Starting out in business can sometimes involve a large number of unknown variables – and IT is one of the biggest of those. Have you considered managing an IT network?
Understanding what your business IT requirements will be is often a stretch when you’re just finding your feet. For some people, a simple network will be adequate – for others, a complex enterprise ready network will be required before your open your doors.
Whatever your need, mistakes at this stage can cost you money, both immediately – and on-going – if you find your requirements are significantly different to those you anticipated.
Here, we’ll help you explore some network possibilities, and pose some questions that will help you find the right solution from day one.
The benefits of a business network
In the simplest terms, an IT network links your devices – and then connects those devices, in most cases, either to, or through, the internet. As such, security also represents an enormous part of networking safely.
Connecting your devices goes on to offer a host of useful business functions:
Most companies have certain applications that underpin their daily activities. For some, those applications will be customer service and account management based, in other cases, that could be book-keeping systems or machine control tools.
By centralising these systems through a network, you and your entire team will be able to access them whenever and wherever you require. What’s more, you can say goodbye to clunky collaboration, since everything updates simultaneously for all users.
Keeping your business data in one place, rather than having it sat on local devices, means instant and coordinated access for all your team.
Since the overwhelming majority of data breaches are a result of human-error, you also remove the requirement that individuals keep your business data safe. Better collaboration done safely.
- Off-site access
If you have people working for you whose circumstances or roles take them out of your office, it’s useful to have a network that allows remote access. Done properly, remote systems access means the same level of security as would be possible if the person were sitting on the desk across from you.
- Shared accessories
Even in the most simple networking setups, your accessories will be available to every one of your users – meaning things like printers can be quickly accessed by all.
Access to your network might be a scary prospect for those of you who are (quite rightly) security conscious. The good news is, networking doesn’t mean granted access to everything, in fact, access controls allow you to offer individual security privileges to each member of your team, keeping you in line with ever-increasing data protection legislation.
Does networking sound appealing?
Just an initial glance over this list, with an understanding of what your startup hopes to achieve, will give you an idea whether or not a network will be essential for your company.
- Does our team collaborate on projects?
- Is our data kept safe stored locally?
- Can our team work remotely if necessary or beneficial?
- Can we guarantee security compliance?
Of course, there are more questions that this – but on a fundamental level, access, control and security are three of the networking benefits most companies start with.
Price vs Performance
A business network has traditionally represented a huge expenditure for startups of all sizes – something of a ‘necessary evil’ if you want to be able to establish and scale your business in a way that keeps pace with your competitors.
In the past, networking hardware, software and the dedicated support required would simply not be feasible for small businesses – but that’s recently changed.
Now, a huge amount of your networking infrastructure can be bought ‘as a Service’ – in essence, on a pay-as-you-use basis, for a small fraction of the cost associated with buying and licences products outright.
It’s not just price that makes these as-a-service products appealing either, the quick ability to scale up and down your use also appeals to companies who want to make sure they’re as agile as possible in an ever-evolving marketplace.
Networking as a Service
Networking as a service actually encompasses a number of different as-a-service products, and builds them together to present one overall solution. Generally, an ‘as a Service’ network will involve:
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
A combination that gives you virtually all of the most costly network elements – but broken down into bite-size payment chunks as your business develops.
Connecting your network
A network without an internet connection offers some collaboration and device sharing – but falls short on many of the other network benefits. As such, an internet connection is virtually vital for most modern businesses – but which type is right for you?
As a minimum, considering bonded ethernet lines or fiber connections will begin to provide the connection speeds you require – but if speed and performance are important, you should perhaps consider a higher specification connection; MPLS for example.
With an MPLS connection, you’re able to prioritize certain types of traffic – so your mission critical network applications won’t come to a standstill if you’ve got a lot of lower priority traffic moving across the network. MPLS connections can be costly, so to understand if you’d benefit, it’s worth looking at ways to ensure you’re getting the right level of performance and value from your MPLS provider.
Managing your IT Network
Even when performance speeds, costs and network design intricacies are put aside – you’ll still need someone to support and maintain your network – and, unless you plan to employ 1-4 people to make sure that’s possible in-house, you might want to look for a managed service provider (MSP) who’ll deliver a similar service.
Using an MSP is very much like using ‘as a Service’ software and infrastructure – that is, you only use what you need, as often as you need it. If you’ve got a network in mind, having dedicated staff is absolutely vital, as untrained employees administering complex IT network systems will be both a huge waste of time – and likely to go wrong.
Is an IT Network right for you?
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether a network is going to be right for your startup – in fact, in many cases, it’s simply a balance between ‘what will help us expand?’ and ‘what can we afford?’ There’s always a cost involved with IT networking – but if you look beyond this, you’ll often see a much greater ROI waiting to be unlocked.