Entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses have dozens of things to consider before taking the plunge when leasing a new office or coworking space. Understandably, most startups want to dip their proverbial toe in the water before proceeding. From an IT services standpoint, knowing what your options are beforehand is a wise course of action. Below are some key points to review with an MSP that will eliminate move in day jitters and ensure your technology is working for you, not against you.
Network Equipment Lead Time
Says Shawn Sumner, TechNoir’s Director of Client Operations, “Probably the most crucial takeaway I’d advise any startup or entrepreneur in the market for network installation services is that the equipment you need isn’t just sitting on a shelf at Best Buy.” Unfortunately, commercial grade firewalls, switches, and routers aren’t something you can pick on a trip to a big box retailer. Furthermore, organizations wanting to negotiate on a new Meraki MX100 firewall versus paying list price will need to work with a third-party authorized reseller. Firm pricing may not be available. As a result, new offices should prepare for extended project timelines on enterprise network hardware orders and installations. Adds Sumner, “That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to larger manufacturers.”
Likewise, from a real estate industry perspective, setting expectations for new office tenants on network service availability requires a large dose of reality. Sylvia Reyna, Associate Advisor at TenantBase concurs. “If you sign a commercial office lease on Friday, you can’t expect to have wi-fi services ready to go first thing Monday morning. You really have to reverse engineer your IT implementation timelines, so nothing is left to chance by your move in date.”
Capacity planning is an often-overlooked aspect of IT operations. New office tenants don’t always consider bandwidth requirements and the number of end users that will be simultaneously accessing wi-fi. They may also overlook or not realize how much their equipment can handle. It’s safe to say a 15-person office will experience network performance issues if they’re only using home equipment. Consumer grade equipment just doesn’t have the horsepower to handle high volume data traffic. Considering the number of users most small businesses throw at it, it’s no surprise that performance suffers. Then end users get frustrated when they try to run business software on slow internet services. Often they’ll experience poor VoIP call quality or deal with choppy video conferencing.
What may suffice for one or two people can lead to significant technical issues down the road. Startups may design their network architecture for the company they are today and months later they’ll spend an arm and leg to fix poor performing, low-quality investments they made on budget network infrastructure. A consultative MSP will recommend the best one-time purchase of routers, switches, firewalls, and access points. Operationally, the goal is to ensure every end user in the office or working remotely has all of the technology tools necessary to work efficiently and with minimal interruption today and in the years ahead.
Cyber Security Requirements
Depending on how sensitive or industry regulated the data your organization is handling, you may need your own firewall. Examples include organizations that handle or store client legal documents. Other examples involve those who touch Personally Identifiable Information (i.e. social security numbers) or financial records. Some companies handle Private Healthcare Information (PHI) or proprietary data or intellectual property. Anyone handling such data in an open network environment like a coworking space, should invest in a custom configured firewall. Although most coworking companies install a firewall for the entire space, they’re configured for public usage. This is specifically to accommodate a wide variety of tenants. As a result, firewall rules do not conform to many of the compliance regulations needed for certain businesses. Before moving in it’s best not to assume that the network included in the monthly lease is locked down for HIPAA or SOX regulations.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Lack of expertise is one of the key reasons most small businesses don’t implement and manage all IT services internally. Usually there’s a staff member on hand who knows how to set up a MacBook. Or someone can connect to the wireless printer. But they may not necessarily know how to set up and manage wi-fi services, monitor individual usage, lock down security or monitor the internet connection. What about VoIP phones for the office? Assuming all staff aren’t solely using mobile devices for telecom, startups and small businesses may need an MSP to manage the procurement and setting up the configuration of each extension.
There are numerous housekeeping items to think about before opening that new office. So it might make sense to leverage a local IT services partner to provide consultative guidance on all technology assets. MSPs can review your current and wish list items and verify functionality before you get to day one. To avoid the opening day jitters, new office staff can request MSPs assess everything IT related in the building. This can include a walk through for everything from door card access to conference room AV. Or this can include a network assessment and penetration test on their server environment.
Even if the game plan is to order everything from Amazon.com, small businesses should seek advice on which hardware and software assets will best align with their business goals. A valuable IT services partner will provide a technology roadmap and recommend investments that will have the longest lifecycle, require the least maintenance, and be scalable despite 2 x and 3x annual growth in employee headcount. In terms of software procurement, mandatory maintenance contracts can be an unexpected gotcha. For design or engineering firms using Autodesk or 3d modeling applications, a good fiscal heads up to the CFO would be to leave budget for at least a year of support and warranty services.
For non-consumer grade hardware and software, working with an authorized reseller has its advantages. First, you can you usually get the best pricing. Secondly, in order to obtain reseller status, the MSP typically must employ certified technical staff. Manufacturers require that expertise to deploy and support the product as a condition of leveraging the brand.
Ongoing Support Services: Remote and On-Site
Understandably, entrepreneurial staff tend to do everything themselves once the internet and wi-fi are up and running. Coworkers share IT duties or perform self-help troubleshooting via Google. Or they hire a full time or part time IT person. This can be costly and not sustainable during busy periods or absences. Many SMB clients don’t realize there are IT outsourcing options that actually can improve support while lowering costs. Does the IT person take calls 24 x 7 or perform hardware break/fix services at your desktop?
Even large corporations that have their own global help desk team may not be able to dispatch local IT resources to a satellite office for on-site support. Especially when a physical presence is required or time zones limit the support window of opportunity, leveraging additional local resources can provide a faster response, troubleshooting, and resolution than a remote solution. Knowing a local team can replace your broken keyboard well ahead of the Brussels office can be a reassuring alternative.
For more of what to expect when setting up your new office, feel free to contact TechNoir Solutions at 312-761-9800.