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Planning for an Office Move
As a nonprofit manager or executive you know project management tips and tricks – it’s your job. One of the biggest projects you may ever have to manage is an office move. The people, the computers, and all the moving parts that have to land in the right place and be ready to go from your new location on day one.
As an IT manager, you keep the emails flowing, the data backing up, and the website live – it’s your job. One of the biggest challenges you may have to face is to manage an office move. Moment of panic when you “flip the switch” the first day? We’ve all been there.
Join Community IT Innovators office move experts William Maxwell and Rick Alloway for an informative and lively discussion of best practices to pursue, and pitfalls to avoid. We’ve learned a thing or two about moving in our 20+ years of working with nonprofits, and we want to help you get through it without tears.
Office moves can be disruptive, but they don’t have to be frustrating or involve unmitigated downtime. This webinar on planning for an office move gives some good laughs at the worst that can happen, and some good insights into preventing disaster from happening to you.
NOTE: This webinar was prevented before hybrid and work-from-home offices became such a necessity, but most of the tips still apply: have a checklist, over-prepare, and expect at least one thing to go haywire so have a backup plan.
Rick Alloway provides on-site Information Technology support for a number of charter schools and nonprofit organizations. Prior to Community IT, Rick did legislative work for a safety advocacy group on Capitol Hill for four years. This experience gives him an deeper understanding of the organizational and technical challenges nonprofits face.
He enjoys working with organizations in the Washington, DC area and seeing first-hand how they are all working together to improve the community. Rick is a A+ certified, and holds Bachelors degrees in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Delaware. He is also an Eagle Scout and an avid reader of fiction.
William Maxwell has been providing organizations with network infrastructure, planning and helpdesk support since 2000, and is now a Senior Engineer. He has a range of technical experience and has worked in a variety of environments. William enjoys having the opportunity to help non-profit organizations use technology towards achieving their missions. In addition to being an engineer, he researches cutting-edge technology and refines and coordinates Best Practices documentation.
Prior to Community IT Innovators, William worked for a local cable company where he was initiated into the world of cable, Internet, and telephones. He is a Microsoft Certified System Engineer and Apple OS X certified. William is a Mac enthusiast, and in his spare time William studies and practices speaking Spanish.
Johan Hammerstrom: Thank you for joining us today to learn more about Planning For An Office Move. Today’s webinar is part of our continuing series on IT management. My name is Johan Hammerstrom, I’m the president and CEO of Community IT, and the moderator for this webinar series.
In case you’re not familiar with Community IT, our skilled and certified team of IT professionals serves the Greater Washington nonprofit community, helping organizations of all sizes and capacities to advance their missions through the effective use of technology. We’re deeply invested in the nonprofit community.
We’ve worked with over 900 nonprofits since 1993. And we take a strategic and collaborative approach that fits the unique needs and culture of nonprofit organizations. And now it’s my pleasure to turn the webinar over to two of our certified team of IT professionals and today’s presenters, Rick Alloway and William Maxwell. Good afternoon, and please introduce yourselves.
Rick Alloway: Hi, this is Rick Alloway.
William Maxwell: I’m William Maxwell.
Rick Alloway: And between the two of us, we’ve done about 50 moves with Community IT over the past 10 years. So we’ve got a lot of experience in this field and we are happy to share some tips and answer any questions.
William Maxwell: Let’s get into it.
Rick Alloway: All right. So we’re going to start out by doing this in a timeline format. But obviously everybody’s office move is different in terms of when you actually get to stuff, when you can do things. Things come up, things fall through that you need to work around.
So this is a general timeline, but the sooner you can do any of these things, the better.
- 6 months out, or more – Cleaning up
- 3 months out – Vendors and staff
- 1 month out – Who is moving what?
- Day of – What can go wrong?
William Maxwell: Yeah. In general, we like six months, or more, to get started, just so we have room in case any of those things happen.
Rick Alloway: So first off, one of our goals is to have your new IT room in your new office be neat and clean. You don’t want to bring all the old junk with you.
William Maxwell: It’s important to determine what we can do ahead of time to help make the new space easier and make the new space cleaner as we move into it.
Rick Alloway: Yep. So one of the things we recommended is to have your IT vendor know about your move well in advance. Again, we’re saying six months out.
