The once-common cry of “the network’s gone down again” is heard far less frequently in SMEs these days. Small business networks are simply much more reliable than they used to be.

In the bad old days, networks were often cobbled together with a wing, a prayer and a whole load of spaghetti cabling, and were understood by one or two people at best. They were inherently unreliable and thus a convenient scapegoat when anything went wrong. But while the real cause of a glitch might have been elsewhere (a server failure or an application crash perhaps), frequently it really was the network that was to blame.
Those days, thankfully, are now largely behind us according to recent Computing research into smaller organisations (businesses with between 30 and 500 staff). Asked about their networks, a quarter (26 per cent) of those polled said they’d never known their network to go down, while a further 62 per cent said that such events were limited to a couple of times a year (figure 1).

Wireless networks, once synonymous with “not-spots”, bottlenecks and dropped connections, are more reliable now, too. Increasing bandwidth has kept pace with demand, the design, resilience and effective range of wireless access points has improved, and new wireless connectivity standards have increased speed, reliability and range. Thirty-five per cent of respondents claimed to have moved to the high-throughput 802.11ac wireless protocol.
But while their reliability may have improved markedly over the years, small business networks are still the subject of complaints. Asked to rank network issues as they affect the organisation, performance and security were the main bugbears, and availability was not far behind (figure 2).