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Planning an Office Move - an IT Perspective

Moving an office is a daunting undertaking that, if improperly planned, can add unnecessary expense and lost productivity.  From an IT consultant or network administrator's perspective, an office move involves far more than simply moving physical objects from one location to another. Since most problems arise once the move nears completion, plenty of planning should go into the move as early as possible so that the actual move is as seamless as possible. This article offers a summary of the issues you should consider to help you plan an office move that stays within your budget and deadline.

While there are infrastructure management consulting firms that specialize in evaluating a new location, determining shortcomings, and ultimately implementing solutions, these services can be quite costly and are not often available in smaller markets. As the IT Consultant, Network Administrator, or all around tech person in your office, the details of the move may fall to you.  And while this article is not intended to be an exhaustive list or tutorial on how to institute your move, a few general principles and tips can go a long way towards keeping you, your co-workers, and your bottom line happy.

When planning an office move, especially from an IT and network infrastructure perspective, there are three basic considerations:

  1. What are your office's current technology needs?
  2. What are your future technology and infrastructure needs?
  3. What is your budget?

First and foremost, be aware of the details of the new location's voice and data network infrastructure, relative to your current and future needs. While your office manager or some other person in charge of moving may be proud of the fact that he/she has found a great deal on a new office space, it is of utmost importance that you, as the IT person, be aware of what you're moving into.

From a network cabling / IT perspective, it pays to take careful stock of the new location. If you're a growing multimedia company moving into a space previously occupied by a financial services firm, be aware that the network infrastructure of the pervious tenants may not be sufficient for your company's needs. The previous company may have been content using a network rated at 100 Mbps for their 20 employees (CAT 5), but even only 10 employees in a multimedia design firm will likely have far more demanding bandwidth requirements than 20 people in a financial services firm - which could require a complete re-wire of the entire office.

Secondly, make careful note of the the physical layout of the new location, paying particular attention to the location of voice & data network jacks, as well as electrical outlets. Some property managers can make detailed plans and schematics available to you, which can be an invaluable resource.  If not, you should carefully measure each room in the new location, and reduce all rooms/areas to a diagram.  It should be as accurate as possible. You should note on the diagram as precisely as possible how the existing infrastructure is laid out. Include power outlets, and existing network and phone outlets.

The main idea here is to give you a visual sense of where, physically, the puzzle pieces of your office will fit.  It is one thing to imagine it in your head or to make a general, rough sketch, but finding out on moving day that a space you had intended for a network printer does not have a network cabling jack or the correct typer of power outlet could cause you uncessessary headaches. Try different configurations and consult with your co-workers and staff for input. Once satisfied, consider how your plan relates to the existing infrastructure.

Remember that for a fully wired office, you will need power and network access for each computer or device, as well as sufficient power outlets and telephone jacks. Note any area where coverage is lacking. Depending on how you see your office expanding, also consider future uses for areas. If a wall is going to be empty, could there conceivably be a desk there at some point? Or a network printer, scanning or CD duplication system? Even if it is unlikely, it is wise to have additional network wiring and access points run to currently unused areas. Adding an additional few feet of wire now is much cheaper than expanding later.

If your office will be hosting one or more servers, you must also take into consideration the location of the future server room. Will the future location accomodate the number of servers in your office? Will it require new data drops to be installed? Is it properly air conditioned and, if not, can it be fitted with air conditioning?

With respect to running network and phone cables throughout the office, there are some important considerations. It may seem an obvious point, but one that many seem to neglect: you should get installers, network professionals, and anyone else who you may need to pay to implement your plan engaged as early as possible. Get a range of quotes, and consult with them fully and completely while planning your new office. Be receptive to their ideas and suggestions, but do not be over-sold or misunderstood.  Miscommunications, misunderstandings and vague instructions ultimately cost you money. The initial preparatory thought and work you have done to consider your present and future needs, coupled with your budget, should help them understand your expectations.

Whatever happens, problems always arise with even the simplest of moves.  However, by putting a plan in place early on, you are in a much better position to reduce the number of problems, and respond more quickly to any that do arise.  Good luck!

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