Think about any of the projects. You might be able to clean up old servers, virtualize servers onto new hardware, move services to the cloud. Generally just get any junk out, get any of the old stuff out. Do any projects you can.
William Maxwell: And this is a good time to have an audit done just to see where you are and if any of these things can happen in a reasonable timeframe, before you get started with the office move.
Rick Alloway: So same idea, you want to
- minimize your IT footprint in the new office. You want to make sure you
- do any of these projects with enough leeway, so that they can be finished and that you’re
- comfortable with your new systems before the move so that
- the move doesn’t get in the way of any other projects.
William Maxwell: Yeah, I know. There are a lot of times though, copier leases are easily switched over during the move, mostly because it’s an external vendor and you don’t really have a whole lot of work. It’s swapping in one for another.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And the last point here:
- some upgrades should be done that applies to hardware like wiring and unmanaged switches.
That’s just simple hardware that you’re taking in and taking out. You have to rewire the whole patch panel anyway for your new space. So you might as well get new wiring.
William Maxwell: Agreed.
Rick Alloway: All right. If you’re going to build out a new office space, there’s two things you could be doing.
One is renting an office that already exists that already has a server room and already has offices and wiring.
The other is taking over a new space and completely building it out on your own.
A lot of what you need to do is the same, but you think about it differently.
If you’re building out your own space, you really want to plan where the network drops are going to go. And so you need to know how many staff you’re going to have. Are you going to have two people per office? Are you going to have VoIP phones that all require their own networking?
William Maxwell: And I’m going to interrupt just for a second. A lot of these questions that we’re going through, you can go over with your IT vendor. They may be able to help you out or your resident expert. That could be your IT manager or coordinator, CTO, or your accidental techie person that just knows the most about the network.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And things to look at in your current server room: do you have high voltage outlets? Because you’ll need to make sure you have those in the new server that you’re looking at.
William Maxwell: In general, we like to keep the servers off of the ground, sometimes there are water hazards, mostly around sprinkler systems, even when you’re eight floors up.
Rick Alloway: Yep, also good time to think about your AV equipment. And if you have old Wi-Fi routers, that’s another thing that’s easy enough to swap out when you’re moving into a new space.
William Maxwell: And you definitely want to remember that your new space is not going to be the same as your old space. So you want to make sure the lock, what you have now, will work in the new space. Or, just build out the new Wi-Fi for the coverage you want to have.
Rick Alloway: All right. So now we’re moving to about three months out. And the big thing to think about here is ISPs (Internet Service Providers).
William Maxwell: And other vendors, but ISPs. Are you happy with them? Are you getting a good speed for the cost? In the DC area, Verizon and Comcast are the big ones, but they’re not always the only game in town. So it can help you a lot and you can do a lot better, with the cost per speed per month and with a new contract.
Rick Alloway: Right. A lot of people just have an old contract with their ISP that hasn’t changed in years. And they don’t even know what deals are available. And also a lot of buildings, at least in downtown DC, where we are, have other ISPs in the building that you may not have heard of as a residential user. You want to ask your landlord at the new office what ISPs are already in the building, and then call them and see what deals are available.
William Maxwell: And it’s also a good idea to think about getting a backup internet connection, if you don’t already have one. It’s always good to have more than one with different vendors in case one goes down, the other ones still up. You can still maintain the internet connection as it’s becoming more important to offices around the world.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And ideally have them on different platforms. So we’ll have one fiber and one cable or something like that. So that if infrastructure in the whole city goes down for some reason, you’ve got a whole different backup.
William Maxwell: Yeah, that’s mostly because in DC, Verizon owns a lot of the internet wires that are buried, existing. So if you have Verizon and Comcast, that’s good for balancing that out.
But you know in your own area who the ISPs are. Verizon is the phone company and Comcast is the cable here in DC, but in Virginia and Maryland, there could be other vendors that do the same task.
Rick Alloway: So this slide is just something to think about when you’re coordinating with your vendors. Around here, Verizon owns the lines that come into the building. And then you might have a separate ISP that takes over the line and runs it up to your floor. And then you’ll have your wiring contractor actually wire your office.
Sometimes, nobody actually wires it from the networking closet or near the elevators into your actual suite. And the building manager doesn’t want to do it. The ISP doesn’t want to do it. Everybody thinks it’s somebody else’s problem. It’s just one of those gotchas you kind of have to keep an eye out for when you’re planning these things.
