If you’re relocating to a new office space or a new building—maybe rightsizing to accommodate staff working remotely or expanding operations—you’ll need to plan for your office network buildout. Your computer network is a key piece of infrastructure that supports everything from applications and software to communications.
Below are steps we at Panology take to design your network so that it supports your business as it is now and includes flexibility for future growth while keeping you on budget and getting you up and running as quickly as possible.
1. Business Needs
The first step is to decide what your business needs are for your network. How many workstations, computers, and printers will you have? Will you be using desktops or laptops? Do your employees use tablets or smartphones to connect to your network? What applications do you use? How will you store and share files? Will you want wireless? Do you require a VPN for remote workers?
To have a working network, every device in your company must be connected, configured, and then used in the network. Your technical services provider will determine what hardware is needed based on your network design. Standard hardware includes at least one modem-router, switches, and data cabling. The modem brings signals from your ISP to your router; the router connects your devices to each other and to the local area network (LAN) and creates a firewall to protect your information against security threats. Switches link all devices into the network and allow printers, servers, and computers to connect and communicate with each other.
3. Wired, Wireless, or Hybrid Network?
Determine what kind of network you need by considering the level of security required and your budget. Also consider the physical layout of your space. Ceiling type, air conditioning/heating placement, electrical connections, cabling access, room sizes and shapes, window placement, etc., will determine where cables can be pulled or placed for a wired network or where wireless signals may degrade.
Wired networks are often faster, more secure, and more reliable than wireless networks, but every device requires a cable to be connected to a switch or a router. They can be a hassle to set up, as anyone knows who’s ever pulled cables in ceilings, and can create a tangled mess of cables. (The Germans even have a slang word for this: der Kabelsalat—literally, cable salad.)
Wireless networks have no cables and allow employees to roam freely with their devices, which is convenient and helpful for offices with hot desks or flex and semi-flex workspaces or who have employees who use tablets or smartphones in their jobs. There are two downsides. Wireless signals can be interfered with by other wireless devices and microwaves, and wireless speeds will never meet the rated bandwidth speeds. What your ISP doesn’t tell you is that the advertised capability of the wireless router is from testing in a lab environment, nor a real-world production environment.
Hybrid networks are popular because you get the best aspects of wired and wireless networks: Fast speeds and reliable performance when you need them, high levels of security, and the freedom for staff to move around with their devices.
If you decide to go wireless or hybrid, then there are special considerations to take into account.
4. Wireless Needs
Bandwidth. What type of data do your employees usually work with? Do they make large file uploads, such as video, or is it mostly email and web browsing? Do you require cloud or local data storage? How about video conferencing? If you transfer large files across the network or video conference even a little, you will want a wireless protocol that can handle the load.
Devices. How many devices will connect to the network at any given time? Each device shares the same connection and bandwidth, so the more devices you have, the more bandwidth you need.
Coverage. Most wireless routers and access points spread signal coverage 360 degrees. The coverage makes a circle with the router or access point in the middle of the circle. Keeping routers and access points close to the center of your space is better than under a desk or next to a wall where the signal may be blocked or compromised.
Security. Wireless networks are susceptible to brute-force attacks, so it’s important to use secure alphanumeric/special characters passwords and to change them regularly.
Whether you have an existing IT department or service provider or are doing it yourself, consider talking to our expert team at Panology about your network buildout. We can help you make the right decisions for your network needs, stay on budget, and get up and running as quickly as possible.