Small businesses generally lack support from a corporate IT office. The ideal network for such an organization therefore must be straightforward and easily managed. No two organizations have the same needs, and complications will always arise. One of the guiding principles throughout this chapter will be to follow the simplest approach to achieve the desired results. No matter the size of an organization, it must address the provision of computer support. A small business may have only one person dealing with computer issues-and then often on only a part-time basis. Many organizations hire a consultant to establish their computer environment, and then rely on in-house staff to keep it going. Small Office Computing vs. Enterprise Computing
Small office computing has a character quite different from the computing environments that support large organizations, often called enterprise networks. Enterprise networks may have thousands of users, and involve a complex array of servers, mainframe systems, wide-area network links and the like. An enterprise network may serve multiple geographical locations and multiple buildings at each location. It is not unusual for an enterprise network to include several thousand devices. Such a network relies on a backbone network that channels data among locations and local area networks at each site. An enterprise network includes sophisticated equipment that must be maintained by highly trained network administrators. Smaller organizations have more modest computing and networking requirements. They might have a dozen or so computers and a few laser printers. The network for the small office must allow members of the organization to share information, as well as printers and other peripherals. The computing needs of most small organizations can be met by a single LAN with one or two servers, using off-the-shelf components. Unlike the enterprise network, a small office LAN usually can be managed by one person with only moderate technical knowledge and experience. While the small office network doesn't match the scale of its enterprise cousin, many of the same issues apply to both. The design of a small network must be simple, yet functional, secure and scalable. As the business grows, the network must easily expand with it. Even if the scale of the initial environment is small, avoid making technology decisions that might limit your company as it expands. Before you begin designing your network, have a clear sense of what you need it to accomplish. One prerequisite to network design is a complete assessment of expected functionality. Set aside some time to think about all the tasks you want to automate or make more efficient through your computer network. What business applications do you need to support? Do you simply need to provide shared access to word processing files, or do you have multiuser databases to support? Do you need electronic mail? Web servers? Point-of-sale operations? Will you require Internet access? Once you have considered all the business tasks and functions you expect to implement on the network, write them down and assign priorities to each item. As you begin deploying your plan, you might need to consider which parts you can do now and which can be addressed later. Take care of critical business functions first. Sizing the Network
Have a clear idea of your network's expected size, considering its number of users and their intensity of use. Be sure to plan for future growth by building in lots of extra capacity from the beginning. Calculate what capacity you might need in two or three years. Consider the number of new users as well as dramatic increases in data storage needs per user. Your network should be designed to grow easily with incremental additions of existing technologies. Follow a Standard Approach
It is important that you build your small business network using standard, industry-proven components. As business relationships change, you may need to...
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