William Maxwell: Not anything to really worry about. In the moves I’ve done lately, it hasn’t been an issue. More ISPs tend to be full service, but it’s something to be aware of just in case it applies to you.
Rick Alloway: Yep. So to that end, there’s always things that are going to go wrong, no matter how well you plan it all.
William Maxwell: And three months out is a good time to start thinking about your contingency plan.
Rick Alloway: Yep. So the worst thing that can happen is the internet doesn’t come through, but there’s about a million other things that can happen. I think we mention later here that if you have cloud services for emails, your website, all that, it really goes a long way to minimizing the worst possible things that can go wrong in an office move.
William Maxwell: Yeah, we can’t hit home enough but make sure the ISP is square and on schedule. Because that’s the one thing we just can’t replace, or patch around. If you don’t have internet, you don’t have internet and –
Rick Alloway: Yeah and your new office doesn’t do anything.
William Maxwell: Yeah.
Rick Alloway: Another important thing is staff. This is a good time to get the big players in your office involved. Not just the office manager and the executive director, you want all the directors, all the big wigs in your company to be involved in this move.
Make sure there’s no big events coming up at the same time as the move.
You want to have them meet with IT management and vendors and you really just want to make sure everybody’s on the same page and involved. Because the worst thing that can happen is people don’t pay attention to the communication about it and then get caught unawares.
William Maxwell: Yeah, it may seem like a good idea to do the move while everyone’s off at a conference or in a big meeting, but with the big meeting comes big preparation. And ultimately, you’ll probably just end up doing all the work yourself. And it may not be done right or fully.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And they won’t be happy about it.
William Maxwell: Not at all.
Rick Alloway: All right. So now we’re getting a little closer to the actual move. It’s time to really start planning your new office.
If you’re taking over an existing office, you really want to check and make sure the wall jacks are labeled. That’s really important for troubleshooting as you build out your office. If they’re not, definitely recommend having a wiring contract come in and tone out all the jacks and relabel them.
Take a look at the server room you’re taking over. A lot of times, there’s old equipment still on the plywood in the server room, like old PBXs and just all kinds of old stuff you run into.
William Maxwell: Yeah. Sometimes you want to take that old stuff out, but I’ve also had times where the old wiring proved to be useful with a new move. So you just want to know what’s there and hopefully it’s labeled correctly. If not, this will be a good time to have your cabling wiring vendor come out and take a look.
Rick Alloway: Yeah, and you can talk to the building manager and make sure that it’s stuff that you can rip out and throw away and not part of the building’s infrastructure or something.
William Maxwell: Usually, that’s not the case, but good to know.
And also, I can’t say enough about the ISP. Sometimes, if you have to build, ISPs will come to your building, if not already there, it’s important to factor that in. A lot of times it’s prohibitively expensive to have an ISP come in and bring a new internet connection. So again, make sure to check with your new building management to see what’s in the building if you haven’t found out already.
Rick Alloway: Yeah. And then, on the last one here, when you’re planning your new office or your new server space, you do want to make sure it’s secure or at least able to be locked. Yeah, sometimes in very small offices, people just have servers sitting out on a table somewhere. You really want to get a lockable cage where you can keep everything contained and secure. And preferably just have it all behind a door that can be locked.
William Maxwell: Yeah, it’s also important to mention too, with the wall jacks; when you’re counting, keep in mind that with voice over IP phones and printers, you need to account for those devices as well. And sometimes non-voice over IP phones, usually you can use the same cable for analog phones as well as digital and voice over IP phones. Our best practice, or our ideal situation is to have them each get their own jack. But in a pinch, you can do daisy chain.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And you can always run phone lines over ethernet jacks. So if you’re having to rewire your office, do everything you can, just so you’re covered for all eventualities.
This is also just in general, your current server room probably has a lot of junk in it. You want to do this well ahead of the move. Just start cleaning out. A lot of it can be recycled. A lot of it can just be thrown away. You will have to look up a good place to recycle in your area, but I know DC has a lot of options.
Also to prevent junk in your new space, make sure you get shelves or a separate closet, because server rooms tend to get used as storage space if you don’t protect your space, also a good reason to have a lock on the door.
William Maxwell: And when planning your new wire closet, we recommend mounting the switches right up against the patch panels, so we can have small six inch to one foot cables there for tech support to see what goes where, as similar to this picture we have here.
