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Installation and Implementation of Networks and Equipment

 

Choosing an installer

When choosing and working with an IT installer, there are a few things to keep in mind;

Ask questions. When evaluating your options, ask a lot of questions. Get a sense for what kinds of networks they usually install, as you'll want to find consultants who usually work with businesses similar to yours to best leverage their expertise. Describe your needs and ask them for hardware and software recommendations.

Listen well. But also pay attention to the type of questions they ask you. A good consultant will want to get a sense for the applications that run on your computers, your networking needs, as well as your future growth projections.

Be wary of any who seem eager to sell a particular type of network, particularly if they cannot clearly explain why it is better suited for you than competing systems.

Compare prices. Then compare the prices they quote. This is not to say that the lowest bid is the one you should choose. Pricing is driven by a number of factors, with differences in service and support often mattering much more than equipment and software markups.

Check references. You'll also want to get references from your consultant or VAR to find out about past performance. And don't just get the numbers - actually call them. Your business will depend on your network; you want to make sure you're dealing with someone you can depend on.

Installing equipment and networks

If you need to set up or maintain a computer network and can't afford to hire full-time tech support, what you need is a consultant. A consultant can buy your equipment, install your network, troubleshoot on an ongoing basis or train one of your employees to eventually take over -- while saving you a lot of time and bother.

You should seek a consultant particularly if:

  •   you want to network more than five or so stations
  •   you need to connect computers on different floors or buildings
  • you want to connect different networks or computers

IMPLEMENTING A NETWORK

If you have decided to implement a network in your workplace for the first time or would like to try something new but aren't exactly sure what to do? Well, here are a few steps you can follow as a guideline to ensure you know exactly what you're looking for and make the right decisions for your business.

  • How many users/employees?
  • Locations of your users? (all in same office or state)
  • Select types of software to be used (windows environment, security and accounting software)
  • Purchase of the server, modem, switches and firewall hardware
  • Loading of software, set up of hardware and configuring all to work together
  • Set of user access and security permission levels
  • Email configuration and Back up of data
  • Support and maintenance structure

1 - How many users/employees?

You need to designate the number of users your network will cater for to determine the number of licenses, capacity of the storage on the server, the speed of the server and the devices and the number of connections to all hardware that you will need.

2- Locations of your users? (All in same office or state)

Selecting the location of your network (and acknowledging if there are multiple sites) is crucial as there most likely will need to be software and hardware installed at these premises. This will ensure that the network can allow all users to access all functions and applications of the business as though they were all under the one roof.

3 - Select the types of software that will be used in your workplace (windows environment, security and accounting software)

The selection of software that is available out there at the moment is vast. Selecting the best software for you really depends on your needs. The latest and greatest is not always the best fit for your business needs or budget.

We have compiled a basic list of the various software you may want to use for your computer systems and network, and we would suggest that you do a little of your own research or contact an IT specialist to find out which software suits you best.

Computer Systems

  •   Operating systems - Windows/Mac and Linux are the most popular operating systems (OS) that you can use.
  • Office applications - Office 2003, Office 2007, Open Office and just some of the ones available.
  • Security software - Trend Micro, Symantec Norton, AVG and McAfee are just a selection of what is available.
  • Accounting software - MYOB and QuickBooks are the most popular.

    Servers
  • Operating systems - Windows/Mac and Linux are the most popular operating systems (OS) that you can use.

As previously stated, we recommend that you speak to experts to determine your requirements.

4 - Purchasing hardware (servers, modems, switches and firewalls)

The hardware available in all of these areas is also quite vast. There are branded as well as unbranded (clone) items available. Some of the branded server names you will find popularly stocked and used are - HP, Dell and IBM. The brands for modems, firewalls and switches include Netcom, CISCO, Netgear, D-Link and of course the list goes on.

Ultimately, you should choose the items that will allow for any expansion that may occur within your business in the future and will be covered with some sort of onsite warranty.

5 - Loading the software, setting up of hardware and configuring it all to work together.

Once you get to this stage and you've selected and purchased all of your software and hardware, you will require the assistance of an IT professional partner who can basically put it all together. If you choose to, you can spend time on this project yourself however we would warn that without the proper experience and training necessary you may find it becomes a task that is perhaps too big to handle and your time would be best spent managing the transition instead.

It is completely crucial that the systems and software you have acquired do work together, so the set up and configuration of the computer network is one of the most important steps in this entire process. Without the necessary expert guidance it's unlikely that you will get the most you can from your investment.

6 - Setting up user access and security permission levels

Not all of your users/employees will need full and complete access to the company data and information contained in the network. There is often some sensitive information such as financial records and management information that can be configured to stand as accessible only to a select few. This is a structure that you have complete control over and should speak to your IT partner about.

7 - Email configuration and Back up of data

The communication between staff within a business and also with its outside customers is absolutely paramount, as in any group situation. The way that an email system is initially set up and then managed is certainly a factor that will influence the efficiency of a business. It can also act as a reflection of the business, for example through domain names (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) that customers and other business will see and can create a real sense of professionalism. Setting up and managing your Email software is of course a very important step in the process and indeed an area where an IT partner's advice and assistance is recommended.

Back up of data (such as past e-mails, inboxes, sent items and other archived and crucial information) is essential in this area and there are a number of options available depending on what exact needs you may have as a business. If this is not made a point of focus, the recovery of data after a loss may not be possible. Backing up daily and weekly as well as choosing where the data is stored off site and what exactly is backed up are areas that require your utmost attention.

8 - Support and maintenance structure

Ok, so now that you have a network set up; you have the tools to utilize and the connections to access all sorts of services etc, what's next? Well, what you need to have is insurance. This isn't the type you might have for your house or car but in fact the sort that allows your business to function with absolute minimal down time. To have this kind of insurance, you need to know that you have the best support and maintenance structure possible, and this means outsourcing. Sure, you may be an expert in your field and you may have extensive skills within the business you're involved in but do you have the best guidance possible in IT? Most companies have some but limited knowledge in this crucial area, which can be both good and bad. Having an internal person is of course the most desirable option but at what cost will this come to you if you are a small or medium business? In this case, the best option is to outsource the IT support and maintenance structure and services to an expert IT partner. This will allow you to focus on growing and managing your business (which is of course why we're here) while not having those dreaded IT nightmares.

You should find and choose an IT partner like you would choose any other staff member. They need to be honest, very reliable, have the ability to come through with what they say they will do- and most of all provide your business with value for money.

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