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October 20th, 2014

Small business networking solutions: cutting edge options you need to know

Network connection speed is always increasing, and small business owners should think about how they can stay abreast of improvements and use new technology to their advantage.

Since a growing number of commercial exchanges are gravitating from in-person transactions to online transactions, faster network connections translate into more revenue, better customer service, and increased efficiency. To unlock these benefits, however, business owners need to be equipped with the right technology and knowledge.

Staples, a trusted source for office and networking solutions and an expert in small business technology, has the following tips for small business owners who need help navigating these changes as they look to set up or update their network.

* Consider the number of people who will connect to the network and how it might change with time. Since a small business traditionally anticipates its workforce to expand, the best networking option will be flexible to account for change.

* A wired local area network, when possible, is often the best option for operations that demand high bandwidth Internet connections. Keep in mind that if a small business operates inside an office building with multiple levels and obstructions, the wireless signal may be disrupted. If this is the case, a wired connection or several business-grade wireless routers may be necessary. A small, standard-grade router will sufficiently supply Internet access inside a small building, but a stronger router, such as the newest 802.11ac router, is necessary to cover an expansive commercial space.

* Decide whether employees will need to connect to the network while away from the office.  The most efficient and popular solution for setting up a remote office space is to establish a VPN, or a virtual private network, which allows employees to access files, applications, and even office hardware remotely through secure software.

* The exact type of VPN device a small business needs depends on the size of the company, the allotted technology budget and personal preference. The most important factor is that a business-grade cable or DSL router that features a consistent IP address supports the network. Higher-tier routers are designed with businesses in mind, and they come packed with features to comply with the demands of a VPN.

* The practice of cloud computing is a networking option that is becoming popular at an ever-increasing rate. The idea behind cloud computing is to make all facets of a business’s daily operations available online. Unless a business is originally established using a cloud infrastructure, switching to this option can be a large undertaking. However, cloud computing can drastically reduce or eliminate the amount of money spent on office space, manpower, equipment costs and more.

* According to the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 98 percent of small business security breaches occur at the hands of outside agents. Utilizing encryption software, taking advantage of penetration tests, and setting up a secure firewall are all viable steps a small business owner should take to keep important files, including finance information, safe from intruders.

* New and improved networking devices exist for a reason. As the average amount of bandwidth consumed per person rises, the technology that delivers that bandwidth must also grow. New technology like cloud computing servers and the 802.11ac router meet these demands by improving on previous models and networking techniques. Along with increased performance also come new features. The 802.11ac router, the latest from Netgear, includes the ability to connect plug-and-play devices, such as printers or external hard drives, directly into the router, instantly making them available to any computer or device on the network. The ability to connect to a printer from a phone or tablet adds a new level of convenience that can simplify the daily operations of a small business.

Switching to or setting up new technology can be both exciting and intimidating for any small business owner, but the promise of prosperous, more productive work processes serves as a good industry motivator. Take advantage of the latest technology as it rolls out, and begin experiencing how upgrading your networking system can revolutionize the way you do business.

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