Rick Alloway: Yeah. The patch panel is just 24 and 24. The top are for phones, they just go to the phone switch, the bottom are for internet and go to the internet switch. There’s no tangles, no big loops of wire. It’s really nice to be able to do this when you’re moving space and actually having a chance to rip everything out of your closet and put it in a new space, nice and clean.
William Maxwell: Yeah and the different colors help a lot too.
Rick Alloway: Yeah. So also at this point, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to need for the move.
If you’re going to rewire your patch panel like we said, you’re going to want a lot of short six inch or one foot cables. And if possible, get the bootless cable, that means they don’t have that extra little piece of plastic around them. When you’re trying to wire 24 or 48, or way more cables right next to each other, it is really annoying to have those boots.
William Maxwell: It’s not necessary to order from Amazon, but any office supply store. Staples are some of the other ones, they will have all this equipment, including the network patch cables.
Rick Alloway: Yep. You’re definitely going to want to have some extra ethernet cables on board, just because you never know.
You’re going to want to have extra surge protectors.
Velcro strips are great for wrapping up cables and tying stuff down and making it neat.
William Maxwell: Twist ties and tie wraps will work too, but the tie wraps are difficult to undo later if you need to get a cable out or move things around. And if you cut them or they could cut even as you try to open them and you can cut the wires. So Velcro is usually the way to go and has the bonus of sticking to carpeting to help you hide wires around corners of offices.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And then bubble wrap. You really just have to figure out what your movers want to do about servers. Some of them, you can just turn them off, unplug them and sit in the hallway and the movers will take them all for you. Others want you to have everything boxed up and wrapped and packed. So you just have to check with your movers on that one. I think we will get into that later.
All right, so back to staff. Some staff are going to be super excited about the move and excited to plan their new office and others are just going to be annoyed and it doesn’t matter what you do, that’s going to be the case.
William Maxwell: Yeah, it’s important to set low expectations. We like a Friday move. So staff aren’t working in the office on Friday. And the network won’t be back until the end of the weekend.
Rick Alloway: Yes, you want to tell everybody the network’s going down Thursday night and don’t expect it to be back up till Monday morning. That way, even if you plan to do the whole move on a Friday, you still have all weekend to deal with any mess ups.
William Maxwell: Any issues that may come up, your fault or not.
Rick Alloway: Yep, because there’s a lot of vendors to coordinate. If you need the extra time, you’ve got it.
William Maxwell: Yeah, some of the downtime and server outages will be less of an issue, as he said before, if you have services in the cloud. Mostly email, web hosting, files, if all that stuff is in the cloud, it’s less of a problem and you really just need to get the internet up.
Rick Alloway: Yep. And it means staff can work from home while you’re doing the move.
William Maxwell: But we wouldn’t recommend going to the cloud just for this move.
Rick Alloway: Right. You’re just complicating things at that point.
William Maxwell: Yeah, as we stated before, if you’re thinking about it, before the six month period, have a plan in place for migration, so it’s not conflicting with your plans for the move. You also want to give time to that, so that it won’t interfere with moving.
Rick Alloway: Yep. Another good idea for staff is definitely to have a staff meeting. Allow people to voice their concerns.
Some of this is going to be petty stuff like whether they get a window or who’s got to share an office or who’s next to the bathroom. As much as you can, get all that information in beforehand, the better you can plan for it and make people happy at the new space.
William Maxwell: Yes. It’s also a good time to show them the pre-move checklist that everyone has to do. And point out who the move coordinator is going to be, if it’s not you.
Rick Alloway: Yep. Sometimes that’s just another staff person, but that’s somebody who knows everything that needs to be done. Just helping staff unplug or be prepared to unplug their computers, get all the peripherals, get the boxes ready, make sure they know the number of their office so they can get everything to the new place.
William Maxwell: Labels, get the labels done.
And this is also a good point where you’ll be able to figure out who your problem, or your high touch staff members are . Either you will have to walk them through, or just do the work for them.
Rick Alloway: Yep, yeah, knowing who you’re going to have to handhold is definitely helpful if you know it beforehand.
William Maxwell: And a lot of times you already know who that is in your office. So it would be good at one month out to plan for that, as well.
