategy is to sign up for a lower-tier plan, and apply the resulting savings to a second provider. If the technological challenge of managing multiple Internet connections seems daunting, consider investing in an easy-to-use multi-WAN router such as the Peplink Balance.

Create your own cloud

Cloud storage is a great way to access frequently used spreadsheets and presentations, but it’s not optimal for storing large video files or data backups. And trying to rebuild a PC or server from backups stored in the cloud can be a trying experience, to say the least.

Network-attached storage (NAS) offers a more flexible approach. The perfect small-business replacement for the cumbersome file servers of yesteryear, a typical NAS—such as Synology’s DS413j—can accommodate two to eight hard drives. For even speedier file access, get a NAS equipped with dual-gigabit ethernet ports and link aggregation support.

Network-attached devices like the Synology DS413j provide spacious and flexible onsite storage.

Automate for peace of mind

An automated temperature sensor like this one from Ubiquiti can monitor your equipment's environment while you're away.

When you’re out of town, you don’t want to worry about what’s going on back at your office. Introducing a little automation—such as installing a switch to power off your multiple-monitor rig automatically at the end of the workday or adding a smart device to prevent your server from overheating—can go a long way toward easing your mind.

For the former, you can combine three components from Ubiquiti: an mPower power strip and an mPort controller with a Wall Mount Motion Sensor. For the latter, grab Ubiquiti’s Temperature Sensor.

You can soup up your system with everything under the sun, but it won’t get you far without a strong, capable network. Build out your office with good storage and fast, versatile networking equipment, and you’ll be well equipped for the everyday and the unexpected.

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