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Network Design:

Things to consider when planning or upgrading your network

Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) increasingly rely on their network to access to their applications and files, along with the vast resource that is the Internet. With proper planning, design, and consideration of the needs of the business, a network can provide resilient, secure connectivity to all the resources that make business possible. Here are some things to consider:

Connecting to the Internet

Understanding your Internet connection options, and choosing between them, is like untangling the entwined cables nested in most network closets – and doing it blindfolded, one-handed, and behind your back.  So what do you need to know to make this task easier?

  • There are three main types of business internet available – DSL, Cable, and Fiber. (If you don’t have one these in your area then I would move your business.)
  • DSL should be considered a last resort and only used for the smallest offices. Think no cloud services or online software
  • Cable is the general standard for connection. 40-60 Mbps for small offices (2-10 people), 60-100 Mbps for medium sized offices (10-25 people), and 100+ Mbps for larger offices (25+ people). If you do video conferencing on a regular basis or you have most of your software in the cloud, add an extra 20-40 Mbps of speed.
  • Fiber is the gold standard, and a cost to match. It best for medium to large companies that have remote offices or tons of remote users who need to connect into software on in-house servers.
  • Read the fine print. Deals are only for a limited time frame. Support expectations during outages should be clearly defined.

Optimize Current Network

No doubt you’ve heard horror stories about tech firms promising unfettered assistance to a new client, only to immediately require a long, expensive list of upgrades.  This approach to Network Management only takes into account ease of management for the managed IT service provider and ignores the customer’s bottom line.

Farmhouse Networking takes a balanced approach, using what the customer already has in place and developing a technology plan to guide future replacements. Current hardware is optimized to meet industry standards and compliance needs. Over time outdated hardware is gradually replaced with business-class hardware. Win-win for everyone.

Trade Analog Phones for Digital VoIP

If  your 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 a cloud-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. Loss of connectivity was once considered a major problem – when the power went out, so did a VoIP business phone. With the advent of cloud-based services, however, power outages are no longer a concern, as calls can be routed to any other device (including cell phones) with no noticeable difference to the customer.

In addition, remote or mobile users who need to stay connected to the company phone system will have their smart phones treated like any other phone extension in the organization. These VoIP systems can also be easily expanded for handling additional extensions and features.

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Plan Future Growth

There comes a time in every successful company when growth must take place and technology must match that growth. Company growth can happen in a variety of ways – expansion of current offices, moving to a larger facility, adding remote workers, connecting a second office…  Regardless, the best way to handle future growth is to plan for it.  Farmhouse Networking will consult with management to discuss the future and recommend what’s needed to expand with the future growth of the company in mind. This makes the process predictable, budget friendly, and much less painful when the time comes.

Take Your Show on the Road

For small to medium businesses (SMBs), taking business with them as owners and employees travel to client sites or work from anywhere has become essential. The de facto 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.

The most secure option is to connect remote users to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which provides an encrypted tunnel from their personal workstation to the office network. This keeps staff securely connected, compliant, and effectively working from any device everywhere.

The cloud has become increasingly secure and reliable and is considered a viable means for agile businesses to remain within reach of their data from any internet-connected device. Software vendors have quickly moving their products into the cloud and have made transitioning data into these web-based solutions easier than might be expected.

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    Equipment Lifecycle Management

    Planning ahead to replace equipment before it fails can help keep the company’s bottom line healthy.  Decisions about acquiring, managing, and disposing of technology can be daunting — if not a waste of management’s valuable time. By planning ahead you can budget for capital expenditures, get the most value from asset depreciation, schedule downtime for the replacement of hardware, and appropriately and securely dispose of sensitive information. Farmhouse Networking will do the heavy lifting for you by creating a technology plan and budget.

    Server Virtualization

    An old practice in IT was to have one server dedicated to a single application or network role like mail server, file server, DNS server, or Domain Controller Server. This made server closets quite large, and the expense for smaller companies was often prohibitive. Then came the ideas of server virtualization and server consolidation, which changed the way servers were created. A single piece of hardware could virtually “host” multiple servers, and those large number of old servers could be virtualized onto one piece of hardware. This decreased the expense and the space needed multiple servers on the network. Now, with the advent of  cloud computing there is no longer a need for server closets at all, as they are virtually “hosted” on servers in large datacenters around the globe.

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