Rick Alloway: Okay. So now we’re down to move – the week of. This is a good time to really be figuring out who’s moving what. As I mentioned before, sometimes the moving company will do the servers, sometimes you need to do a lot more work.
A lot of moving companies have a last in/first out policy for servers. They’ll pack up the entire office and then put the servers in last. And then you and the IT people can just ride with them to the new office. And they’ll take the servers right out first and you can get those back up. So the IT people can get the internet back up and the servers back online as soon as possible.
William Maxwell: Ideally, I would recommend you ask for that from the movers. If they don’t mention it to you, recommend to them that you want your servers up and running. That also is helpful so IT staff isn’t waiting around for the movers to unpack the entire truck to get to the servers.
Rick Alloway: Right, particularly if they charge per hour.
William Maxwell: Particularly.
Rick Alloway: Yep.
Packing up staff computers is another good point. We definitely prefer it when staff pack up their own computers. I think it helps them make sure they get all their stuff in the right place. A lot of the moving companies we work with either provide crates or big, three gallon Ziploc bags. You can fit a whole computer keyboard in there, the mic, speakers.
William Maxwell: It’s a good way to keep everything together. And again, it’s a good time to have that checklist available for staff to remind them: you have all this packed up; good to go.
Rick Alloway: Yep. So they’ll have all the peripherals and their computer monitor stacked up with labels on them that say “Office number 3,” or “Mike’s office.” And the movers will pick all that up, bring it to office number 3 or Mike’s office. And then you, the IT company, just come in and set it all back up.
And then lastly, staff should have a solid timeframe established. Be as communicative with staff as possible. It’s just the best way to avoid people flipping out on you.
William Maxwell: Although that does not exclude them flipping out on you anyway.
Rick Alloway: It doesn’t, but you do what you can.
William Maxwell: At this point, we’re going through our checklist to make sure we have everything we need.
- Is the ISP confirmed for the new space and the new time? Ideally, we like it to have an overlap, so we have the internet up in the new space before we move in. So the IT vendor or tech expert can go in and check and make sure it’s working fine. So you have plenty of time to resolve any internet issues.
Rick Alloway: Yep. That’s huge just having the overlap. Then you know, well, your major issues are covered. Butit’s hard to do if you’re keeping the same ISP because they’ll usually want to take your circuit and just move it over at the time of the move. You can’t always help that.
William Maxwell: But, a lot of times the ISP will work with you and see what you would like them to do. You just need to ask
Rick Alloway: Yep. Other than that, it’s just checklist stuff.
- Are your copiers moving? Are you getting new ones?
- Do you have to use the service elevator?
- Need new keys to access the new building?
William Maxwell: Or key cards and fobs.
Rick Alloway: Yep.
- Do you need to get keys for all the people who are helping with the move or copies for the movers? Copies for the IT people?
William Maxwell: Something I would add is, often when the network is going to be unavailable, in our experience, someone will ask for 15 more minutes, twice. So it’s good to tell everyone the servers are going down at five, but expect it to really be six.
Rick Alloway: Yep, yeah, people will always ask for an extension.
All right, so this is more logistics with the actual move.
- Obviously, desks need to get moved in before computers get moved in, otherwise you don’t have anywhere to put them.
- If you’re getting new modular furniture, it all needs to be built before the computers can go in.
- But then, a lot of times desks and stuff get moved in and cover up the outlets and the jacks and then you can’t get behind them to actually plug stuff in. Then you, or the IT people have to start pulling desks back out after they just got moved in.
- So ways around it are either ask the movers to leave them at least six inches from the wall, so you can get back in there, or put power strips, and ethernet cables in place before the furniture gets moved in.
William Maxwell: Some other things to keep an eye on is, the night before the move is when the servers go down.
- You want to make sure that everybody’s off when you take them down.
- Make sure that you set up the servers or pack them away like the movers are expecting, if you trust them to move your stuff. But you should know by now if they’re moving your servers or not.
- And it’d be good to have some extra tools laying around, just in case.
Rick Alloway: Oh yeah, make sure to bring your screwdrivers, drills, all that.
William Maxwell: Yeah, just have them available. An IT company will usually bring their own stuff, but sometimes there’s just a lot of hands and a lot of people going around. An extra screwdriver or an extra set of pliers could come in very handy.
Rick Alloway: All right, day of. So yeah, no such thing as a perfect move. There’s always going to be stuff going wrong.
