A Smart Way To Build A Small Or Home Workplace Computer Network

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Published: 18th April 2013
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Having all of your PCs hooked up in your small or home office is often easy, inexpensive, and effective. But before you decide to speak to your IT person to help you out here are what you want to take into account to help provide him or her some direction.

Cabled or Cable-free

Ten years ago, possibly even five, we may have suggested wiring the office up: threading 'Cat5' or 'Cat6' cables through the walls. Not so today. With the latest Wireless-N Wi-Fi devices giving excellent speed and coverage for a larger area you might like to save the price tag as well as effort of cabling. For general web browsing, email, copying of files, and working in your regular business software, you should not have any reason to question wireless network performance. When your small office isn't so small after all, wi-fi repeaters and boosters can be purchased and tend to be relatively inexpensive at less than $100.

Situations you may choose to stay hard wired occurs when:

  • Your workplace is presently cabled up, and all you have to do is plug in a network switch, or

  • You work on very large documents and need to copy these around regularly: for example large raw photos from digital cameras, videos, and large databases, or

  • Your IT guy has issues regarding Wi-Fi stability or another technical limitations. Be aware: IT people could be very busy and so in the event they are proposing something in all probability it means they are seeking to save more work and complications for yourself and themselves later on.

Data Storage Devices

A 'NAS' or 'Network Attached Storage' a very good idea for keeping files in a central location. A NAS is a compact device, attached to the computer network, that contains hard disks inside; at the very least 1, yet commonly 2 if not more: generating redundancy in the event that one disk stops working. Should you have a server (say for example a Microsoft Small Business Server) you could possibly already have 'shared drives' set up, which you can think of the equal to a NAS. Otherwise, you can purchase a NAS for two hundred dollars, along with a hundred or two more for a couple of large disks, and store everybody's data files in a central spot. All NASs feature various security options to limit staff to just the folders they need to operate in.

We suggest a NAS over saving information on personal computers and laptops. They let employees to share files much more easily, makes sure that there is a 'master' copy of any one file centrally stored, and makes backups super easy. They are worth the investment.


Ink jet and laser printers these days often have wi-fi functionality, giving you convenience to place them anywhere in the office where you can find a power socket. Although you may have no need for a wireless printing device we would recommend at the least getting a network enabled device (also called an 'IP Printer' or a printer with a '10/100 interface'). A network enabled printer permits you to plug it in to one of those blue network cords directly, avoiding the need to connect it with a powered-on computer for staff to print.

Small and home workplaces can get away with a single multi-function centre (MFC) printerthat does printing, scanning, copying, and faxing. Just be certain you purchase a reputable brand name and, when possible, get it serviced regularly. It is painful when the printer starts failing and there isn't any other device in the office for staff to print to.

In addition check out the 'duty cycle' cited in the product brochures, which states the highest suggested number of pages to print a month. Realistically you should divide by three or four to obtain the 'actual' duty cycle: manufactures are unfortunately very confident on how much load their printers can handle!


Internet telephony (often known as 'VoIP') is growing in popularity owing to more affordable solutions, inexpensive telephone calls, and far better internet connections from your workplace to your service provider. If you have a good internet connection, plus your internet or VoIP supplier is willing to guarantee that for telephony applications, you may want to contemplate going for a VoIP system as opposed to the standard PBX.

VoIP will save you a great deal on phone call expenses, and provide you with increased versatility for example being able to hook up a head set to a computer avoiding the need for a separate telephone handset. There are cordless phones that are VoIP enabled as well. For most small offices VoIP may also remove the need to speak to a specialised phone technician, because so many IT people have ample knowledge to set up a VoIP system on their own.

You need to be aware of the constraints with VoIP before you jump in:

  • If your internet connection is not that quick, or maybe you have minimal bandwidth or data allowanace, you may find it hard to sustain call quality

  • Setting up VoIP phones demands a dose of specialized know-how, and not anywhere close to easy as just plugging a cord to a wall when you wish to relocate handsets around the office

  • If internet goes down, or electricity, so will your phone system. Maybe you still want one or two analogue phone lines (also known as 'PSTN' or 'POTS' lines), or mobile phones, for this kind of downtime, as well as making emergency calls.

Centralized Point Of Command

Finally, have all the devices connected in one place: your internet modems, phone system, server computers, NAS, etc. If you have a small room, or closet, or maybe even a spare desk that is ideal. Having all the gear in one location makes it much easier to hook up everything up and diagnose faults when they develop.

Configuring your computer network for the small office requires a little planning yet is vital in today's connected world. You just do not want to be messing about when furniture and computer systems are in, and people have work to do. Devote time (and perhaps a little expense) now, to help you save a lot in redesigning it later on.

For more tips take a look at these small workplace organization tips to help make your small or home office more productive.

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