Microsoft® is the leading authority on how to set up a small business computer network since it is the leading computer manufacturer. For the purposes of this article, it is assumed your computers are Microsoft brand; however, most computers would be networked in a similar manner - even if it were a MacIntosh®, Apple® or generic brand.
Setting up a network will allow your computers to share one Internet connection, share files among computers, use a common printer, and play recorded music and videos.
Wired or Wireless Network
Begin by deciding where you want your computers to go inside your office. For wireless networking, you will need to purchase a wireless router. A wireless network allows you to use your laptop from anywhere in your home or office. However, according to Microsoft, a wired network is the most secure and reliable choice. In an office, you certainly need a computer set-up that is secure and reliable.
Purchase a Router and Network Cables
The router you choose should be one that is compatible with your computer systems. You can find this out by reading the box directions. It will tell you what it's compatible with. Choose the highest quality router you can afford to get the best benefits. You will also need network cables, also called Ethernet or "Cat 5" cables. These will run from each computer to the router. You can buy network cables up to 300 feet long. Determine the length you need by measuring from each computer location to the router. Should you require a network connection port (like the wall outlet for a telephone) in several rooms, you will need to hire a licensed electrician or a computer network specialist.
Connect to the Internet
Broadband is the fastest, most reliable option, and it is available in most areas through your local cable company. Most modern computers come with a network adaptor pre-installed on the back. If yours does not, you may add one. Your Internet provider will be able to help you with this so you can get Internet access.
The next steps below will show you how to connect the router between your modem and computers.
How to Set Up a Small Business Computer Network
Here is a great illustration from the official Microsoft website that shows exactly how the set-up should look. You'll also find a more complete tutorial at that link in case you need further assistance. The modem is hooked up to the Internet source. That part will be accomplished by your Cable Company or Internet Service Provider (ISP). The router will then be plugged into your modem. Each of your computers should be hooked up to the router using the network (Cat 5) cable you purchased. It's a relatively simple process that sounds more technical or complicated than it is. Here are the steps broken down:
- If your principal computer is currently hooked up to the Internet, unplug the network cable from the back of your computer and place it into the port on the back of the router labeled Internet, WAN, or WLAN. If it's not already hooked up, plug the network cable into the modem, and the other end of the cable into the Internet, WAN, or WLAN port on the router.
- Plug in the router and wait a few minutes. The light will come on the front of the router, so you know the connection is established.
- Shut down the computer.
- Connect the network cable into the network adaptor on the back of your computer. The other end of the cable goes into the network equipment, in this case a router.
- Turn on your computer and it should be connected.
Repeat the above process for each of the other computers in your network. Now that you know how to set up a small business computer network, you can expect that your friends and colleagues may want your assistance to help with theirs.