Most small businesses need a local access network (LAN) of some kind. These networks allow you to share data in a secure, internal setting, without risking data over the Internet or another connection, and without utilizing external bandwidth.

In most cases, they’re faster, cheaper, and more secure than wide area networks or Cloud technologies, making them extremely useful for small businesses that store and share data. Server-based or client-server local access networks (LAN) are the major alternative to Peer-to-Peer (P2P) LAN.

Client-server networks essentially use a server as a central hub, linking workstations and devices into that hub, so that they are all connected through a central linking computer. This provides numerous benefits over P2P networks, where computers are simply linked together.

The following five benefits of client-server networks for small business highlight some of the reasons your organization might benefit from setting up a client-server to act as a hub for your network.

1) Remote Management of Shared Resources

Remote access to shared resources is one of the key reasons to move to a server-based LAN. First, Local Area Networks allow you to share resources like data, files, software, Internet, printer access, and backup access among all devices on the network. This means that organizational resources are distributed to anyone with an authorized device, simply because those resources are authorized to the network.

Second, individuals can remote-access those files and resources as a basic feature of the LAN. Most server technologies allow multiple remote users as a standard (Windows 10 Server does not), but a LAN allows these devices to log in separately as individual devices, not as desktop users.

So, a LAN allows more people to access organizational resources, from anywhere. You can further secure this with VPN (Virtual Private Network), ensuring that anyone accessing your LAN from another geographical location must do so from a secured connection and device. This is extremely useful as remote and flex work become more common, but surprisingly useful, even when you’re working in the same office.

2) Simple IT Management

While a LAN creates a central resource repository, it also allows for central management of all connected devices. Your system administrator can leverage a server to deploy remote updates for software and applications, antivirus, operating system, and even to troubleshoot computer problems and recommend a fix.

While this sort of deployment will require purchasing and installing remote access and management software, it can save your system administrator tens of hours every month, simply because she can remote-check devices, request remote access when someone has a problem, and remote-configure settings to quickly fix problems.

3) Improved Device Security

Server-based LAN’s allow you to improve security in several ways. First, you can lock the LAN. It’s not accessible from outside the LAN unless you set up a VPN, which essentially functions as a secure tunnel to the server. This means that someone has to be on-site or to have an authorized device to access the VPN, unless they somehow hack into it through immense effort. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it’s considerably more secure than an open network or the Internet.

Remote management also means keeping your systems more secure, because antivirus and anti-malware are automatically kept up to date on the network and on every workstation (including printers and scanners) on that network. Software and programs are never vulnerable and out of date, because updates are pushed remotely, from the server and central management.

Client-Server LAN’s also allow user-access management, controlling who has access to what, logging what each user does on the network, and flagging suspicious behavior. This can help to prevent unauthorized data access, accidental data corruption, and server overload. User access management also means that different teams or users can create content which remains inaccessible to others on the server, unless permissions are granted.

4) Reliable LAN

Server-based LAN’s are more stable and reliable than P2P LAN’s for several reasons. The first of these is that P2P LAN’s are based on every other computer on the network. If the hard disk or motherboard fails on one computer in a P2P LAN, the entire network goes out.

In a Server-based LAN, you need the server to go out before you have any issues. Because servers remain in one place, you’ll likely have parts on hand to repair or replace the server, and always run backups, you can have a Server-Based LAN up and running in almost no time at all in case of a failure. If you’re using a P2P LAN, you first have to diagnose the issue, determine which device has gone out, remote it from the network, and replace it.

5) Centralized, Real-Time Data Access

Real-time access to data and files is possibly one of the most important reasons to create a LAN. You need an efficient way to share files, software, and resources between devices, which doesn’t involve emailing or WeTransfer from device to device.

Implementing a server means loading data onto an optimized computer, designed to send and receive files as quickly and as securely as possible. This can increase the availability and speed of tools, application, and data on the server.

Central management means that all data is coming and going through the same location. This creates more opportunities for immediately accessing and processing business data as it comes in, even if you’re not ready to share to the cloud or to implement cloud tools (Many SaaS programs also offer options for LAN use).

Optimization also improves backups and security, because everything is shared in one place. The server simply has to create a regular backup copy on a third location, either in the cloud or on another server to ensure that everything remains secure, even in case of hardware failure. You’ll automatically back up files, work, email, and application data without bothering to aggregate backups for each individual device on the network.

Server-based LAN offers centralized data management, centralized network management, backup and recovery tools, seamless scalability, accessibility, and better security. If you are ready to install a LAN, keep in mind that network quality (cabling, server, software) will greatly affect the result. You might also want to look at alternative solutions such as virtual computers and cloud tools to ensure you have the right solution for your business before moving forward.