Getting Acquainted with Network Hardware
Where do you start building your network? The process can be quite intimidating at first, since there are so many different pieces of hardware and software to focus on. But once you take the time to learn about the elements of a network installation, you’ll find that it’s really not very hard to understand at all. Here’s a brief review of the hardware essentials to setting up a network. Once you’re familiar with these, getting started should be a breeze.
The Network Hub
A hub looks like nothing more than a small rectangular box, but it is one of the most essential pieces of hardware your network can have. The hub is what joins all computers on the network together, serving as the central point where data is sent to and received fr om the Internet at large. A network hub isn’t all that different from a major airport hub. An airport hub receives passengers from many smaller airports and then routes them to their destinations across the world. In the case of a network, the passengers are packets of information coming from your network, and they get rerouted to their destination online. A hub is a simple but essential device that uses a standard wall outlet for power.
A network switch looks and operates similarly to a hub but takes a more detailed look at the information it receives. Switches examine each packet of information they receive and process it accordingly, whereas a hub sends the same signal to all ports. Continuing the airport analogy, a switch is similar to an airline that seeks out a direct flight to a destination rather than sending a passenger to one major hub wh ere any destination can be reached. Switches are generally very easy to install and don’t take much to operate. They can, however, cause some slowdown on large networks, since it takes extra time to examine the incoming data.
In most businesses, having a wireless router is extremely useful. A wireless router allows computers and devices that use Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet without needing to be plugged in via a cable. This helps increase mobility, decrease the need for lots of extra cords, and can generally boost efficiency. Wireless routers can be connected to an independent server, but the most common use is to make them a part of your existing network. In this case, the wireless adapter connects right to your normal router. It then receives signals from other devices and sorts that information appropriately. You need to take care to secure wireless access, as it can be used by anybody otherwise.
Unless you are planning to go with a cloud computing model for your business, you will probably want to have a server that you can use as the central focus on your network. A server stores all the information on your network and also responds to requests to access that information. While every computer has a hard drive that is used to access local files, you should encourage employees to save any shared resources to a network drive so it can be placed on the server. If you are using an on-site server, you will probably also want a skilled IT tech on hand who can perform regular maintenance as needed and make regular backups. For most companies, a server is a very essential piece of hardware.
With the focus being on moving information to your new network, it is easy to forget that you do need some physical storage for all this machinery. Server backups should be kept in a safe, dry place that is free of static electricity. Servers are backed up via disk or sometimes cassette. Even if you use an online storage method to back up your data, you should make sure that you have a physical backup as well, just in case something happens that restricts your online access or in the event that a third party server is damaged. You should also keep backups of cables, routers, and adapters to speed up the replacement of damaged equipment. These should also be secure in a safe environment.
While individual pieces of network hardware tend to have their own user manuals and unique features, there are certain commonalities between all of it. By reading the guide above, you will have a feel for the function and needs of each piece of hardware. This will allow you to be better prepared when choosing equipment for your network.