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Most people apparently give as much thought to the configuration of their office technology as they do to the junk NASA left on the moon nearly fifty years ago. In other words — not at all. As one of my responders bluntly stated: “Our company pays people to think about those things so I don’t have to.”
So for those who don’t think about LANs, here is a definition: local area networks are private communication systems used to connect computers and peripherals in a geographically limited area (typically in a single building or within a small campus). LANs enable entire offices to share databases, documents, file structures, and other work-related resources quickly and efficiently. LANs are so common that the average office worker probably doesn’t even realize they are using one each time they print, fax, or access a document.
This is a good thing; when technology runs so smoothly that it fades into the background then the full focus is on production and meeting the company’s bottom line.
Yet there is a downside to keeping employees on their A-game. LANs require a lot of infrastructure and capital to properly implement. Consider the hardware needed to keep an office running. Copper wiring and fiber optics for phone, fax, and data lines; physical space for servers and the HVAC equipment to keep them cool; monitoring equipment; PCs, laptops, and peripherals such as phones, copiers, printers, and fax machines.
Everything costs money to obtain, implement, and use. Add in the cost of the software run on these devices and the IT resources needed to keep everything running smoothly — and then factor in relative intangibles such as equipment obsolesce, performance requirements, scalability, and security — and the total cost of even a modest LAN becomes a substantial burden on small and medium sized businesses.
Planning, building, and using LANs become a matter of effectively estimating the operational cost of doing business. Which means asking tough questions:
- How big of an office do we need?
- How do we ensure that this office can connect and work with our other locations?
- How can we maximize our productivity without building in too much overhead and redundant bandwidth?
- How can we avoid cutting corners or taking risks?
It also means figuring out what is essential and what isn’t, and what you can outsource because someone else does it better (or faster, or cheaper, or “fill in the blank _____”).
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