Expanding your firm to a new location? Your complete technology guide to opening a new office!
Your complete technology guide to opening a new office!
Just got a call from one of my clients. Their architecture firm is doing great and they a getting a lot more business in another geographical area. Rather than spending hours of commute time every day, and causing tremendous stress and frustration for their staff, they’ve decided to open an office in the location that would be much better suited to serve that area.
Does that sound familiar? I’m sure many of you, smart AEC firm owners have at one point or the other had to deal with the challenge of opening up a new location for business, some of you probably more than once. I’m sure you remember the frustration that it might have caused, trying to think of all the things, which need to happen, and the sigh of relief you breathed when it was all over. I’ve seen this many times over and over, as I’ve had great pleasure in helping many of firm owners, just like you, with opening a new office in the past.
My goal for this post is to provide a high-level roadmap and a detailed action plan for anyone that needs help with this massive undertaking. I will focus on the Information Technology piece of the puzzle, as that’s where my expertise lies, but will also provide some tips on other areas that may be helpful.
I aim to lower your frustration levels and increase your confidence in that your business expansion project will turn out great!
After reading this post, you should have everything you need, to plan for and execute on the information technology piece of the project, so that your staff can hit the ground running in the new location.
Let’s get to it!
Don’t have the time to read the whole post? Download our internal swipe file, which has all of the information in a condensed ready to implement format
REQUIREMENT GATHERING AND DISCOVERY
The first step to executing a successful project is to gather the IT related requirements for the new location and discover what we have already in place if anything
I’m assuming that you have already had a place in mind and have access to it. Nowadays there are quite a few options for office space aside from a standard office suite, which may be more in line with what you are looking for initially. A popular choice for many architecture and engineering firms recently has been a shared office space with another company or shared work space such as WeWork. Both of these may pose additional IT related challenges, which we will get into as well.
To start off let’s ask a few questions to make sure we are going to design the right IT infrastructure for the new office:
- Will staff at the new office require access to the internet? (Duh!)
- Will users in the new office need to collaborate on any of the existing projects at the central office in real-time? Will they require access to files at the primary location in real-time?
- Will employees at the new office use WiFi technology for laptops and mobile?
- Will you provide guest wireless access at the new location for meetings and client visits?
- How will printing and print job accounting be handled? Will the people in the new office print project related documents and charge for it?
- How your critical applications currently are licensed? Are you using network licensing or cloud licensing?
- What phone system will you be using? Will you be using VOIP phone? Will you need to connect to your existing phone system on premise for inter-office four digit dialing? Will your staff be expected to use their mobile phones?
- Is there a conference room? Will it require wired and wireless access for clients and guests? Will you need a projector or a TV/monitor? Will you need a computer in the room? Will you need a conference or regular phone?
In addition to answering these questions, contact your IT provider, or work with your internal IT to do a site walkthrough.
It is imperative to do a walkthrough at the earliest available opportunity, as you will discover things you may not have thought about or considered, from the IT point of view. When doing a site walkthrough try to answer as many of these questions as possible.
- Where is the new IT equipment going to be located? Is there an existing IT/Server room already? Will you need to dedicate an area for the new devices?
- Are there dedicated power circuits in the area where the new equipment is to be installed? Does the power outlet require a special connector (twist lock)?
- Is there a locked secure area for the new equipment? Is there a rack or a server cabinet already in place? Will you need to install a rack or a server cabinet?
- Is there a dedicated cooling supply in the area? Does the area get sufficient cooling from the office AC system? Does the building turn off the office AC system on evenings and weekends?
- Are there existing cable runs and patch panel already in place? Have the runs been tested? How old is the cabling? Are there enough cables going to each location to support the users or equipment at that locations? Will any additional wiring work need to be done?
- Where would access points need to be mounted (ceiling mounted installation is best practice)? Are there cables already in these locations? How many access points may be required?
- Are there existing network ports in the conference rooms? Are there pre-existing connectors for TV or Projector?
