With a network you can share printers, the internet and more
When do you need a company network? The standard answer is, the day you buy a second computer. And these days, when it's often cheaper to buy a new one than upgrade an old one, even the smallest businesses reach that point fairly quickly.
A few years ago, it was easy. Fax machine in one corner of the office, dial-up internet machine in the other, and a printer attached to the main computer. But as you grow, the inefficiencies start appearing.
Suddenly you're doing a large chunk of your business communication by email, everyone wants the web on their desktop and there's a queue forming by the printer.
The smart way to avoid the unnecessary expense is to pool these resources.
�Invest in a fast connection, and share it among all those who might need it.�
Hook up your printers to a central server so everyone can share them. It's just like printing to a normal printer, but you don't need to have one each. You can attach several printers at once, for example a colour laser printer for brochures or sales literature, and a cheaper inkjet printer for invoices.
If you run your internet connection through a central server, everyone can use it to go online, and you only need to pay for one connection. With the prices of broadband connections dropping almost by the month, it makes good financial sense to invest in a fast connection, and share it among all those who might need it.
If faxes are still part of your business, you can replace your old fax machine with a fax-modem, plugged into your server and shared like a printer. You simply 'print' your Word document to the fax-modem, and the conversion to fax happens automatically. And the resulting faxes are generally of better quality, because you're faxing a digital original, rather than a scanned copy.
Receiving faxes is even easier. The server converts incoming faxes into email messages, and sends them straight to your email inbox as soon as they arrive.
With something like Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003, it's easy to set all this up. It has a built-in print and fax server, and it is designed to let lots of people share an internet connection safely. Adding new users to the network is straightforward too - much easier than hooking up a new printer and ISP account each time.