Flexible office space providers like Pacific Workplaces offer a variety of services that go beyond full-time office space, virtual offices, and coworking. Live answering and IT services, including data and voice solutions are also important aspects of any full-service provider’s offering. For each service, there needs to be a way to manage procurement, scheduling, changes, and terminations. Some use a simple excel spreadsheet, others utilize in-house customized applications, and several opt for hosted solutions to manage these tasks. The two important questions every workspace provider should ask are: 1) What is my goal? and 2) What kind of management do I need? Key points to data & voice infrastructure Having a strong stable infrastructure is important. Just like a pyramid has a strong base, you want your services running over a reliable network. The last thing you want is to add that 1 extra phone or connection and your system can’t handle it. Here are some key points to think about: • Internet – get the biggest pipe you can afford. Usage is only going to go up and everyone expects more • Cabling – yes, you still need to cable; 2 cables (1 faceplate) on every other wall is recommended. Always install category 5e or above. Wired is more reliable over wireless and sometimes your fastest fix is plugging in. • Data – you don’t need a switch port to cover every jack, but it really cuts down on cable patching (especially if your staff doesn’t do this all the time) and helps keep your cables in an orderly fashion since you don’t have to disturb it much. Is your staff time more important/costly than buying a few more switches? 10/100 mbps is standard for most switches, but 10/100/1000 mbps is optimal if you can afford it. • Data security – creating different networks or VLANs for each group is a good way to keep different groups from being able to “see/sniff” other groups. This is where SIMPLE VLAN management is paramount. We have one in every center. • Wifi – cover as much area as you can, overlap is ok. Scalability (see below) is more important in this case. Access points with 5 Ghtz antennas is highly recommended. • Wifi security – add a security key for encryption (WPA1 or WPA2). Some call this the wifi “password”. • Voice – most features are available on any phone system so you’re looking more for ease of management. Hosted VOIP solutions include management, so this is highly recommended. VOIP phones need power, so you either need a power adapter for each phone, or you can use data switches with POE (Power Over Ethernet). POE switches are recommended to decrease office cabling clutter and also reduces the need for an electrical outlet near the phone. POE switches increase the switch cost, but it can be offset by the cost of all the power adapters for each phone you have to buy (and space you need to store the spares). • Visual/presentations – use large flat panels with multiple HDMI inputs. HDMI cables, HDMI extenders (hide cabling in the walls/floors/table using inexpensive cat5e) and wireless presentation devices (Chromecast and AppleTV) are good options. • Access Security – look for internet enabled devices, IP cameras, network DVR’s, door controllers and alarm systems Key points to data & voice technology Technology changes rapidly. In 3 years, what you currently have could be obsolete or there could be new products twice as fast! Here are some points to help you: • Standards! – stick with proven technology. Look at cutting edge technology, but be careful of bleeding edge technology. Not all technology gets mainstream acceptance, no matter how good it is. • Name brand – it’s safer and tends to be more reliable. But, there are lots of good ideas from startups. Talk to them, learn what they want to do, and follow them when you can. Conferences are a great place to see them all together. Watch for the next Global Workspace Association conference. • Compatibility – a cohesive system needs to be able to work between different vendor products. Standards help here. • Scalability – look for equipment and systems that have a little more processing power than what you need or can expand to new features. This gives your investment longer life and can save money in the long run. • Customization – it makes things easier and in some cases more efficient. But, keep in mind that part of the cost to customization includes the possibility that you’ll be more locked in and it could be harder to migrate to a different or better product that may have to be customized again. In-source or out-source? In-sourcing gives you the most control and the potential to save money. But, are you capable and enough of an expert? Will the potential cost savings offset your time and efforts to do other things? At our sister company Pacific Workplaces, the bulk of the technology management is outsourced. This allows for technical expertise and support at an affordable price and gives time to plan and oversee new projects. Keys to outsourcing • Find a company with a history of providing tech that matches what you want to provide and with a plan that accommodates future growth and technology • Avoid long term contracts • Hosted services cut down on huge initial purchases and can reduce costs for long term management and equipment/service replacement. The world has already moved to a hosted model for most of these types of services, so don’t start with old technology from day one. • Ask your peers and service providers about their experience and observations. Network promoters like CloudVO or Davinci can often put you in touch with partners in their network that use different technology and share their observations. Keep it simple If there’s one thing to remember from all this, remember to keep it simple. Bottom line, as you read through this, the shared space industry has evolved/matured where there are a handful of vendors that provide turnkey solutions. Don’t be afraid to talk to them and pick their brain. Don’t be afraid to look at the industry vendors that cater to our specific needs. And of course your friends at CloudVO are happy to answer any questions and recommend compatible vendors that they have a lot of experience working with.