- Where would printers be located? Are there network ports available in these locations? Is there dedicated power available in these spaces (required for big copier/printer/scanners and plotters)
- Estimate location for additional network devices (postage meter, card scanner, etc…), are there enough network ports in the area?
Tip of the day:
Take many pictures and make a walkthrough video with your phone, noting answers to the questions on the video. Making a video helps to remember and cement the decisions made during the walkthrough.
DESIGN AND PLAN
Once you have all the required information, you will move on to the design stages and purchase the necessary equipment and services. From the network design standpoint, your IT infrastructure in the new office would be pretty simple but should be scalable to add additional users and services as the office grows. The design would usually consist of the following:
- Business Class Internet connection – This allows access to the web and communications with your services out on the internet.
Note: It may take 60 – 90 days to get the proper connection in your suite due to service provider delays, and burocracy that plagues that industry. Please plan accordingly.
- Business Grade Firewall – This device protects your network from harmful things that live out on the internet. It is also a requirement for connectivity back to your main office.
- VPN Back to the main office – This allows staff in the new office get access to the applications and data in the old office. There are no extra steps for the user to complete, the connectivity is always on. VPN option requires Business Grade Firewall in number 2.
- Business Grade Switch – This allows connections to your network by a cable within the office for wired access to the internet, printing, and files. If you have multiple access points and VOIP phones, consider Power over Ethernet (POE) functionality, as it will save time and money, required to bring those devices online.
- Business Grade Wireless Access Point – This allows for stable Wireless network connections to the internet, printing, and files.
- Server Hardware – This is required to provide local shared file access and shared printing at the new location.
- Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) with Temperature Monitor – This device will provide continuous power, in case of a power outage, which will allow for time to shut down all the equipment properly as necessary. It will also provide alerts if the room conditions exceed the standard operating thresholds. Very important in case the building shuts down cooling on the weekends.
- Server Rack or a Server Cabinet – This is where all the equipment will live. If you are buying a new enclosure, make sure it fits the location you are going to put it in.
- Printers and Copiers – This is self-explanatory. Work with you printing provider to get the devices you need. Usually, a MultiFunction unit for the whole office will be sufficient for the time being.
- Network Cables and Screws – Just a reminder, as people always forget. You will need these to connect and mount your equipment
- VOIP Phones – Whether you are using Hosted VOIP or need users to connect back to your VOIP system on premise, they will need phones to do so. Alternatively, you may elect for your new office staff to use their mobile phones for voice communications
- Your Internet circuit should be from a reputable provider, and at the minimum should provide 75% of the bandwidth as the circuit at the primary location. Please invest whatever is required at this stage, as not doing so, creates performance and employee morale issues down the line.
- If there is no pre-existing area for the IT equipment, consider an area that is away from the majority of the staff, as the noise can have negative effects on people.
- You will also want a place that has a door with a lock, for security reasons. If there is no such place, we firmly suggest to invest in a lockable server cabinet, and not just a rack.
- Your printer area should be centrally located and easily accessible to most of your staff.
Considerations for Shared office space like WeWork.
You’ll need to work with the WeWork IT department to get some added resources to your office. Most likely you will need the following, but could change based on the information you have gathered in step 1:
- Public IP address
- Private Subnet
- Procure a business grade internet circuit
- Reach out to the VOIP provider and order additional phones and extensions, if necessary.
- Work with the Printing provider to get a new printer (s)
- Work with a cabling vendor to test existing cables or run new/additional cables.
- Hire an electrical contractor to get all the power required at each location
- Procure and install a server cabinet/ rack if necessary – this will be needed by the cable vendor to install patch panels.
- Purchase all required equipment based on the design you came up with earlier
- Configure equipment as required, per design document
- Install, connect and power up the equipment at the new office
- Test and Turn-up the internet circuit.
- Test Internet connectivity and access to the required resources on the internet
- Test Internet connectivity and access to the necessary resources at the central office
- Pat yourself on the back, pour some beer or wine, and enjoy!
Congratulations you’ve just open up a new office!
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