William Maxwell: Yeah. Once you have all the prep work done, you should be able to rebuild your new network in a new clean space with new wiring and switches. But of course, there’s all the overshadow with things going wrong. And although the perfect move may be a unicorn, that’s not to say that your move will not be smooth.
Rick Alloway: Right, but here’s some things that could go wrong.
William Maxwell: And again, we focus on the ISP. We say this a lot, because ISP is probably the most often thing that runs into problems.
Rick Alloway: And it’s the one thing we can’t work around. Anything else is wrong, we can usually find a way around it for the time being, but it is the one thing we can’t fix without getting the IP involved.
So another thing: we’ve done a lot of moves, and I’ve never had a server get damaged in transit, but that’s not to say it couldn’t happen.
So you really want to make sure you’ve got your backups are all good the week before and also that your hardware warranties are all up to date on your servers.
William Maxwell: As much as possible.
Rick Alloway: Right.
William Maxwell: You want to also keep an eye out if you’re hosting your email or website on site and you have to take that server offline. You want to make sure you handle this carefully and have contingency plans.
Prepare staff and your constituents, clients or the people you serve, so they know you’re going to be moving and that nothing horrible is happening. You’re just going to be off the internet for a while.
Rick Alloway: Yeah, if you still host your own email, have your own exchange server, emails will be unavailable during the time that the server is physically in a truck. So ideally, you have another service to spool it in the meantime, so that when people come back online, it all just sort of floods back in.
William Maxwell: I find that in the beginning, around the three or one month mark, it’s good to put on email signatures that you’re moving so everyone knows that you may be unavailable on this day for a period of time, not to call the police.
Rick Alloway: So other things can go wrong. If you’re changing your subnet for any reason, which has happened.
William Maxwell: Yeah, just make sure to keep in mind about your other networking devices. That’s mostly copiers, printers, postage machines, security cameras, some things that you don’t always have to deal with, but do need to connect to the internet or just to your network to work. Important to remember them, especially if you have to change IP addresses when you’re changing the network.
Rick Alloway: Yep, anything with static IPs, you will need to update.
William Maxwell: Indeed.
Rick Alloway: All right. Well, we went through that pretty quickly.
- Here’s the main issues: the ISP, ISP, ISP. That’s the one thing. If it doesn’t work, your office doesn’t work. So do your best to plan for that.
- Secondly, take care of your staff, they’re the ones who you want to be happy at the end of the day. So do everything you can to prepare them and plan for them and make them happy. And yes, definitely buy pizza for everybody who helps out.
- And then vendors, your IT company, the movers, everybody else, get them all involved as early as possible.Nobody wants to have it sprung on them at the last minute.
William Maxwell: Yeah. And don’t forget about the phone company — the phone vendor too.
If you’re keeping or switching your phone service, they want to be involved just as early as everybody else. So as soon as possible for those vendors: phone vendors, wiring vendors, copiers, the copier maintenance people, they don’t like to be forgotten either.
Johan Hammerstrom: Great. Well, thank you both. We got quite a few questions. So we’ll get to those in just a second. Before we do, I wanted to just remind everyone that we have this webinar every month.
If you missed anything, or you’d like to go back and listen to the webinar again or run through the slides, check our YouTube channel. And we will be posting those on our website. And you can connect with us on Facebook, on YouTube, find us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
You can also read our blog on our website.
So let’s get to some questions.
The first few sets of questions have to do with drops, the network drops on the walls. So how do you verify?
So the ideal situation is you come into a new office and you’re doing a complete demo, complete build out, build it out to spec and you can decide where the drops are in your brand new cabling and drops. That’s ideal, but that doesn’t often happen or it doesn’t always happen, at least. Sometimes you come into an office and you’ve got existing cabling. How do you verify that the drops work and that they’re labeled correctly?
Rick Alloway: They should be labeled with a clear pattern, you should be able to walk around your office and find jack number one, jack number two, jack number three, or jack number 304, 305, 306, whatever their scheme is.
William Maxwell: Yeah. Many cabling companies have a pattern, sometimes it’s clockwise, sometimes it’s by room, where they label it. And you can find the jacks that you’re looking for. But if they’re not working, or they don’t seem to connect to where they look like they should, that’s the time to bring in the wiring vendors to come and test it. Most wiring vendors will come out and just test jacks for a nice price.
