Introduction to Business Computer Networks

Home and business networks are more similar than they are different

Just as many residential households use their home networks, corporations and other types of businesses rely on computer networks in their daily operations. Both residential and business networks use many of the same underlying technologies. However, business networks (particularly those in larger corporations) incorporate additional features and usage requirements.

Business Network Design

A screen shot showing a laptop, tablet computer, desktop computer, wireless router, and two phones connected to the World Wide Web.
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Small office and home office networks normally function with either one or two local area networks, each controlled by its network router. These match typical home network designs.

As businesses grow, their network layouts expand to increasingly larger numbers of LANs. Corporations based in more than one location set up internal connectivity between their office buildings. This connectivity is called a campus network when the buildings are in close proximity and a wide area network when spanning across cities or countries.

Companies enable their local networks for Wi-Fi wireless access. However, larger businesses tend to wire their office buildings with high-speed Ethernet cabling for greater network capacity and performance.

Business Networks and the Internet

Most companies authorize their employees to access the internet from inside the business network. Some install internet content filtering technology to block access to certain web sites or domains. These filtering systems use a configurable database of internet domain names (such as adult or gambling websites), addresses, and content keywords deemed to violate the company acceptable use policy.

Some home network routers also support internet content filtering features through an administration screen. Corporations tend to deploy more powerful and expensive software solutions.

Businesses sometimes allow employees to log in to the company network from their homes or other external locations, a capability called remote access. A business can set up virtual private network (VPN) servers to support remote access, with employees' computers configured to use matching VPN client software and security settings.

Compared to home networks, business networks send out (upload) a higher volume of data across the internet. This volume is from transactions on company web sites, email, and other data published externally. Residential internet service plans supply customers with a higher data rate for downloads in return for a lower rate on uploads. Business internet plans allow higher upload rates for this reason.

Intranets and Extranets

Companies set up internal web servers to share private business information with employees. They may also deploy internal email, instant messaging, and other private communication systems. Together these systems make a business intranet. Unlike internet email, IM, and web services that are publicly available, intranet services can only be accessed by employees who are logged in to the network.

Screenshot of an intranet website template

Advanced business networks also allow certain controlled data to be shared between companies. Sometimes called extranets or business-to-business networks, these communication systems involve remote access methods or login-protected web sites.

Business Network Security

Companies possess valuable private data, making network security a priority. Security-conscious businesses usually take additional measures to protect their networks beyond what people do for their home networks.

To prevent unauthorized devices from joining a business network, companies employ centralized sign-on security systems. These tools require users to authenticate by entering passwords that are checked against a network directory. These tools also check a device's hardware and software configuration to verify it is authorized to join to network.

Company employees can make bad choices in their use of passwords; for example, they may use easily hacked names like password1 and welcome. To protect the business network, company IT administrators set up password rules that any device joining it must follow. They may also set the network passwords of employees to expire periodically, forcing them to be changed, which is also intended to improve security.

Administrators sometimes set up guest networks for visitors to use. Guest networks give visitors access to the internet and some basic company information without allowing connections to critical company servers or other protected data.

Businesses develop additional systems to improve their data security. Network backup systems regularly capture and archive critical business data from company devices and servers. Some companies require employees to set up VPN connections when using internal Wi-Fi networks, to guard against data being snooped over the air.