An efficient network provides many benefits - giving teams the ability to increase collaboration, boost productivity and security, and make processes more efficient.
A computer network solution is the design by which two or more devices interface to share information. Whether you just need to connect a handful of devices in a single office or thousands of devices across the country, there is a computer network solution to meet your needs.
A brief guide to the various types of networks and their general uses
LAN – Local Area Network – LANs are simple networks used for connecting network devices in a small geographic space. LANs are often used within the same building or a small group of buildings within a short distance from one another. A LAN can be connected to a WAN (Wide Area Network) through a router.
WAN – Wide Area Network – A bit more complicated than LANs, WANs cover more distance and allow devices to connect remotely. A WAN isn’t owned by an individual or organization, but more likely maintained by a group of administrators. The Internet is an example of a WAN – the world’s largest - as it connects devices all over the globe together.
LAN and WAN are the two most commonly known types of computer network solutions, but there are other standard solutions, mostly categorized by scope or scale.
WLAN - Wireless Local Area Network – WLANs use wireless network technology and operate like a LAN.
CAN - Campus Area Network – Often associated with universities, a CAN is also sometimes referred to as a Controller Area Network or Cluster Area Network and is made up of an interconnection of LANs. CANs allow users to share resources within the span of several buildings in a cluster or small geographic area.
MAN – Metropolitan Area Network – Much like it sounds, a MAN will often span a metropolitan area like a town or city. A MAN is not as comprehensive as a WAN, but larger than a LAN and will use aspects of both types of networks.
SAN – Storage Area Network – A SAN doesn’t depend on a LAN or a WAN and provides a high-speed dedicated connection to shared groups of storage devices and servers. Sometimes referred to as System Area Network, Server Area Network or Small Area Network.
PAN – Personal Area Network – As the name implies, a PAN is a small network for personal use. Typically made up of one or two computers, a wireless modem, phones, tablets, etc. A PAN serves one location like a home or small business.
VPN – Virtual Private Network – A VPN provides a secure connection over a network that isn’t secure, like the internet. A VPN requires authentication to gain access, allowing users to remotely access company resources and data.
Understanding Network Protocols
Computer Network Solutions are made up of various software and hardware elements. Once the devices on a network are connected, a method of communication is still needed. Network protocols are the languages devices use to interpret signals through network connections.
Today’s most commonly known protocol is IP (Internet Protocol). It's the language one device uses to communicate with another wirelessly via the Internet. Another common protocol is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) which expands IP's capabilities. IP and TCP are often referred to together as TCP/IP.
Other common wireless network protocols include LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more. Routing protocols that serve the purpose of interpreting signals via network routers include RIP, OSPF, EIGRP, IGRP, and others.
Considering Your Computer Network Solution Needs
Having the right computer network solution set up in today’s world is critical. Establishing your needs and business requirements will play a role in determining the right network infrastructure. Here are just a few of the key considerations you’ll need to examine.
- Physical and geographic area
- What type of software systems your business relies on
- What are your plans for growth?
- How many devices? Do you have a Bring Your Own Device policy?
- What kind of compliance, customer privacy and security issues apply to your business?
- Will you need a server, or will you be able to achieve your objectives using cloud computing?
For a small office with just a few employees, a LAN may be sufficient. For growing small-to-mid-sized businesses, a WAN infrastructure could be the right solution and allows for secure interconnectivity between locations, though many organizations are finding advantages to VPNs.
A business network is more complex than a simple home network. Businesses today must consider rules and regulations they are subject to. For different types of business, there are compliance issues that a network must be observant of regarding the maintenance and transmission of data. If your business is subject to HIPAA regulations, for example, working with a partner that understands the technological safeguards necessary is essential. Similar requirements apply to other organizations, like DFARS/NIST compliance concerns that apply to Defense contractors and subcontractors.
The many technical considerations can be confusing and there really is no one-size-fits-all solution – especially when taking specific security and service needs into account. To truly understand your options, it makes sense to consult with an IT consulting firm with expertise in building and maintaining networks. By working with a qualified partner, you can be assured that all the necessary specifications are assessed in order to arrive at the right solution for your specific requirements.
Having a properly thought out network infrastructure enables BYOD, increased security, automation, mobility, simplified collaboration, and more. Keep in mind that security, ongoing support, issue resolution, and maintenance are integral to the infrastructure and to business continuity.
Managing a computer network solution can be a full-time job. A partner with a strong track record in IT managed services and data security can help you navigate your options, ensure you have the right network in place, maintain security and deliver the assurance that you are properly positioned to grow your business.