I thought I'd post in this section as you guys are probably computer savvy. We have 1 main computer for customer quoting and it has all of the main important files (i guess you can call it a "server"), we also have 2 wireless laptops in the front office, and an extra desktop pc. We currently have wireless internet with a wireless router, I am trying to network all the computers to the main computer that way we can work seamlessly by updating and editing files from other computers. Is there network equipment I need to buy? I tried networking about 6 months ago but gave up bc I couldnt figure it out. Perhaps I should call in a pro to my office?
Wireless is good for just general internet browsing and such, but when you get into big graphic files, you may run into wait times and such when saving/updating files on the server. First decide what your scope is going to be. Vector graphics shouldn't be too complex, however I've got quite a few graphic files on my computer that take up 100 meg, I think one image I was designing for a vehicle wrap ended up being like a gig by the time I was all done (probably could've gone with a bit lower quality, but meh). Check the back of your wireless router, most of them have around 4 ports for a wired network as well. If it doesn't, you'll need to get a network hub/switch to expand it.
Running cable isn't too hard, unless you live in a warehouse or something and object to it being ran along the floor. Usually it gets ran up the wall into the ceiling/access panels, thrown across to its destination, then ran back down. A company will probably charge an arm and a leg, however if you know some geeky computer types, they probably have the equipment or know someone that will do it. If you want to run it yourself, you can buy premade cables from some place like NewEgg. I actually buy spools and crimp the ends myself, but I've got quite a bit of experience in the computer field programming and networking. The key thing is to make sure that it's nice and neat and not in the way of anyone, you should always have a few extra feet of cable near the computer, as people will occasionally move the computer around to a better position, or move it while cleaning, or kick it, etc. The tab on the end of the cable may also break off and it's a lot easier to recrimp a cable than it is to re-run it or deal with having to jiggle it every day.
Once networked, you need to set up your shares, and an easy way to access those shares. File sharing under the most recent versions of Windows isn't too complex, and many of the old problems have been eliminated if the computers are all running XP. I think I ran into some issues with accessing Vista shares, but my Vista cmop could reach other shares.
The biggest issue you need to look out for is "too many hands in the honeypot", too many people having access to too many things.
For example: say your graphic artist creates a file for a client, and you have another employee that does printing. The printer opens the file, cuts the image out and pastes it to a new file (I do this all the time with my art when preping it for vinyl, or my DTG), they produce the item, then the autosave runs, saving the graphic artist's file with the new "changes", and when the employee closes the file he discards his new document he makes. Well, your graphic artist just lost all their work. It may seem a bit far fetched with your operation, but it's something that commonly happens, even with advanced computer users.
A sign company I used to work for would've had lots of issues with this without the proper permissions on the network. I was in production and we'd mangle the hell out of files to make the actual signs, cause it involved a lot of separation, duplication, and so on, but then we'd save them on our production server, not the graphics server. The way I get around this in the company I am part owner of and working for now is: all my designs are all read only but shared on the network. When I go to cut vinyl, that computer is able to open the file, I'm able to do whatever I want to it, but I cannot save over my original, so worst case scenario I save it to the local hard drive.
This doesn't just apply to graphics though, ever seen someone not so computer literate try to modify an Excel Spreadsheet? All kinds of jibberish'll be there, and any formula you may have had becomes some number they just decided to type in. Also, two people working on the same file at once is a recipe for disaster. Anyways, networking is great, a centralized storage is great, but proper planning and organization is king.