Rick Alloway: Yeah. And if you know what and you’re a little more comfortable back in the server room, you can look at the patch panel. And those numbers on the wall jacks correspond to numbers on the patch panels. So you should be able to find 304, 305 and 306, labelled right on the patch panel as well. And those should correspond to jacks out in the office.
If you can’t find them, then that means the labels have fallen off because they might have just been a sticker. They might have been mislabeled, things might have gotten changed.
If that office has been rented by a number of different people who’ve done different renovations, sometimes you get multiple generations of jacks, you’ll see different colors, and only the gray ones will work and not the blue ones. If youget into that, it’s definitely worth having somebody come in and just tone them all out and find out what works and relabel everything for you.
William Maxwell: But if it’s bad enough, it’s sometimes just worth it to wipe everything out and start fresh with new jacks and have them pull out the old jack.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, that was the next question. At what point do you just say this isn’t worth trying to salvage? We’d be better off investing in new drops, new cabling?
Rick Alloway: I’ve never seen anybody rent out an already built office and do a whole new jack setup. I think it’s probably prohibitively expensive to get in all the walls and do it and there’s usually an existing framework to work off of.
William Maxwell: No, I’ve actually run across that once or twice. And it’s when you get three or four jacks labeled 1in one office, it’s sometimes a pain, but necessary to just do it fresh from the beginning.
Because the walls are sealed, it’s harder for the cable companies to go in and run stuff, but they’ll do it. And I guess the big driving factor is what your budget is. When you can afford to have them come and redo all the jacks as part of your project, great. But it’s also good to check with the building. Sometimes they’ll cover all that, because the working jacks were part of your lease.
Rick Alloway: Right. Yeah, if you find out that early enough, you could definitely work it in your contract. But yeah, I would say, I’ve rarely seen that. Mostly you have somebody come in, test all the jacks, find out which ones work and they could just pick a whole new labeling scheme for you and just relabel everything with ones that work.
William Maxwell: And fix the ones that are broken.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, I think the worst situation I saw was one where it was in an older office. And there were at least three generations of cabling; there’d been at least three different cabling runs made. And so there were multiple jacks at every desk.
We brought in a cabling company to tone the jacks and identify the ones that were the most current. And even after doing all that, there were a couple that, even though they toned properly, when you actually sat down and plugged in a computer, the networking was not reliable. And we ended up having to rerun a couple drops, just to get them to work.
Related to that, you had mentioned network drops for printers and in the server room. What about for Wi-Fi? What’s the best way to identify network drops for Wi-Fi? Should they go in the ceiling? Is it important to include power with the network drop?
Rick Alloway: That is an excellent question. So it really depends on the shape of your office and how big it is.Sometimes you have an office that kind of spiders out down different hallways, in which case, you’re going to need multiple access points. I like to put them in the ceiling. I think they’re easy, but you need to put a little label on the suspended ceiling so you can find the thing again. If you just hide it up in there, when something goes wrong with it, you’ll never find it again.
William Maxwell: In many cases already, that’s the best practice. The cable companies will put a label on the nearest ceiling tile to where they put the jack. And so that’s where it will be. Now if the existing stuff doesn’t work for you, you just need to run more. That should be easy compared to doing it on the wall.
Rick Alloway: Yep, yeah, putting it in the ceiling is way easier than a wall mount because you don’t need a network jack stuck halfway up a wall. And the POE is the better way to go for that. You don’t have the power up there.
William Maxwell: Nowadays, you don’t need to have them run power to Wi-Fi. A lot of enterprise class access points support POE or Power Over Ethernet. So really, they’ll go back to the switch; make sure that you get a switch. I’ve seen small, eight ports, which are solely dedicated to wireless access points. That’s always a good investment if you are rolling out new wireless.
Rick Alloway: Yeah, but that is enterprise class wireless. Your little Linksys wireless antenna is not going to work like that.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yes. Speaking of wireless, how do you identify coverage requirements? Is there a tool that you can use when you’re looking at a blueprint of a new office? How do you identify the heatmap of where WAPsshould go?
Rick Alloway: I don’t have a good answer for that from a blueprint.
William Maxwell: This is where it’s really important to visit the space ahead of time. Depending on how important wireless is to your office, you might want to get a wireless site survey. That you can do yourself if you have a laptop and an access point that you can plug in.
