SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

IT Tips: How Small Businesses can Maintain a Healthy Network

mall business owners have a lot of responsibility. Between daily operations and managing employees, it’s hard to imagine having time to worry about your network connect. But with so many cloud-based applications currently helping small businesses run, the health of their network remains one of the most important aspects of day-to-day functionality.

Keeping ahead of major problems can keep a business from losing out on revenue and taking a hit to their Healthy Networkreputation. But, understandably, most small businesses don’t have an IT department on hand. The fate of the network rests on the shoulders of the less technologically savvy, and sometimes, gets forgotten about until it's too late and there is already a problem.

Want to avoid issues with your network? We spoke to some IT managers to come up with five important steps you can take to protecting and troubleshooting your network.

Invest in a Network Monitoring Solution

If there’s one huge step you can take to track what’s happening on your network, this is it. Researching and investing in a monitoring solution that fits your needs will set you up for success. When you’re considering your options, you want to make sure you choose a program that provides ease of use, has the ability to grow as your company does, and a team that provides exceptional customer service. Having a team behind the program that’s willing to offer training and insight when needed is an added bonus. Don’t invest in the first program you stumble across. Ask around, do your research, and trust your gut instinct.

Develop an Escalation Plan

With a monitoring solution in place and an at-a-glance network map, you can move onto the next step in network health—the escalation plan. At this point, you need to take stock of who is going to step in when there’s a problem and start building a team of reliable employees. If you don’t have an IT team, this is incredibly important. You need to ensure you have employees at every location capable of troubleshooting or contacting the right people to start solving an issue at the first hint of a problem. You should have someone monitoring the network on a daily basis, but outside of that, know who else needs to be looped in if anything goes wrong.

Assign roles and make sure those roles are clear to everyone involved. Each person should know what they’re responsible for, who to contact in the event of an outage and how to escalate their problem. Developing contact lists that include emails and phone numbers, keeping employees informed of internet policies, and constantly adjusting your plan for company changes, are all part of keeping an escalation plan updated.

This plan is the most important aspect of a healthy network. Having a team that knows the warning signs of a problem and how to respond quickly, will ensure your company doesn’t lose any important information or businesses as a result of a network outage.

Keeping your data secure

Security is one of the major factors in network health. Businesses never get a warning before a data breach, but they can take the appropriate steps to ensure they’re keeping their information safe. Some of these steps are incredibly simple, including setting up a company firewall and setting priorities about what employees can access when they’re using your network. If you’ve assigned company mobile phones, it’s important to keep track of the applications that are being downloaded and blocking apps that come from unknown developers.

Limiting remote access for employees is another must. Working from home on their private network should be safe, but public Wi-Fi can expose your data to a host of hackers and other security issues. Don’t’ forget about updating your software. It may seem like such a small task, easy to overlook, but it’s incredibly important. Many software updates come with upgraded security features that coincide with any updates your computer or mobile phone has recently implemented. Not updating software could potentially expose your information to hackers.

Understand your Network Infrastructure

One of the key attributes of a good monitoring program is a network map. If you’re a small business with one location, this isn’t a huge driver. But if you’re a multi-location business, you need to monitor your network across all locations and understand the infrastructure you have in place. Having a network map, whether it’s designed for your monitoring program or a way of tracking your locations that you’ve developed on your own, should allow you ease of access to viewing and troubleshooting problems at any location at the click of a button. Knowing where your physical equipment is, and how your network is connected from one location to the next, can save time and energy when a problem arises.

Monitor your bandwidth and network daily

Just like consistently updating apps and changing passwords, someone on your team should be taking a look at what is happening on your network daily. This can be as simple as logging into your monitoring solution and seeing what’s happening with latency, bandwidth, and CPU. A great monitoring solution will even allow customers to set alerts, so if your bandwidth is suddenly soaring, it will send an email out to let you know.

For more in-depth networks, it also helps to set priorities for where your bandwidth can be used and for what applications. This will make you aware when one office is streaming YouTube videos or uploading and downloading major files consistently. Knowing what is happening at each one of your locations will help you define how to allocate your network and keep it from being stretched too thin.

A businesses number one priority is generating revenue. These days, we can’t do that without an internet connection. If a network goes down, it not only prevents us from providing our customers with what they need, but it impedes productivity internally. These tips can help any business, large or small, stay on top of their network and continue to keep it healthy.

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