If your business has more than one computer, chances are you could benefit from networking them. A local area network (LAN) connects your company's computers, allowing them to share and exchange a variety of information. While one computer can be useful on its own, several networked computers can be much more useful.
Here are some of the ways a computer network can help your business:
- File sharing: Have you ever needed to access a file stored on another computer? A network makes it easy for everyone to access the same file and prevents people from accidentally creating different versions.
- Printer sharing: If you use a computer, chances are you also use a printer. With a network, several computers can share the same printer. Although you might need a more expensive printer to handle the added workload, it's still cheaper to use a network printer than to connect a separate printer to every computer in your office.
- Communication and collaboration: It's hard for people to work together if no one knows what anyone else is doing. A network allows employees to share files, view other people's work, and exchange ideas more efficiently. In a larger office, you can use e-mail and instant messaging tools to communicate quickly and to store messages for future reference.
- Organization: A variety of scheduling software is available that makes it possible to arrange meetings without constantly checking everyone's schedules. This software usually includes other helpful features, such as shared address books and to-do lists.
- Remote access: Having your own network allows greater mobility while maintaining the same level of productivity. With remote access in place, users are able to access the same files, data, and messages even when they're not in the office. This access can even be given to mobile handheld devices.
- Data protection: You should know by now that it's vital to back up your computer data regularly. A network makes it easier to back up all of your company's data on an offsite server, a set of tapes, CDs, or other backup systems. (Of course, another aspect of data protection is data security. In our article, What Is a Firewall? you can read more about how a network can protect the data it transmits.)
Of course, this isn't a complete list; once you have a network, you'll probably find many other uses for it. And once you get used to the benefits of a network, you'll never look at your computer the same way again.
When you're ready to network your computers, one of the first choices you'll encounter is the speed of connection. You might also wonder whether to spring for a wireless LAN. Read about the speed factor in our article, How Fast Does Your Network Need to Be?
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