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Networking Questions and Answers - How to Set Up a Small Office Network

Linda writes in with a networking question

Question:
We are a very small office (3 people). We have a peer-to-peer network but are considering moving to server based system and paperless office. We currently are wireless with wireless internet via cable modem. What do I need to start this process? Hardware? Software? Etc. Where do I look for additional help/resources? I am not an IT person, but have some computer knowledge - I have been charged with getting this info and don't know where to look. Help! Thanks.

Answer: If you want to setup a server for a small office you don't have to go all out and buy a server operating system such as Windows Server 2003 which can cost several thousand dollars. You can get away with using a Windows XP computer as your server. I suggest using the Professional version over the home version. If your other computers are XP Home I suggest upgrading to XP Professional as well. It is better at networking and file permissions etc.

Normally in a Windows networking situation you would implement a domain. A domain allows you to centralize all of your users and resources into one place. Its more work if you do not know how to manage it though. Plus you would have to have a Windows server operating system to implement a domain. You can store and share all of your files on the XP server as well as install printers and share them. If you have software that can run over the network you can install it on the XP server as well. You can make user accounts on the XP server for each one of your users and control what kind of access they have to what files as needed.

For the networking part I don't recommend wireless since its easier to break into because you are transferring information though the air rather than a wire (Ethernet). You can attach your cable modem to a cable router and branch off the connection to your 3 workstations and the server. Usually cable routers have 4 Ethernet ports on the back. If you need more you can connect the router to a 8 port switch or more and then attach the computer to the switch. The only downside is you will need to run cables to all of the computers. If you have to stay with wireless you should get a cable router so you can implement a wireless key so your neighbors cant get on your network.

Here are some additional resources to help get you started.
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/networking/getstarted/default.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/networking/default.mspx
http://www.geekgirls.com/windowsxp_home_network.htm (Ignore the section on ICS since you don't need to implement that since you will all be connected to the cable internet)

 

 



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