IT Requirements for Your Office
All modern offices have IT requirements that even a couple of decades ago did not need to be taken into consideration. Older office buildings can sometimes be harder to set up new offices in because they lack the layout for a modern IT system. However, these problems can usually be overcome by the addition of either a false floor or a false ceiling where newly installed cabling, for example, can be hidden away. If you are expanding your office space, relocating to a new workspace or setting up from scratch, then considering the location of your office - along with the rental costs - will probably be your primary concern. Second on the list should be your IT requirements and how this will affect the ongoing day-to-day nature of the business.
Space for IT Services
We'll take a look at the types of services contemporary offices need, but first and foremost you need to think about how you are going to deliver them. Every business owner and office manager knows that running an office costs money. Although most expanding businesses need a little spare capacity, so that they can accommodate growth, you should always be looking to minimise rental costs by not taking on too much space. Reducing overheads in this way makes basic business sense. However, you need to make sure that there is sufficient space for your IT equipment and that not all of the space is devoted to work desks and meeting rooms.
Unless you are opting for a serviced office you will need your own IT room. This could be a cupboard space for a small office, but for larger ones of anything over about 50 staff you will need a more substantial room. Secondly, this room needs to be connected to the rest of the office so that servers can talk to terminals. Conventionally, this is done by flooding Ethernet cable between the desk spaces back to the server room where terminals can be patched into routers or switches. Nowadays, many telephony systems operate over a similar wiring system using the same IP protocols as computers. The alternative is to go wireless, using Wi-Fi, but for multiple users this often means a slower network. When working out the wiring network, remember to install sufficient power. Most computer terminals need multiple sources of power - for PCs, monitors, printers and so on. Lack of power outlets usually causes a headache down the line.
A private branch exchange (PBX) or telephone system is essential in most offices. Calling internally or externally is important to most businesses, as is call handling for when customers generate calls. Consider which sort of system will suit the growing demands of your business the best and how you can upgrade it if necessary. It is important to know whether your choice of PBX can use the same Ethernet wiring as your computer system, which affords a great deal of flexibility, or whether it will need its own wiring system in place before you move in.
These days, many telephony systems integrate with your other IT systems. This means you can get some functions whereby, for instance, an external caller's number is shown on a display whilst your customer database searches for that caller's records. This sort of functionality allows staff to answer calls already knowing who they are speaking to and the likely nature for their call. Services like these can really add to the customer service experience.
Automatic call handling, known in the IT industry as automated attendant, means callers can direct themselves to the right department or information using a menu system. These can help to keep your staffing costs down. Some PBXs have automated attendant software included in the package, but others require third party add-ons. Check this capability out if an automated attendant is something you are likely to want to use - along with another popular service like voicemail.
Most IT professionals are focussed on how servers can provide terminals with the information the user wants in a rationalised and efficient way. In a typical office, multiple servers are required and they tend to be specialists in certain areas. An email server, for example, will handle all of your company's electronic mail, delivering it internally and externally. A second server is generally used for handling documents. This does not just mean printing services but also scanning and providing images of scans when a user wants to view one. A third server is used to provide a customer database where all records are kept. Of course, in some businesses other specialist servers are needed, for example ones that can provide computer aided design packages.
The purpose of a dedicated server, for a particular business function, is that multiple copies of data are not stored on every terminal but in one place, centrally. The advantage of this is that records are less likely to become corrupted or out of sync with one another. Servers use lots of power and should usually be stored in a secure place so that records are safe. Sometimes you will need to make sure that they are cooled using air conditioning to keep them working optimally. This is why they really need their own dedicated room.