A computer network connects various hardware devices within an organisation, allowing these devices to talk to each other and users to share information across the network. These will typically include desktop PCs, phones and printers.
Whether a network connects users within a single building or links various locations together, the benefits to a company are numerous and invaluable. Efficiency and reliability of communication are essential to modern businesses which require fast response times and secure data handling.
A computer network installation company can project manage the creation of a new network or the expansion or replacement of an existing network. Their services can include planning and designing the network, laying the appropriate cabling, procuring and installing the right hardware and software and even providing ongoing support and maintenance.
Computer Network Types
Business computer networks fall into one of five main categories:
- LAN Network: A local area network connects computers, phones, printers etc in a single building.
- WAN Network: Wide area networks cover a larger geographical area, taking in several locations and connecting one or more of a company’s LANs together. WANs can use dedicated leased lines or the public telecommunications network to link locations.
- VPN: A virtual private network uses the internet to set up a virtual network allowing fixed and roaming users to communicate and access central resources. This is increasingly more popular than WAN due to lower cost though WAN is still sometimes employed in high security (e.g. defence) environments.
- Wireless Network: Also known as WLAN. Connects devices on a single site via WiFi technology similar to that employed for home use. Wireless networks do away with the need for cable laying and allow new users to connect easily. They are not, however, the most secure networks and are more prone to reliability issues.
- Mixed Networks: A medium or large business will likely employ several types of network e.g. a company office will have a LAN for regular office users which incorporates their phones, will have a wireless network for visiting staff or meeting rooms and will connect to head office servers via a VPN.
Computer Network Installation Services
Network installation comprises a number of component parts which we’ll deal with individually. Most of these services will be available from a dedicated network installation or IT services company but do remember to check that your chosen supplier can deliver all the services you need.
Network Design and Project Management
Unless you have your own IT department in house who know exactly what your company’s needs are and can design an appropriate network, you’ll likely need outside assistance. A network installation company can work with you to assess your needs and design an appropriate network. They will then project manage the installation and roll-out to ensure a smooth and timely transition to the new set-up.
Network Cabling Installation
Devices on a LAN must be connected with physical cables. They’ll commonly run under the floor of an office and terminate in ‘network points’ where computers and phones are connected. These will then usually run to a server – a computer dedicated to performing network tasks and which might comprise separate modules for emails, databases etc. The server hub will also connect your network with the outside world via an internet connection.
A network cabling supplier will help you decide which type of cables you need and the best way to install them. Cable varieties include:
- Structured Cabling: Copper wire cabling adhering to Cat5 or the more modern Cat6 standards. They carry voice and data information via fluctuations in electrical current and are suitable for small to mid-sized sites.
- Optic Fibre Cabling: These are plastic fibre cables which carry information via beams of light. Much better for carrying signals over large distances but also provide the most fidelity and greatest speed of all the options.
Hardware and Software Procurement
Outsourcing your IT purchasing to a network installations company on a project basis ensures that all your hardware and software will be compatible, fit for purpose, delivered in a timely fashion and installed professionally.
If you have no space for running your own servers or no staff for maintaining them you can outsource hosting of your network to a remote hosting supplier. This way you’ll have access to all your files, email and database functions via a VPN.
Security, Backup and Disaster Recovery
A business’s data is often one of its most valuable assets and also a huge liability in the event of theft or loss. A network services company can supply security consultation to make sure your network is safe and secure from threats. They can also provide backup and disaster recovery services to ensure that you’re always Data Protection Act compliant and have business continuity plans in place for unforeseen circumstances.
IT Support and Maintenance
A network installation company will normally provide after care services for a certain period after the installation but for the longer term an IT support contract might be required. See our Buyers’ Guide to IT Support Services for more information.
Choosing a Network or Data Cabling Installation Company
Obviously the range of services on offer will vary slightly between suppliers so key to choosing the right company is making sure they have the right mix of skills and competencies. All network installation companies will have a website on which they enumerate the services they provide. Comparing quotes from several suppliers will help you understand how competitive each of the suppliers is in terms of price.
Some other factors to consider are:
- Hands on approach: Does the installation company use its own staff for the actual work or will they outsource it to a contractor? If outsourced, what assurances do you have as to the quality of the work?
- Flexibility: To avoid disruption you might need the installation to take place at night, over a weekend, during holidays or in several phases. Can the company accommodate you?
- Testing: How thoroughly will the installation company test your new arrangement? Will they continue to apply fixes and work on the network until it’s problem free or only for a set time period after installation?
- Reputation and Experience: How long has the company been in business? Do they have testimonials from previous clients? Are they partnered with reputable brands? All this information can be gleaned from their website.
Implementing a new network or upgrading an existing network can dramatically improve the effectiveness, efficiency and security of your communications and data handling. Choosing the right company to perform the work is essential for successful network installation so take your time and gather quotes from as many companies as you can. Taking the time to find the right supplier will be well worth it.