How Startups Install a Small Business PC Network

Those of you with a small business, perhaps even a new startup, may be wondering how to setup your PC network and even the thought of networking them together is making you feel queezy as if it's one daunting task. Well, fear not because it is not that difficult to do; only time and perhaps a little planning will do the trick successfully.

Decide on how many PCs you will need to take care of daily business. For many small business owners, this number may be five or fewer. Let's look at this scenario today and take it one step at a time, okay?

If you've got the PCs already, great; that's one big step out of the way. If you don't, you can often get a business discount at a major electronics reseller, especially if you're purchasing multiple units. HP, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, just to name a few brands, would be viable candidates for the job.

Install Options

  • If you're concerned about the install and ongoing technical support,  sometimes purchasing the hardware from a nearby local PC dealer is the best way to go. Those companies that offer an ongoing maintenance support contract as part of the deal can often be a cost-effective way to keep your PCs in good working order. Just make sure you check out their reputation before doing it. That's important!

  • If you've already purchased and decided to go with a third-party extended warranty, with the plan of doing the install yourself, that is not a bad idea either. Shop around for the best deal possible since you're purchasing multiple PCs. Now you're ready to install if you've chosen to do it yourself.

Materials needed

  • The most materials needed are Cat-5 cables, one each for each PC-Router connection, as well as a few extra cables as spares
  • A router specifically designed for small home networks (I recommend a Linksys wireless router if you want a good realiable unit and easy set-up)
  • Some electrical tape or tie wraps, which you can purchase at most electronics/hardware stores
  • A tape measure for measuring the length needed for each cable
  • Paper and pen for drawing a sketch of your network setup. You will need to identify where each PC will be located and the location of the router. You will also need to ascertain how many feet of cable will be needed for each PC to router connection.  This sketch should be the first thing you do. Before you go to the store to get the cables, you will need to know how long each cable needs to be so you can make the appropriate cable length purchase choice.

Install Procedure

  1. The install begins by unboxing and setting-up each PC one by one. Before you move on to the second setup, you should already have sketched out a drawing that shows where each PC will be located as well as the router. The best place for the router should be close to where your cable modem or DSL connection is located. As mentioned earlier, the sketch needs to include the length in feet from each PC to the router. Purchasing a router for a small network is relatively easy. You can find some good Linksys routers at many electronics stores at a very reasonable price. 
  2. The next step is to run the cabling. You'll need Cat-5 twisted pair cables.  How long the cables will need to be, and how many needed should be easy to figure if you did that sketch of your setup as mentioned earlier. Are you operating your business from your home? Sometimes a cost-effective way to run the Cat-5 cabling is by going underneath the house and drilling a hole through the floor and running the cable up through it. It's either that or run the cabling through the walls, and that job, although doable, can be very time-consuming. A not so bad choice might be to hire an electrician or multimedia specialist to do that for you, who can terminate the connection at a wall-outlet. 
  3. Get the tape or tie wraps and wrap the various cords at each PC station and tuck them out of the way, or secure the wrapped cable bunch to the underside of the PC desk. I cannot tell you the number of times I have disconnected a cable from sitting at the PC, stretched out and pulled something loose with my foot. Don't laugh, it happens!
  4. The next step is configuring the router. Follow the instructions supplied and you should be able to connect your first PC to it without a problem. 
  5. Continue with the second PC, and the remaining ones, until all have connections to the router. 


If you're not seeing all of the PCs on the network as shown in Windows, verify that the PC cable is securely connected to the router. Look at the back of each PC where the Cat-5 cable connects and look for an illuminated indicator light. If you have connectivity with any of the PCs to the router and still have a connection problem with another PC, it's not the router. It's either a bad cable or it's the PC. Replace the cable with a spare and recheck. If you're still having a problem, take the PC back to the store and get it fixed. Do not try to fix the unit yourself; you may void the warranty.

If you have a problem with the install, contact me and if you live within driving distance of Columbia, SC, and if I'm available, I will take care of it myself, or will have a colleague take care of it for you with a professional installation and at a reasonable, competitive price. The same holds true if the above scenario does not apply to you; you are in a rented business office space and require a T-1 line for data and/or phone system. 

I wish you the best and good luck!




PC Manufacturer / Extended Warranties

The last time you were in a retail establishment and made a purchase and the sales associate asked you if you would like the extended warranty coverage, did you accept? For many products you are routinely asked that question. Why do you get asked that question when you see marketing display slogans and phrases attesting to the quality and performance of that product? There is quite a dichotomy in the selling process occurring here. That's what we're discussing today; extended warranties and other warranty types. You need to understand what's involved in order to make good buying decisions when shopping for a personal computer, while saving your hard earned dollars. 

Let's begin by discussing the different types of warranties you will encounter when you're shopping for a personal computer.

  • Manufacturer Warranties 
  • Extended Warranties
  • "Mom & Pop" Computer Shop Warranties

Manufacturer Warranty

The standard manufacturer warranty coverage period for most desktop and laptop computers is one year. When calling for service, ensure it's an authorized service center for your brand of PC. You can find this information in the manual that came with the PC, the manufacturer's web site, or from the retail outlet where you made the purchase.  Before contacting the service center, make sure you have the model and serial number of the PC since they will ask you for it. Once you have contacted the manufacturer's service center, they will direct you to either ship it to a main repair facility or bring it over to a local computer center near you that is authorized by them to make repairs.  The bottom line is make sure you understand the terms of the warranty. Some warranties might include labor but limited parts support. Do not assume they are all one year for parts and labor.

