Andy Hinxman presents the key tech considerations when transplanting to a different office.
Moving house can be a stressful business. Moving office can be just as tough, maybe even worse.
Interestingly it is often the IT that gets forgotten. Too many people assume that it will be fine, but lots can go wrong. I’m moving a couple of my clients this month so it has reminded me of the essential IT ‘to do’ before you move a business.
- Look at the broadband: Even before you make a final decision on a new office do look at the upload/download speed. What you are looking for is called the ‘contention ratio’ which means the ratio of download/upload speed. (A download speed of 20MB and upload speed of 1MB would be called a 1:20). The idea of working in a rural area, for example, may be appealing but is your internet going to be good enough for what you need? I have a client who lives in a lovely village in Warwickshire who is now considering moving because she simply can’t get the internet to work fast enough for her video production company. BT will eventually upgrade the network but as yet there is no date. You can check on download/upload speeds by going on the internet but remember those will be the maximum and may not represent what you actually achieve. Your provider can test it for you but that may be too late.
- Book early: As soon as you can, find out what is available. Don’t assume the office will have internet and phone. It may well have been switched off or the infrastructure might not be in place. Many people – especially small businesses owners – might have chosen to use mobile and 4G instead. If there is no line you need to think in terms of allowing a month at least for BT to come and get one installed. Even if there is a phone line it can still take BT two weeks to get it switched on. Then another week to get the internet set up.
- Book even earlier if you use BT Fibre: If you need speed and volume then you should be using BT Fibre. It is a huge dedicated line and you can use as much as you like. You’ll also get it fixed quicker than broadband. But it does cost a lot more and, most importantly if you’re moving, it can take three months to be installed. If you have Fibre but not the three months to get it installed in the new office you will need to get normal Broadband set up and then upgrade later.
- Check the number of ports: We used to worry about not having enough sockets for the phone line. Now the concern is enough ports for the internet. Don’t let the engineers decide this for you when they come to do the installation. Make sure the ports are where you want them to be and not where is convenient for them. Of course many of my clients use Wi-Fi rather than hard-wired so don’t have this problem but it is worth having the latter as a back up. Have a look around at the number of ports and make sure they match your needs. I helped James Caan move recently. His new office had previously been leased by a gaming company; there were 500 ports available!
- Time the move carefully: Timing is everything. We recommend that clients move within the normal working day, if at all possible, simply because of the cost of a move out of hours. We certainly do and have moved people at the weekends. The upside is you don’t have staff sitting around with nothing to do (although you can get them to work from home – particularly if you use the Cloud). If it is in a city you also don’t have the physical hassle with parking and removal vans etc. that you do Monday to Friday. You also don’t have the feeling in the back of your mind that you should be working and earning. However that should be balanced out by the additional cost of getting others to move you outside normal working hours.
- Consider moving to the Cloud: I am a great fan of the Cloud for many reasons. Moving office is one of them. If you do move in office hours it means your staff can still be at work (from home) keeping your business going. If something should go horribly wrong you already have all the information stored on the Cloud. The Cloud is a great back-up system, even if you only use it for the move. Much better that than having an angry client who wants information you can’t access. Or even a potential customer you could lose because you can’t send over the quote.
- Remember to change your IP addresses and servers: You will most likely have remembered to change your phone number and your physical address. But have you remembered to change your IP address? If you’re not in the Cloud, but you have your own server, you may think it is a simple matter of moving it from one office to another. Not so. You have to change your IP address so that emails etc know where to go. Often people only know something isn’t right when they find themselves without emails for two days and wonder if all their clients have left them.
- Make friends with your neighbours: It will help the whole thing go a lot more smoothly. One client we helped move found himself at 3pm on a Friday with what can only be described as an ‘unhelpful’ BT engineer. He turned up, shook his head, said the work couldn’t be done and clocked off. What did work though was another company in the building who let us run a cable from their line up six floors so we could set up the system.
And finally, a true story: We had been called in to help a client move their IT and set things up in their new office. We had sussed out the internet facilities, sockets, and upload/download speed for them. We had arranged everything to be ready on time with BT and we ensured the switchover was going to happen on time. We were about to leave when the client called and asked me when the removal van was going to turn up. It turned out he hadn’t booked a removal firm because he assumed that we did that too. I had a choice: run away very fast and don’t look back or figure out a way to help.
The end of the story is that we found 40 crates in our own office and filled them full of the client’s belongings and moved the rest of the furniture by hand (thankfully they were only moving round the corner). The moral of the story? Make sure you’ve booked a removal van, or an IT team that’s strong and prepared to go above and beyond to help their clients.
Further reading on office space