Networking Equipment: What’s It All Do?

There are many times when explaining to clients what piece of hardware needs rebooted or reset that they do not know what we are talking about when we reference the piece of networking equipment by name.

Even if you do know what is meant by router, modem, switch, hub, etc., you might not know what the equipment does, and why you need it.

Today is your lucky day! Below is a brief explanation of what the various types of networking equipment is, what it does, and why you need it.

Let’s start from your Internet service providers (ISP) main line into your house or business and work our way up to your computer. It all begins with your modem – this is how you initially connect to your ISP’s main line into your building.

The modem is what connects you to your Internet provider, and secures an IP address for your computer or network to connect to the Internet.

The next piece of hardware in line is normally your router.

Some network installations don’t have a router, usually because the modem supplied by the Internet provider has one built in, or the computer connects directly to  the modem.

A router allows you to have your own network IP scheme and communicate from your network to your ISP’s network.

Routers allow you to expand your network beyond the one device that most ISP’s modems allow by creating a larger subset of IP addresses for your computers to connect to which is then “routed” to your ISP’s IP address and out to the Internet.

This is why they are called routers, they route network traffic. Some routers also offer the ability to connect wirelessly to your network.

These connections act exactly the same way except for the fact that they do not have an Ethernet cable plugged into the computer you are using to connect with and there is increased security on the wireless connection to prevent unauthorized connections to your network. Some routers also offer a high grade built in firewall.

So as you can see routers can come in many different flavors and configurations.

The final piece of hardware in the chain of networking hardware is your switch.

In general switches are designed to be connected to your router and offer more Ethernet ports for you to connect devices to your network.

Most routers offer on average five Ethernet ports – a switch gives you the ability to expand on the number of available Ethernet ports that can connect to your router.

If you want to have multiple devices connected to your Internet connection while keeping your network secure give us a call and we can guide you on selecting the proper equipment as well as getting it setup properly for you.

If this kind of equipment is not configured properly you may not be able to connect to the Internet at all.

Featured Article Written By:
Tech Experts

When Should Your Company Consider Adding A Server?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

If you are like most small businesses, you acquire desktop computers, phone systems, and software in a random, “buy-it-when-you-need-it” fashion as your business operations demand it.

But at some point, this patchwork of stopgap technology you’ve acquired needs to be examined, retooled, and perhaps replaced, depending on your company’s needs.

As your business grows, it makes sense to take a broader view of your technology investments. One of the first things you might consider is the role a server would play in your company.

Servers can take on a lot of tasks for a growing business, from securing data to enabling better sharing of company resources. But it’s sometimes difficult to know when, and if they’re a smart investment.

There are a few common scenarios in which a server can bring real benefits to a growing business – read on and see if any of these apply to you.

You need to share files, printers or other resources
It is technically possible to set up a simple network without a dedicated server, with just a few PCs connected together.

However, if you want to share databases, files, printers or other resources, a server makes it a lot easier.

In fact, servers are specifically designed for sharing, so you’ll get better control, faster access, easier management and improved security. And who wouldn’t want all that?

Your computers are overloaded and you need more storage
If you have a lot of files or multiple databases, it might be time to consider migrating some of these files to a server.

Whether you want to replace your old computers or just improve their performance, a server will give sluggish, data-laden PCs a welcome respite by freeing up memory and storage.

You want to have inhouse company email
While businesses with only a few employees can get by with using an external service for its email, there comes a time when these services aren’t ideal.

Adding a server allows you to bring your e-mail in-house, with the dual benefits of making users’ e-mail access faster and keeping sensitive business information within the company – not on another company’s servers. Plus, you can benefit from shared email productivity tools like Microsoft Outlook.

You want to conduct business remotely
If you have employees that work remotely, or if you’d like the option to work from home, a server will allow you and your employees to remotely access your company network, information and resources.

These are only a sampling of the signs that a server could be right for you. The bottom line is this: if you spend a lot of time moving data around, struggling to access things you need, and are worried about security, then it’s time to consider a server.

Fall Is The Perfect Time For An IT And Network Checkup

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

To make the most of your IT investment,  you don’t need to be a technology whiz. However, you should have a plan in place for making the most of your company’s data. As fall approaches, now is an excellent time to examine your company’s technology to determine what’s working well and what could be improved.

