If you have a business that’s in two separate buildings, that can be a challenge. The internal communication can be a hassle. Talking to a department in another building can take up so much time, rather than seeing it spent on being productive. Modern technology helps mitigate this through a business-grade wide area network, or WAN.
However, not every company knows the ins and outs of setting up a WAN. They might know they’re going to need a high-quality patch cable supplier, some switches and routers, and people to install it all. There’s a good chance they’re relying on the expertise of the installation people to get it right, though. This isn’t a bad thing, but it helps to know a little yourself to make sure things run smoothly.
The first thing to keep in mind is something that should be considered before anything else is done. What are the needs of your WAN? How much bandwidth would be needed for internal communications and day to day operations? How fast do you want your file transfer speeds to be? How many devices will be using it? Do you want it to scale with your business? Should it be a closed network?
You should know what you need out of the network before you start laying down cables. This informs everything else. By doing this, you get a clear idea of how much cables and materials you’ll need. You determine how powerful and fast the network has to be. You get an idea of the size of your enterprise and the possible areas where it could grow.
Consider the connections that you need to manage. In general, you’ll be looking at data connections. This means bandwidth is a major concern, affected by type and distance. The further away the two locations are, the more expensive it’ll be to maintain a high-speed connection between them. The additional infrastructure, in the form of repeaters to keep the signal intact, can get expensive.
Should it be an Internet Connection?
You might also consider getting an internet connection, rather than setting up a closed network. This is less taxing on the infrastructure connecting the two locations. However, for security reasons, you’ll need a virtual private network. This will allow you to “simulate” a private, closed network using the internet, increasing security even if you’re out in the wild open internet.
If you’re going for a direct connection, the hardware is going to be important. On average, you will need a data service unit on either end of the connection, providing the necessary link to the telecom company’s own equipment. You’ll also need a router at each end, forming the cornerstone of your internal network. While your provider could give you these as part of the package, it’s better in the long-term if you have your own.
Having your own hardware makes it easier to change providers in case one provides unsatisfactory service. It means you don’t get new hardware if you change and instead, you can keep what’s familiar to you. If you’re running a VPN, you also require both a server and VPN software. In both cases, you’re also going to want to invest in other security software.
You also need to invest in monitoring your network. This can entail software, hardware, and people. A firewall can restrict incoming and outgoing traffic, but it won’t catch everything. You’ll also need an intrusion prevention system, network-based software that detects possible attempts to hijack or intrude on your data stream and prevent it.
It should be noted that no protection system is perfect. The best method to avoid external intrusions is to have no external access at all, making a closed system. Even these can be compromised if someone gains authorization credentials and access to the terminals with access to the network. However, this can be problematic depending on the type of business, so for peace of mind, invest in protecting your network.
Data storage is also a concern. Most companies generate a lot of information, a lot of files and data. These things should be accessible but also kept confidential. A business might need records going back for several years, and storing all the information that gets generated or collected is important. There are a few options available to you, depending on the size of your enterprise.
One method is to simply store all the data locally, on the terminals or devices that require them. At the same time, you still make them accessible via the network. This allows for quick dissemination of information, along with the ability to restrict access if needed.
The other method is to get a central hub for your data. This costs more in terms of hardware, but it frees you from the storage limitations of individual terminals. It also centralizes the information, so there’s no need to go looking through available computers to see which one has the data you need. All of it is in one place.
Setting up a WAN for your business can be a challenge. It certainly is something better left to the professionals, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook entirely. There are things you must keep in mind so you can get things going properly.