You just go around the office and collect the data yourself, like how good is your wireless signal over here and over there? There’s a good program such as inSSIDer that will let you check the signal levels and keep track as you wander around the office.
Rick Alloway: Yeah, so again, not from a blueprint, but from within the office, you can actually bring your Wi-Fi antenna and it doesn’t have to be connected to the internet. You can plug it in and then walk around the office.
I use an android app called Wi-Fi analyzer, nothing special. And you can just walk around with it, walk into different offices and see how strong a signal you’ll get.
William Maxwell: Some things we’ve run across so far is: glass. Wireless through glass, especially multiple panes of glass, can drop the signal a lot. So keep that in mind when you’re making a build-out. If you have lots of glass windows for the conference room, you may have to put an access point on the opposite side of that to avoid the signal drop that may occur.
Johan Hammerstrom: Okay. Great. Let’s see, we have another question. I think it was really good advice, basically telling the staff, we’re taking the servers down. They’re going to be unavailable starting Friday at four o’clock or five o’clock, and you won’t have access to them until Monday morning.
I think it’s really good advice to set that expectation even if you’re expecting the servers to be back up Saturday morning, because you never know what’s going to happen. I do think in most cases the request from staff is going to be “Okay, what can I do? I need to work on X, Y or Z. How do I get access to that information?”
What are some workarounds that you’ve seen or that you’ve used to provide access to key staff with the information they need, while the servers are down?
Rick Alloway: Right. So the simplest one is just tell them to save stuff to their laptop and go work from home. But now we’ve got Dropbox and other options like that.
William Maxwell: I would encourage the flash drive or the computer before I would recommend going to a third party service, because sometimes someone puts something in there and it never comes out. We want to make sure it gets put back into the system that gets backed up every day.
I would stick with: download into a laptop, hand it to the key person that owns it. You can work from this laptop. And maybe in a pinch, you can get one of those USB 3G, 4G Dongles, for them to use if internet might be a pinch. And in general, if you have IP problems, it may not be too difficult to go and grab one of those during move day just to use while you’re waiting for movers to move stuff in.
Rick Alloway: Yeah, that’s actually a good point. We’d have had to do that somewhere where the ISP was a problem during a move and didn’t show up. We had to go. I forget if we use Cricket or whatever, but that mobile wireless antenna, or what do you call them?
William Maxwell: Hotspot.
Rick Alloway: Hotspot, yeah. We just had to put it around the office for a week until the ISP problems got resolved, just to have some sort of internet at the office.
Johan Hammerstrom: Is that the best solution, let’s say you went ahead and you ordered fiber, and you ordered Comcast, but Verizon goes on strike, and so your fiber install date is delayed. And then, Comcast loses your order and so that install date is delayed. And now you’ve got a move date with no internet. Is the mobile access point the best solution? Your only solution? What are some plan B’s you can have ready to go in that eventuality?
Rick Alloway: It’s one of the best solutions I can think of just if your ISP is going to be there within the week, and you just need temporary coverage.
William Maxwell: Yeah. It also depends on how soon before move day all the ISPs fail on you. Sometimes you can switch to a different ISP that can get you in faster if you have enough time.
Rick Alloway: Right. If Comcast fails on you, Verizon might be able to pick you up the next day. Unlikely, but if you have time to figure it out.
William Maxwell: Yeah, but if it’s a week before, you can plan to have a month to month contract with your local cell company to just have a mobile hotspot. I really haven’t seen any others. Sometimes your building will have its own Wi-Fi that you can use, but I have not seen that a lot. But I’ve seen that in a couple of places.
Rick Alloway: Yep, or you can pay to bite off a local Starbucks, if they’re close enough.
Johan Hammerstrom: Certainly, some of the other suggestions that you made: planning for having redundant internet connections not only helps after you’ve moved in, but it helps with the move itself. Planning the install date several weeks in advance of your move, if that’s possible, gives you some flexibility there. And then if all else fails, you can go with the mobile hotspot and potentially also just treat it like a snowstorm. And you’ve kind of got staff on telework.
Great. Well, William, Rick, thank you both very much for sharing your time and your expertise with us this afternoon. And I wish you all the best with whatever moves you’ve got coming up.
Rick Alloway: Thank you very much.
William Maxwell: Thank you.