Once you've decided you need a network, proceed carefully. Chuck Yort, director of small-business operations at 3Com, recommends asking yourself five questions:
1. How do you plan to use your network? Determine what you want to gain from your network now and in the future, such as the ability to share files, access data remotely and so on.
2. How many PCs do you have? This impacts the way you'll design your LAN, from the types of cabling you use to its structure.
3. Where do you plan to buy it? Retail is an option if you're familiar with networks and plan to install it yourself. If not, it's usually best to use a reseller that can choose equipment for you, install it and provide ongoing support.
4. Get to know the terms. To make the best decisions, you should become familiar with basic networking terminology.
5. How crucial will your network be? Think about how dependent your business will become on the network and what could happen if it breaks down. Then, be sure to put the proper controls in place and, if necessary, additional personnel to manage it.