What's involved in setting up a network for a small business? (~20 PCs/Clients)

My sister works for a non-profit that wants to set up a better wi-fi network in their office. Right now, they are running off a typical home networking wi-fi router, but it isn’t keeping up with their needs. They have about 20 people who need access for their laptops, phones and tablets. I think they are on the second story of a two-story building.

She asked me, the family nerd, for some help, since I’m jobless. They don’t have anyone on staff who knows how to set-up this kind of thing, but one person is willing to “google” her way through it. However, she has other responsibilities and doesn’t really have time to work on it. I don’t feel much more qualified to tackle it, but I would at least understand what’s going on.

I’m think they probably have a basic Cable/DSL business level ISP. I imagine they would need a decent router with a handful of access points, but I haven’t even seen the office. They don’t have any servers. Is this something that I could handle? I’d consider myself an “above-average Joe” in terms of computer knowledge, but I don’t want to take on the job and find myself in over my head. Can anyone point me in the right direction on how to get started?

You can probably handle it. A lot will depend on their needs and desires. I would suggest by giving her a questionnaire with some basic questions like:

Will all devices be wireless, or will they need a hard wired connection for desktop PCs as well?

Will employees be allowed to have personal devices connected to the network?

What are they using for email? Do they want to host their own email, or use a service like Google provides?

How secure will the network need to be (do they store personal, financial or other sensitive data)?

Do they need file sharing? If so, can it be cloud based or a shared network drive?

What will be the purpose the network needs to serve? (sending emails, exchanging small files, exchanging large files, etc.)

Do they want any type of nanny software? This could be to keep people off just porn, or social networking sites too.

Finally… Budget. How much do they want to spend?

Step carefully - you will forever be the on-call IT guy if you move forward. I’m not saying don’t do it, just know what you’re signing up for.

Agreed. Very wise advice.

Good point… I wonder how much I can bill them for an on-call job :wink:

Mgalindo13, Thanks for the great list of questions. I think I will go for it. The forums over at Anandtech seem to have lots of posts about this same thing, so I have an idea of what products to look at.