Internet Law

Small Business: Secured Networks and Wireless Freedom

How to use computer technology is a question faced by just about every business at some point. Wireless or wi-fi (wireless fidelity networking) and secured networking, via VPN (virtual private network), probably has a place in your business plan. Learn the basics and options, and be informed as you choose the best products and services for your business.

Why Wireless?

In setting up computers and peripherals, it can seem as though the connections are just waiting to trip or choke you. Take the usual connections you need and multiply times the workers in your office and it can be a mess. A wireless office is more than convenient; it may be necessity saving you money, resources and enabling growth and success.

A wireless office can increase efficiency and reduce equipment costs, so include these options in business planning. Freedom to roam within your business space can impact how your staff gets its work done, both alone and as a team. Going wireless can allow employees to share equipment, such as printers - you may need less equipment and can afford upgrades.

Wireless options can be an important factor in a major expense for most businesses: real estate. A business will have a physical site somewhere, whether it's a home office in your basement or an entire building. A wireless network reduces infrastructure and provides flexibility. Freed of the limits and costs for wired connections, you may have more choices for physical office space. A leased space may work as long as you don't have the cost of rewiring for computer equipment. Sites such as old or converted buildings could work with wireless equipment, but aren't feasible with wired connections.

Wireless Equipment

Going wireless can be fairly simple. Your equipment must be wi-fi capable, and you need a wireless gateway or router controlling network traffic and providing internet access. Wireless adapters are available for older equipment or as an accessory. You can check manufacturer web sites for drivers and information on wi-fi options. The small business wireless network may be very close to the wireless network in your home.

Security for your wireless network is required. Businesses of all sizes and home users must secure wireless connections, and wireless routers are equipped with several options. Don't ignore security and take the time to know how the encryption tools for your equipment work. Protect your business or customers from cyber crime.

Who Keeps Things Running?

Part of your wireless office plan needs to designate who will keep everything running and solve technical problems. As a small business owner or manager, you might be the IT person. If you or a key staff member can't wear the IT hat, you'll need to find technical support services. When choosing, know exactly what services you'll receive and how they'll be delivered, such as 24-hour support, and the costs.

Branching Out with VPN

VPN stands for virtual private network, and is a method for allowing only authorized users to access your computer network and encrypting data traveling or "tunneling" over the internet. The main LAN (local area network) might be at the main office, with other offices and users connecting to it via VPN. Your business might use VPN for:

  • Intranet access - connecting remote offices on protected company sites
  • Remote access for mobile and home-based workers, such as field and sales staff, or others using notebook computers
  • Extranet connections for business partners, such as your suppliers

The components and procedures used to set up and run a VPN vary. There's flexibility for security measures, including encryption, firewalls and passwords. You'll also set the policies your employees will follow when using the VPN; these rules are important for overall cyber security.

Vendors offer the hardware, software and services for your VPN needs. Some of the basics you'll need are an internet account with VPN capability, switches to control your local network and VPN-capable routers for internet access. Check for online tools tailored to help you choose the best products. Most computers and devices should be able to use VPN; check older equipment to be sure it will work with your system.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How are wireless and networking hardware and software treated for tax purposes?
  • Should networking and wireless access issues be included in office lease terms?
  • Is there any liability risk for my business if I don't update for the latest computer and networking security measures?
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