Is It Time To Update?
Technology changes rapidly. While your systems may appear to be working well, you may be missing out on new ways to protect your business information, help your business run more efficiently, and better serve your customers.

For example, to run some of today’s most powerful programs, you need a fast and large hard drive with significant memory capacity.

You might consider adding newer technology – such as wireless capabilities – to older equipment; but the cost of upgrading a computer is often more than the cost of a new model.

Check Your Power Protection
Loss of electrical power and power surges are the most common causes of data loss and weaken computer components. If your business depends on computers, protecting the power source is critical.

This is especially important if your area is prone to power fluctuations or electrical storms.

An Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) unit offers both superior surge protection and, depending on the model, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes of backup power-enough time to save and copy critical files.

The idea of a UPS isn’t to continue your business dealings while the lights are out. Rather, it is to ensure that your data is available when the lights come back on.

Have You Patched Windows?
Have you installed the latest version of Windows on your computer, and do you keep it updated? Do you do this automatically?

It is incredibly important that you keep Windows and your software applications current. Updates improve performance, fix bugs, and many add new features. You should also regularly update and run anti-virus software.

How’s Your Backup?
Consider storage needs in terms of both capacity and physical location. Depending on the amount of data, you can back up to USB flash drives, CDs, DVDs, tapes, or an external drive.

You might also want to look into off-site backup. Our Experts Total Backup System is an excellent backup, disaster recovery, and offsite storage service.

Integrate Your Data
Over the years, businesses tend to produce multiple silos of data. Your inventory, sales data, and marketing information need to be linked together to better serve your customers and increase your company’s productivity and profitability.

Without this integration, you may not know who your best customers are or you could end up agreeing to provide a top customer with an item you don’t have in your inventory.

Running Out Of Room: Server Storage Upgrades

We have all experienced this: The longer you own a computer, the smaller the hard drive seems be. This can be a problem not only for the home user, but a huge problem for business clients and their servers.

Just a few years ago, 100 gigabytes of hard drive space was more than anyone thought they would ever need. Today, laptop computers come with more than 500gb of storage, and terabyte laptop drives aren’t far away.

As applications like Microsoft’s PowerPoint become more powerful, the size of the files being saved grow larger and larger. If you are creating these files on your PC and saving the files locally to your hard drive you can quickly run out of space.

The ease and affordability of “thumb” or “flash” drives allows most users to save these files to removalable media and keep the local drive free to perform the other tasks required. Servers on the other hand are a different story.

Most servers are used for file storage. The data created by all the users on the network is stored on the server. This allows multiple users access to spreadsheets, Word documents or PowerPoint presentations.

They can open the file, make their changes, and save the file back to a common storage space on the server. Most, if not all, of these files are important and more than likely will be used over and over again.

I have found that most of my clients can not move these files to a removable storage device, as they need access to the file almost on a daily basis.

That means the file needs to be on the server and accessible to all users, all the time. Each of these files requires space on the hard drive. If you’re using shadow copies to keep older files in case something becomes corrupt (or someone deletes something accidentally in the application), before you know it, your server is running out of room.

Most of the servers I deal with have separate areas of the hard drive called “partitions” that have the operating system (“OS” )separate from the data storage area. This allows technicians to come in, once the data area or OS partitions start to get full and install a new drive.

We have the ability at Tech Experts to take a server that may have originally had a 100GB hard drive and install a drive with a capacity that will allow you to store information for months to come.

Notice how I said “months to come.” It never fails to amaze me how fast server storage can fill up with data. I have written in previous articles how important it is to back this data up, but it is just as important to make sure you have enough room on your server for both file storage as well as the OS.

Microsoft releases updates to all operating systems continually to keep your systems secure and operating at the best possible speed. Having the room required to install these updates is vital to the health of your network and the productivity of your business.

When it becomes necessary to upgrade your server’s storage with more capacity, we can perform this task with minimal amount of downtime and with an eye toward the future to insure your investment in the server will be well worth it.

FREE Report: 12 Surefire Signs Your Business Is Ready For A Server

Is your business limping along using outdated computers or a peer-to-peer network that is constantly giving you problems?

