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. 

Troubleshooting

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!

 

 

 

Fixing PC Hardware Problems

 No, you’re not losing your mind, although sometimes a PC can come close to giving you a coronary. It’s a little intimidating just to purchase a PC, given all of the types and models you have to sift through just to find the right one for you. Then, when something goes awry, it feels like you’re having to solve a 3-dimensional crossword puzzle! Well, let not your heart be troubled; we’re going to look at a few simple and maybe a couple of not quite as simple methods for fixing a hardware problem. 

Often, the solution to the fix is much easier than you think. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is first of all, relax. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you will logically backtrack to what you were doing on the PC prior to everything going to battlestations.

The following is a good method for troubleshooting a PC hardware problem. Go through it step-by-step and chances are excellent you’ll find the hardware problem. Go slowly and methodically, okay? Okay; good luck.

1. Check for the obvious first. Many problems can be corrected by just taking a thorough look at the device and it’s connections.

  • Is the device plugged in and turned on? Is the power strip plugged in and turned on? 

How many times have you heard the classic story of the technician who spent 2 hours troubleshooting only to find out a blown fuse was the problem!

  • Are the interconnecting cables secure?
  • If it’s sound related, is the volume turned up?
  • If the problem is related to an expansion card, is the card seated correctly in the slot? 

Before opening the PC to check the card seating, 2 things to do first:

a-Ensure the PC is still not under it’s warranty. If it is, some warranties will be voided if you open the case. For more information about warranties, check it my article concerning them here.

b-If you do open it up, first power down the PC, unplug the power cord, and once again, depress the power button to remove any residual voltages still operating.

2. Consider all of the recent changes you or someone else have made to your system. Maybe the change is related to your problem. Sometimes in the process of installing or removing something inside of the PC, you could have accidently bumped something, causing it to not function correctly. Open your PC up and check inside for anything out of the norm. If the change was done by a PC shop, take it back to them and have them recheck.

 3. Research error messages. If you see an error message while booting or after the boot has completed, do not ignore it. Find out the reason why you saw the message. It could very well be related to your hardware issue. Use the Internet to find answers by doing a Google search. 

 4. Use the Vista Problem Reports and Solutions or the XP Error Reporting window. These tools can help classify and resolve errors that cause the system to lock up, device driver errors, and services and applications that did not start. Pay notice to the description given since that will clue you to identifying the device or application at fault.

To select the Windows Vista Problem Reports and Solutions window, select Start – All Programs – Maintenance – Problem Reports and Solutions.

To select the Windows XP Error Reporting, go to Windows Explorer, right mouse button click My Computer – select Properties from shortcut menu, select the Advance tab, and select Error Reporting. 

windows xp error reporting

 

5. Check your logs in the Event Viewer. In the Event Viewer, the Administrative Events log under Custom Views shows warnings and error events. Look for entries with a date close to the date the problem began.

To use the Event Viewer, select Start – Run – Enter eventvwr.msc and select OK. 

Using Event Viewer

 

6. Check your BIOS setup and ensure the hardware device is detected. It can be accessed by selecting a certain key while the pc is in the beginning stage of booting up, and should be on the screen with the BIOS version. If not, check your documentation for the key or keys to use.

 7. Check the Windows Device Manager and verify that the device in question is enabled and Windows sees it as working correctly. If you see errors or a yellow question mark warning symbol, this is an indication that it must be resolved now.

To use Device Manager, select Start – Control Panel – System – Hardware tab – Device Manager

Using Device Manager
 
For example, if you are having problems with your networking device, you can find out all about it by locating and selecting it in the Device Manager list, right mouse button click it, and select Properties from the shortcut menu.

Device manager properties  “

Observe the device status. Although it may have the entry, “This device is working properly”, you can select the Troubleshooting choice, which can help you localize the problem. 

If you need to update it’s device driver, select the Driver tab, then select Update Driver. Selecting Update Driver will bring you to the Hardware Update Wizard window. Continue to proceed by following the Wizard choices as applicable.

update device driver

 

Hardware update wizard

Sometimes just a Windows speed issue disguises itself as a hardware problem. If your system is operating slowly, first check it my article on speeding up Windows here. It is also possible that a virus problem could be causing your system to act strangely, to the point that you may think you’ve got a hardware issue. If you don’t have virus protection, check out my article on Virus Protection here.

It really boils down to a process of eliminating the most probable causes for the hardware sympton in the manner I’ve described to effectively combat a PC problem. There are different ways to troubleshoot a PC, but this procedure is one of the best ones to use. Faithfully use it each time you experience hardware-like symptom issues and you should minimize the amount of down-time you have. Good luck!