Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) are increasingly reliant on their business network to supply connectivity to their needed applications and files along with the vast intellectual resource that is the Internet. With proper planning, intellegent design and consideration of the needs of the business a network can provide resilient, secure connectivity to all the resources that make business possible.
Connecting to the Internet
There are often many Internet options in an area and choosing between them can be like untangling the nest of cables that populates most network closets. The first things that should concern any business is what are their bandwidth needs. There is a great easy to use resource called BandwidthPool.com Bandwidth Calculator that gives an idea of the minimum speeds that are needed to conduct business and another is Integra's Bandwidth Calculator that gives more detailed analysis of the types of services used. The next important consideration is cost to value proposition - how much internet can the business afford within the point of diminishing return? If possible get at least three quotes from local providers for service and a great way to find out who is available and what actual speeds people are getting is Ookla's Net Index Explorer which utilizes a drill down map to show providers in the area. The final two pieces are the Internet Service Providers (ISP) terms of service and the kind of customer service that can be expected from them. As with any contract read the fine print of the terms of service to find any data limitations or caps that could possibly cripple business at a critical time or any restrictions on traffic that could limit remote connectivity. Always do your homework and consult other local businesses to hear from them who they use for Internet service to see how they feel about the customer service they are receiving.
Trade Analog Phones for Digital VoIP
The aging analog world is slowly dying as telephone companies like Verizon move from old copper lines to fiber optic for all their services and cellular carriers are moving from standard voice transmissions to digitally sending them over the advanced 4G LTE network. If the company phone system is still based on analog copper lines with expensive components that are hard to find and no one knows how to fix any more - then it is time to switch to digital Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or cloud based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. Loss of connectivity was once considered a major reason why old copper lines were popular up until now. In the past if power was out then business phones were not working on a VoIP system, but with the advent of cloud based services this is no longer an issue as calls can be routed to any other device including cell phones with no difference seen by the customer. This feature is also great if there are remote or mobile users who need to stay connected to the company phone system - they will be treated like any other phone extension in the organization. These VoIP systems can also be easily expanded with software update to add features and more bandwidth to handle additional physical phones onsite. The final argument used by most to not replace old copper systems is the 911 call handling, but with E911 this is no longer an issue as your physical address is mapped to the handset called from.
Take Your Show on the Road
For small to medium businesses (SMBs) the need to take business with them as they travel to client sites or work from anywhere along the way has become an essential. The defacto standard has been to use remote connection software to gain access to company resources and over the years these standards have evolved to several distinct options today. Microsoft Remote Desktop and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure uses on premise or cloud servers to create the highly customizable desktop experience that users are used to while centralizing management of applications and consolidating data. It can also be used to centralize Line-of-Business (LOB) applications that can then be deployed to remote users and available from anywhere. Another more secure option is to connect remote users to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which provides an encrypted tunnel from their workstation to the office network. This keeps them securely connected, compliant and effectively working from any device everywhere. The cloud has become secure and reliable enough to be considered a viable means for agile businesses within reach of their data from any internet connected device. Software vendors have slowly been moving their products into the cloud and have made transitioning data into these web based solutions easier than might be be expected.