Just as an overall disclaimer about manufacturer warranties, if you ever have a problem with a PC during its manufacturer warranty period, the warranty may be voided if you:

  • attempt to open the case
  • disassemble any part of the unit
  • modify anything, remove a part, and/or install a part
  • upgrade the operating system

The degree of warranty strictness depends on the manufacturer, but the above is quite common for many of the PC manufacturers today. 

Extended Warranty

Extended warranties are warranties purchased by the customer at the time of purchase. Contact information should be listed on the paperwork that accompanies your extended warranty purchase. Remember that the repair facility responsible for an extended warranty repair is not necessarily the same company as the PC manufacturer. In fact, many times it is not the same company. For an extended warranty, a service center's response on how to repair your PC can vary from company to company; some will provide outstanding customer service, others may keep you waiting for awhile. Some service centers will dispatch out a technician to your home within a certain time frame, other servicers may ask you to either ship the unit to their facility or take it to a nearby service center that they have authorized to do their repairs. Still others may even help you solve the problem over the phone, depending on the complexity of the problem.

Extended Warranty Notes to Remember:

  • They are the highest money maker for many retail outlets, even more of a profit maker than the product itself.
  • Do not rely or trust what a salesperson tells you about how great an extended warranty is and be careful of the ones who put down the manufacturer's warranty to build up the value of the extended warranty.
  • Nothing verbal that a salesperson tells you can be legally enforced, but rather what is in writing will be the authority for the coverage terms.
  • Ask to see what the coverage details of the extended warranty include before buying. If the salesperson cannot provide that information, leave and shop elsewhere. 

The ultimate question is should I get an extended warranty for a PC purchase? Statistics of PC servicing show that if a PC is going to break, it usually breaks down in the initial few months of use, which is already covered by most manufacturer's warranties.  Once it breaks, it's usually okay for a few years, which would put you out of the realm of extended warranty coverage anyway.  The best insurance policy you can have for a PC is simply take good care of it.  I've always done that and my PCs have lasted me several years, including the laptops.

"Mom & Pop" PC Store Warranty

An area of warranty coverage that you should be careful about is a warranty associated with a third-party PC store. They are generally referred to as a "Mom & Pop" computer store from your local area that sells and services PCs, builds their own PCs, and will also build a custom PC to your specifications. Their prices and selection aren't as good as the large retail chain stores, but they are competitive. The area where they make up for this is in the area of customer service. A local PC store that has been in business for a number of years will have good, personalized customer service. Before deciding to do business with them you should find out the following:

  • Their reputation for backing up service claims by customers is key.  Call your friends or coworkers and ask if they have done business with the company. A good rule of thumb is finding out how long they have been in business. If they have been in business for several years, that is usually a good sign.
  • Evaluate their customer service. Go inside the store and walk around. If asked by a staff member if you need assistance,  ask them about their service policies. Find out what types of PCs they offer for sale. Mention some problems that you've had in the past with your PC and see how they respond.  Stay in the store for awhile and see how customers are treated that are dropping off or picking up their computers. Does the staff seem knowledgeable, courteous, and have a customer-first attitude?
  • These companies should have warranties on their PCs as well as providing for refurbished, or reconditioned PCs. Find out what the warranty period is for reconditioned computers. They should have a 90 day warranty if you choose not to purchase their warranty.
  • Ask the technicians if they are A+ certified, have some computer industry certification, or inquire about their length of experience. 
  • Although being a member of the Better Business Bureau doesn't necessarily indicate integrity, it's a point in favor of them as a viable candidate for your business.
  • Are they an authorized repair facility for a major PC manufacturer? This is not vital but it's a good indicator of their expertise in the computer industry.

Understand that the validity of their warranty rests with their willingness to support it, which in most cases with reputable shops, is pretty good. Frankly, I have never experienced problems in this area, but I always made sure of that shop's reputation and did my homework before making the purchase. 

Credit Cards that Extend Warranty

If you really need to have an extended warranty so you can sleep well there are a couple of ways to get a free extended warranty. Keep in mind that the major credit card issuers have cards that do provide extended warranty coverage for products purchased with the card. Check your card issuer and find out if your card qualifies for it. If it doesn't, you may be able to switch over to another card they issue that does have the extended warranty feature with minimal or no cost to you for the card switch. If you call their customer service they can explain the details of the extended warranty coverage. 

Home Shopping Clubs Extend Warranty

Another free extended warranty avenue are the national home shopping clubs. There's a good chance one of them is in your area; check it out and see if they offer a free extended warranty with a PC purchase. 

Best Warranty – Caring for Your PC

Remember that you can always bank the money that you could have paid toward an extended warranty and save it for a repair down the road, if it's ever needed. But the most important thing you can do is simply treat your PC well, like any other large monetary investment. By caring for it, you are stacking the deck in your favor. To see my article on caring for your PC, you can view it here. Treat your PC with respect and it will last you well past the warranty period.  Besides stretching the dollars you paid for your PC and getting more than your money's worth, you will definitely sleep well at night.