Computer network hardware can make employees more productive by allowing them to share data and collaborate in real time. To create what’s called a local area network (LAN), equipment needs are minimal. In fact, only a few networking hardware devices are required to connect your office computers on a LAN. If that LAN is wireless, you can enjoy the added bonus of linking your computing devices without cumbersome cables. A few points to keep in mind about networking hardware: Wi-Fi, which converts Internet signals into radio waves that have a range of about 120 ft., is a convenient way to establish a wireless network because it requires minimal networking equipment. A disadvantage of going wireless is that the network’s transmission can be interrupted by walls, radio interference and other obstacles. That isn’t a problem with wired networking hardware. Before investing in networking equipment, consider how your network might grow. Project the number of network clients (the computing devices that use the network) you’ll need a year from now. Wireless network hardware Want a wireless network? Hardware requirements are minimal as are the number of networking accessories you'll need. If you already have a broadband Internet connection, all you need is a wireless router and computers that include network adapters. Wireless network hardware is available to support several different wireless networking technologies. 802.11g is considered the most versatile because it's compatible with most equipment. CNET rates wireless network routers. Most of today’s desktop and laptop computers include wireless network adapters that let them link to a network. But you can buy devices that let you retrofit an older desktop or laptop. Newegg.com has a wide selection networking accessories. Wired networking hardware LANs with computers that are linked by cables are still the way to go for companies that don't want to deal with the limitations imposed by wireless networks. For a wired computer network, hardware necessities include network adapters for your computers, and Ethernet cables to connect the devices on your network. You’ll find plenty of cable assembly packages and other networking accessories at GlobalSpec. Be server savvy when picking network equipment Servers are a critical piece of networking hardware because they are computer systems that are shared by the computers on your network. A server can contain documents and software applications that employees share. It can also perform important tasks, such system-wide back-ups. Before selecting your server network equipment, decide which server operating system you want to use. Before opting for wireless network hardware, look around your office space for obstacles that could get in the way of the wireless signals. For example, metal doors and blinds, as well as concrete walls, can obstruct the signals. If there are too many obstacles, investigate wired networking equipment. Don't wait for someone to report a network malfunction. Keep the network running efficiently by testing for networking hardware and software problems on a regular basis. Your networking equipment is only as secure as your security software. Secure your network from hackers and viruses with security measures, such as firewalls and passwords.