Setting up a new office

The whole idea of technology is to make your business more productive. Don’t let a shoddy office set-up ruin everything.


Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

I regularly get asked to suggest what relocating businesses need in their new office’s network cabling. This isn’t always as obvious as it seems.


When I tour a new premises the first thing I look at are the power points. You simply can’t have too many power outlets. It’s very easy to underestimate just how many you will need and end up with a mess of power boards under every desk.


The bare minimum power points you should have for each desk is four; one for the computer, one for the monitor, one for a desk lamp and one for miscellaneous devices like phone rechargers. Of course if your staff have multiple monitors, laptops to recharge and other devices, then the sky is limit. I like to be on the safe side and get at least six for each desk.


Despite the trend to combine voice and data, it’s still best to have two clearly labelled and numbered data and voice points per workstation. Faxes, printers and most photocopiers need at least one data point for their network and phone functions. Servers need at least two data points, although ideally they should be located adjacent to the patch panels.


The patch panel is where all the network wiring comes together – with all the short cables connecting everything they often look like a 1940s telephone exchange. Having an accessible and properly labelled panel will save hours of grief for the IT and telecoms guys in the future. The patch panel labelling should match exactly the reference numbers on the data points.


One of the things that irritates me is landlords who insist on departing tenants removing their patch panels. Unless the patch panel is in a poor location or condition, or the area is going to be extensively refurbished, then there’s no need to remove the panels. In fact, having the infrastructure already set up may be attractive to new tenants.


Choosing a central location for your IT and telecoms equipment is good practice. Have the patch panel, incoming phone lines, routers, modems and servers together. A cabinet to house everything is a good investment.


It’s also worthwhile being able to lock these away from the staff. No end of trouble is caused by staff doing their own thing in reconfiguring the office setup and the stories of cleaners unplugging servers to run the vacuum cleaner are not urban myths. So restrict access to this stuff with a key.


Resist the temptation to throw a couple of slabs of beer to your brother-in-law in return for doing the cabling. Problems with network cable manifest themselves in strange ways and are difficult and expensive to troubleshoot. All your electrical and data work should be done by licensed electricians and cablers, also don’t assume that an electrician is automatically a licensed cabler. You must insist that every cable is tested and certified that it complies with Australian Standard 3080.


The whole idea of technology is to make your business more productive. Networks that crash or can’t be expanded cost money and time. Getting the infrastructure right is an investment well worth making.


Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology is sues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT.

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