When you’re setting up in business it can be difficult to work out the level of IT you require.
For some people, the most basic set up will suffice – for others, a complex network will be necessary from day one. Wherever you are on this spectrum of possibilities – making a mistake will almost certainly cost your business money.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through what a network can do – and pose some questions that will help you find an IT solution that’s exactly right for your business.
What does a network offer?
At its core, the purpose of a network is to connect all your IT devices to one another and to a business level internet connection. When connecting devices, it’s also vital that the appropriate security measures are in place to keep your business safe.
Above and beyond these core functions, a network will offer a series of additional benefits, including:
Allowing you to keep your business data in a networked location – rather than on local computers. When data is held centrally, it makes it easier for multiple people to access and amend, making for easier collaboration between teams.
It’s highly likely that you’ll have applications that form the backbone of your company’s IT structure – for instance, customer service software and databases, accounting or booking keeping systems – and so forth. Again, centralising these applications means they can be accessed when and where required – and changes occur simultaneously for all users.
Out of office working
If you’ve got people who need to access your information when they’re away from the office, a network means remote access can be done safely – with the same level of security and protection that the system would offer an office-based team member.
When your devices are networked it means anyone you wish can access devices on that network – for instance, centralised printers and other network accessories can be used by all.
While networking all your IT equipment might sound appealing – it doesn’t mean you have to throw your electronic doors open to everyone who logs on. In fact, you shouldn’t – the law stipulates that sensitive data should only be accessed by people who require that data as part of their role – hence, a network will allow you to offer individual access rights for users, meaning even networked data is kept in line with data protection requirements.
Does networking look useful?
Looking over that list should give you an initial feeling about whether or not a network would be useful for your business. Do you teams work on projects together? Would it be safer to keep your data in one backed up location – rather than trusting a number of individuals to keep it safe?
Even if the features look appealing – the idea of networking costs often won’t – but recent changes to the way that networking is paid for might change that…
How much will it cost?
Servers, infrastructure, installation, training – they’re all things that can potentially cost when you’re installing an IT network in your business – and they can be the things that put people off doing so.
Did we mention that you’re probably going to require dedicated IT staff too?
Networking can be expensive – but the big networking tech companies are offering businesses a way around it – and in doing so, you can pay a lot less for your networking now than you would have done 10 years ago.The reason? ‘Networking as a service’.
What is ‘as a service’?
The concept of ‘as a service’ isn’t a new one, in fact, we use it across our lives when the technical infrastructure of the things we use is out of our reach.
Companies who provide networking resources recognise that the costs to entry with IT networks can be hugely preventative for small businesses – so rather than expecting you to buy the equipment, they’ll let you use theirs – for a fraction of the initial cost.
‘As a service’ networking is paid for on a subscription basis, meaning you pay for what you need and nothing more. This allows for efficient scaling up and down of your IT requirements as your business develops.
What can you buy ‘as a service’?
Advances in cloud computing technologies and speeds now means a huge range of networking essentials are now available on a subscription ‘pay as your use’ basis. Software, development platforms and even networking hardware can be accessed remotely – and by doing so, you remove all of the security and maintenance issues you’d have if they were on your site.
Using ‘as a service’ infrastructure is an incredible boost to cashflow too – not only are you saving money when compared to a large initial outlay, you’ll never have to upgrade or update your outsourced networking infrastructure either – since everyone’s accessing small portions of the same service, the provider will always make sure you’re working from the latest systems.
Finding the right connection
There’s a vital part of your network that we’ve not yet touched upon – but you won’t be able to access any ‘as a service’ elements of your network without it – your internet connection.
Once again, depending on your business requirements, there are a host of possible connection types.
As an entry point, looking at bonded lines or fibre connections offer you cost effective ways to get your network online – but if speed and performance are of the essence, you should consider a higher specification connection, such as MPLS.
A word of warning though, MPLS connections are much more costly than the alternatives – and there’s more to consider technically, so it’s important that you take the time to compare the best MPLS providers before making a final decision.
Who’ll support your network?
At the beginnings of your journey into IT networks, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to employ an in-house IT team to keep things moving smoothly – so considering a managed IT network provider can be a good, money saving option.
An experienced provider will be able to offer you a direct line to dedicated member of staff who understands your business and your IT system – allowing you all the reassurance of having an experiencing team in-house – but for a fraction of the price.