Get It Together

The Big Idea

The growing acceptance of the Internet as a standard part of business is one factor driving the networking market today. Employees need access to the Internet to communicate with customers, locate business-related information and check out competitors. But without a local area network (LAN), Internet access can be very inefficient. Some companies wind up having employees waiting to share one computer with an Internet account or pay for individual accounts and phone lines for each user to connect to the Internet, which can get costly.

When computers on a LAN are connected to the Internet, however, businesses save money because one line is shared, and you only pay for one account through an Internet service provider. Moreover, because you share only one line, you might be able to afford a faster connection such as an ISDN line that speeds up your access.

Perhaps the most common reason small businesses implement a network is to share peripherals such as printers and scanners. When a printer is connected to your LAN, any employee on the network can use it.

Another benefit of networking: sharing files and applications. If your employees waste time storing files on floppy disks and distributing them around the office, a network is a better solution. Everyone works more collaboratively when files are stored on the network because all employees have easy access to them. What's more, you can save money by buying network versions of software and having employees share them. You can also take advantage of groupware products to help distribute documents and manage projects around the office.

If you have a fax server and PC faxing software installed on each computer, users on a network can fax directly from their desktops instead of waiting around for an available fax machine. Remote access to files, efficient backup of companywide data and internal e-mail also become a reality for your business.

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get It Together.

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