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Networking; tying the information together.

That old premise of sharing is catching up with the 21st century as the idea of local area networks are cropping up in businesses across the globe.

From large corporations to small businesses, local area networks can make life and doing business much easier and faster.

Networks can be used for a number of things, including sharing software applications, hard disk drives and printers. But it can also mean sharing documents, proposals, files and information someone else has already worked on.

Small, self-sufficient networks can be ideal for the small business or department which does not have access to the team of computer experts or the large budget. The type of network small businesses and departments require is one that shares existing resources, takes very little effort to operate and makes it easy for the user.

The list of possibilities is endless. The computers on the local area networks have access to files, hard drives and applications stored on the other computers. Old proposals, letters, quotes and reports could take on a uniform look and consistency, with everyone on the network using the same format or way of doing things. Through a networked computer, one can check if a shipment has already left by accessing the data from the shipper's computer, all without having to leave the desk. Health records are at a doctor's or nurse's fingertips. Credit checks can be done instantaneously, reducing time, effort and paperwork.

But this is just the start. With technology changing so fast and new applications and gadgets being introduced every day, there is a load of "neat" things on the market.

These same networks, as well as running the software applications they need, can access huge amounts of information from CD ROMs including encyclopedias with instant look up and full colour pictures and sound to extensive legal libraries. Faxes, direct from a computer can be sent out, bypassing the printed paper stage all together. People can access data files, applications and laser printers all by phone. And, electronic mail makes it possible to leave messages, schedule meetings and work on proposals or projects together, all through the use of a local area network system.

Now, before all of these neat things become reality, one has to go about setting up a network system and to do this, it is best to call in the professionals.

Ensure all hardware is industry standard based such as 10Base-T or Coax thin net cabling. Either Novell or Lantastic leading industry software should be considered, and in the case of a small departmental network, the software applications used by head office should also be used by the department. In addition to avoiding compatibility issues, having the same software ensures there is always added support from those in other departments who know the software.

Calling in the professionals ensures that things are done right the first time, without disappointment. Take advantage of the experience of the professionals by first bringing in a systems integrator to design the system. Not only will this effort be beneficial in the long run, but by calling in an expert, immediate problems, disappointments and loss of management time can be avoided.

Deciding whether the system will operate DOS or Windows applications is a dilemma facing many businesses with network systems. If a business does not know whether they are going to stay with their application of DOS or Windows and feels that they could change, keep all options open and perhaps run both Windows and DOS for users. Do not buy a system which will limit choices is a piece of advice echoed by many computer companies.

In addition to designing the system, choosing the hardware suited for the needs of the business and setting up and running the applications on the system, the professional contractor can also set up dial-up communications. Not only do they get the performance the business wants, but by retaining a pro, up-front and operation costs are also minimized.

Sharing information and applications to make life and business easier and faster; this is what networking sets out to do, whether it be for large corporations, government or small departments and businesses. No matter what the size or type of business, the new premise is to share and share alike.

John Willetts is Account Manager for Catalina Network Solutions Inc., a systems integration company specializing in hardware and software network solutions for business and industry.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Computing
Author:Willets, John
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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