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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!