Working from your home office comes with plenty of advantages. For instance, you can stay in your pajamas all day and you don’t have to worry about your co-workers drinking all your coffee creamer. However, one of the big trade-offs of running your own business and/or working from home is that you don’t have easy access to a stellar IT team who can problem solve issues and ensure maximum security. The good news is that with a little knowledge, you can create a secure network in your home office that can protect your data and easily adapt as your needs change.
What to Look for in a Wireless Router
A home office network is simply a smaller version of an enterprise level network. The basic requirements are the same, which means that it all starts with a router. The right router will provide you with a reliable internet connection and come with built-in security features. Here are a few basic features to look for when shopping for a router:
- A firewall is standard issue for routers on the market today. This software will help identify and prevent any cyber attacks on your network. Be sure that your router clearly specifies what protections it offers.
- If your network will be supporting over 10 users, you should consider upgrading to a Unified Threat Management (UTM) device. These relatively affordable devices will offer extra protection against viruses and other attacks without slowing your connection speed.
- Ability to support a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This tool allows users to securely share information over a private connection even when they are away from the office. You can safely collaborate with remotely located colleagues without sacrificing security.
Keep an Eye out for Firmware Updates
Your router manufacturer should be constantly working to fix any bugs and make updates that address new types of security threats. Be sure to visit the manufacturer’s page regularly so that you can download updates. This is a free and easy way to ensure that you are working with the best possible tools.
Change Default Passwords
When you purchase a router, it will come with a default admin username and password. In addition, your wireless network will come with a default Service Set Identifier (SSID), which is basically another set of default login credentials. Once you have your network up and running, you should go back and change all these components and add more secure and customized login information. This simple step will go a long way in deterring hackers and securing your network.
When to Use an Ethernet Connection
In most homes, people rely on a wi-fi signal to connect to the internet and transmit data. In most cases this offers plenty of speed, but it you will be transferring large multimedia files, you might want to consider connecting directly to your router using an Ethernet cable. An Ethernet cable offers faster, more reliable performance and only costs about $15-$30 dollars. If you want to connect multiple devices via Ethernet cords, be sure to look for a router that comes with plenty of Ethernet ports to accommodate your needs.
How to Protect Your Network and Your Devices
Part of what an IT team does is prepare for the worst. They try to head off potential problems and implement recovery procedures so that businesses can return to usual as quickly as possible when problems arise. If you are in charge of your own home office network, then you need to adopt this same mindset and take some basic precautions to protect your network and your devices.
Probably the most cost effective investment you can make is purchasing surge protectors. All it can take is a thunderstorm and a power strike to crash your network and send your business into a tailspin. Just a few dollars is all it takes to avoid this hazard and stay up and running.
You may also want to consider purchasing a more comprehensive back-up UPS device. These products will protect against surges and provide you with back-up power in the event you lose electricity. In addition, they can be controlled remotely so that you can reboot specific devices even if you aren’t in the office.
Don’t Forget to Back up Your Data!
Even if you take all the necessary precautions to setup a secure network and prevent any problems, you can never be too safe. You must consistently back-up your data. Fortunately, devices and programs, such as Windows, come with built-in back-up features, but these out-of-box solutions only represent the first layer of protection. At the very least, you should invest in an external storage device that can hold all your important data. For the best level of protection, you will want to save your entire drive image, which goes beyond simple files and basically recreates your entire PC.
Make Scalability and Flexibility a Priority
While you might be starting out as a one man operation, you don’t want to establish a network that can only support you. As you are building your network and purchasing essential devices, be sure to look towards the future. Not only will technology continue to evolve, so will your needs. Look for more robust devices that can handle multiple users and are compatible with the latest technology. Instead of creating a more rigid network that only addresses your current needs, be sure to make scalability and flexibility top priorities.
While you might not be an IT expert, you can still easily setup a secure network in your home office. Start with purchasing the right equipment that will not only accommodate your current needs, but also grow with you as your business evolves. Next, be sure to take advantage of equipment updates and available software programs that can help you identify threats and back-up your important data. Perhaps most importantly, remember that while technology greatly expands our capabilities, it isn’t fool-proof. Make sure that you prepare for the worst and have a recovery plan in place in case things do go awry.