If your employees are happily tapping away on individual computers that aren’t connected via a network, it might be tempting to leave things the way they are. But without an office network, you may be depriving your business of significant productivity without even realizing it.
An office network makes it much easier for employees to share files and information — especially if you start storing data on a central storage server that is hooked into the network, says Chey Cobb, certified information systems security professional and author of Network Security for Dummies.
“If you have a central storage server, everybody can get to the information on that server rather than having to go sit at the machine with a USB thumb drive or a disk, burn information, and walk back to your other machine,” Cobb says. “It’s basically convenience.”
Benefits of an office network
An office network enables a host of other benefits: Storing data on one central, networked server frees up local storage space on individual computers. It also makes backups of your company data easier and simpler — as long as everyone is storing their data to the storage server, you only have to back up that one machine.
A network also makes printing much less complicated because you don’t have to purchase extra printers and connect one to each computer. Just connect your printer to the network, and all machines will be able to print to it.
In the past, small business owners might have shied away from networks out of fear that they would be too difficult to set up and maintain. Today, experts say, that’s no longer a reason to hold back.
“There are hosts of different organizations or individuals who can do this very simple network setup for you,” says Michael Speyer, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., research firm. “If you go buy your products from retail outlets like Circuit City or Best Buy, they have services like Firedog or Geek Squad, who will come and do it for you. It’s not nearly as much of an issue as it was five years ago.”
Networks need to be maintained
Maintenance of a small-business network requires just a bit of a basic knowledge, which easily could be found in one of the hundreds of guide books on the subject. Don’t worry if you can’t afford a dedicated information technology staff, but do designate one person as network administrator.
“I would suggest that if you’re a very small company, you make it one person’s job to look after the network,” Cobb says. “You can’t have everybody in the company going in and fiddling with the different configurations.”