Are you planning on adding employees, opening  a remote location or adding an additional office?

Are you just sick and tired of dealing with conflicts, error messages, and expensive breakdowns and down time?

If so, you might consider upgrading your network to a file-server network for greater security, functionality, and file-sharing capabilities.

At one time, servers only made sense for larger organizations because of their high cost and complexity. But thanks to major advancements in technology, client-server networks are very affordable and easy-to-implement.

To learn more, call our office at 734-457-5000 and ask for Carol.

You can also send us an e-mail to request this report. Just send your request to serverreport@expertsmi.com.

Why You Need A File Server Right Now

If you’re the owner or manager of a small- or medium-sized business that still uses peer-to-peer networking, it’s time to consider upgrading your network by installing a dedicated business server.

Due to recent technology advances, particularly the availability of Microsoft Small Business Server and Windows Sharepoint Portal Services, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. In fact, the upgrade may result in some benefits you hadn’t counted on.

How do you know when it’s time to upgrade to a server-based network? Here’s a simple checklist you can use to assess your needs, followed by a more detailed discussion.

It might be time to upgrade if:

  • Your staff is moving to laptop PCs.
  • Your staff is specializing and you need to start to segregate data.
  • You want critical data backed up securely and automatically.
  • Your office needs to use collaboration software, such as shared calendars.
  • Your staff requires remote access to shared data
  • Moving to Laptops

One characteristic of a peer-to-peer network is that individual member PCs share resources, such as files, printers, and fax modems, with each other.

Unfortunately, several recent technology trends are making peer-to-peer networks difficult to use and manage.

For example, many of today’s knowledge workers are switching to highly mobile laptop computers which may or may not be in the office at any given time.

When a PC is disconnected from the network, its resources aren’t available other users in the office.

Data Segregation
One of the most compelling reasons to upgrade your basic network to a server-based configuration is data security.

Even small companies have a legal responsibility to protect payroll, human resources, and other sensitive information from misuse, but the file sharing schemes used in peer-to-peer networks don’t provide the high level of control offered by server operating systems.

Automatic, Secure Backups
Along with access, backup is also an important part of any data security scheme. Regular and dependable backups are difficult to manage when data is stored on multiple desktop PCs because even the most sophisticated backup software can’t back up a PC that’s been turned off.

Once you move your critical data to a file server, regular automated backups can be scheduled to take place during off hours. Since the office staff doesn’t typically have access to the server’s operating system, it’s unlikely that anything will “interfere” with backup, and even if the network is down, a file server can faithfully back itself up to tape as long as it has power.

Collaboration
Although shared calendars and other collaboration tools are available from a number of Internet-based sources (Yahoo, Google, and others), your data is much more secure when it’s stored on your own file server.

You’ll also find that the selection of privately hosted collaboration software is broader and the applications are more customizable than those apps available online.

Remote Access
The increased use of laptop computers mentioned above eventually results in the need for remote access to company data. While this can be accomplished with products such as Symantec’s pcAnywhere, Citrix’s GoToMyPC, and even Windows XP’s built-in Remote Desktop Connection, secure remote access is built into most file server operating systems and remote users are subject to the same access restrictions and privileges as locally connected users.

In the past, one of the main deterrents to server-based networking has been the complexity of server operating systems, but this is rapidly changing. Once installed and properly configured, Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 requires about the same day-to-day technical expertise as Windows XP or Windows Vista.

And later this year Microsoft will release a “server appliance” product called Windows Home Server (WHS) that will provide many file server features with almost no human interaction. In fact, the device won’t even require a keyboard, mouse, or monitor — just plug it in and you’ll have an instant file server!

Another traditional objection has been the cost of dedicated file servers, which often out-weighed the budget – and the benefits for many small offices. Fortunately, technology advances are making low-cost, easy-to-operate servers available to offices that wouldn’t have considered them just a few months ago. Server equipment from IBM and HP, combined with Microsoft’s Small Business Server software, is now more affordable than ever for small companies.

In summary, if you’re still using a basic peer to peer network, you’ve probably outgrown it! Consider adding a dedicated file server to your suite of office tools to improve data access, security, and usability.