Office IT Relocation. Chaos or Order? Revision 1.2

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1 Chaos or Order? Revision 1.2 Morris W. Stemp, CPA, MBA Stemp Systems Group 11/1/2012

2 Office IT Relocation Chaos or Order? Are you planning an office move? Have you considered all the IT issues necessary to avoid chaos and insure post move productivity? As you may imagine, there is more involved than disconnecting and reconnecting your workstations, and turning on the power after the move. A well-planned IT move makes the difference between being fully operational and fully productive on the morning after your move versus having chaos, angry customers, and frustrated staff, resulting in downtime and lost revenue. In an ideal world, your employees should be able to resume business after the move in the new office exactly the way they were functioning the day before the move. Here are some of the IT issues to consider, before you unplug your first workstation, to make that ideal a reality. Design your space Long before your move, you ve probably engaged an architect or office designer to assist you with the layout of your office. There are a number of considerations related to the IT infrastructure that the office designer must take into account in the design. Servers and network devices (switches, routers, firewalls) require appropriate security. Access control is required for companies which accept credit card payments to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) regulations and medical facilities must adhere to HIPAA security rules. Thus, a dedicated room, commonly called a server closet, should be included in the office layout. Another reason to designate a server closet is to enable the HVAC/mechanical engineers to ensure that the closet gets adequate cooling to keep the servers cool. Most experts agree that server room temperature should be maintained between 70 and 80 degrees. It is also important to design the cooling system so that it does not shut down at night and on weekends. The size of the server closet is also important as there needs to be sufficient space in the closet to move around equipment, pull out server racks, and for staff to maneuver around all sides of the equipment. Servers are generally plugged into uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to protect them from temporary power outages and electrical surges. Depending on the number of servers being protected and the size of the UPS, the electrical input voltage for the UPS may require special electrical circuits and power outlets. Your IT service provider can best assist you on properly sizing the most effective UPS for your infrastructure and giving your electrician appropriate electrical specifications. Another consideration for your server closet is the type of floor covering. Servers can be sensitive to the buildup of static electricity. Therefore, we recommend static free floor tiles instead of any type of carpeting. Page 2 of 8

3 If the move is a new build-out, the room should be in a location which allows for network cables to be optimally run to each workstation, IP phone and network printer. The layout should also consider where to position wireless access points (WAP) to maintain continuous optimal coverage across the space. Network cables, at minimum, need to be run to every workstation, network printer, or WAP. Depending on your environment, you may also need network cable runs for IP phones, security cameras, access control devices, employee time clocks, IP temperature control panels, wall mounted digital monitors, etc. It s worthwhile to consider the growth of the company in terms of personnel and therefore desktop computers and possibly IP phones. It may be more economical (and neater) to run the required network cables to support this growth while the office is still under construction. Special wiring considerations for conference rooms, wall mounted screens and videoconferencing should also be taken into account during construction. Architectural drawings should include the specific locations of where these cables should be terminated on walls and ceilings. It is important to consider the type of desks and cubicles that will be installed in the offices when specifying the location of the cable terminations. You don t want to block the network and phone jacks or otherwise render them inaccessible. By the way, this is also an important consideration when planning the location of power outlets. Who s doing what? One of the most important tasks from an IT perspective in any build out is properly (and neatly) running network and telephone cables. In our experience, we have seen this task performed by the general contractor, the electricians, the phone guys, or the IT support team. Running cables involves two separate skills: the first is threading the cables through the walls or otherwise neatly attaching them along baseboards or conduit, and the second is terminating the cables according to rigorous technical specifications on a central patch panel and at the locations of the workstations, printers or other devices. We recommend that the contractor selected to run the cables should be the one you believe will do the neatest, most unobtrusive, job. In new construction, the contractor or electrician should be able to perform well. For terminating the cables, it s vital that trained and certified cable termination experts perform this function. Diagnosing network problems is hard enough. You don t want to have to suspect poor cable terminations as possible network faults. Part of the job of the termination experts is to test and certify all connections using special diagnostic tools such as a Fluke. Page 3 of 8

4 IT is all about connectivity Next to power, Internet service is probably the most important utility. In many locations there are choices of Internet service providers (ISP). These include local phone company services such as DSL or FIOS, Cable providers, and vendors who just provide Internet. Some office buildings may already be pre-wired (lit building) by one or more of these ISPs. Do some research, contact the local utilities, and inquire of your landlord to find out what is available in your building and what others have found to perform best and be the most reliable. Depending on your connectivity requirements, you may need to order your internet circuits with a block of multiple static IP addresses. On the day of the move, you will also have to update your public DNS entries to reflect the newly assigned internet WAN IP addresses. It is best to review this technical mumbo jumbo with your IT service provider. At this time, it also makes sense to consider how your telephone system will get dial tone service. Options include installing standard phone service (POTS), a PRI phone system, or the use of Internet based phone circuits. Most importantly, and directly related to the timing of the move, is that provisioning Internet and dial tone service takes time, sometimes as long as two to three months, especially if the building is not lit. Waiting until the last moment will lead to poor connectivity choices. Once you ve received notification that the circuits are completed, it s critical that you independently verify that the circuits are indeed live and provisioned as per your requirements. Testing these circuits before all of the communication devices are installed is somewhat technical and you may wish to solicit the assistance of your IT service provider. Communication lines, (Internet and telephone service) are usually run into a central point of termination in a building s telecommunications closet is called the demarc. Depending on the provider, it may be you, the customer, who is responsible for running cables from the demarc to the network closet. This should be established early on so that your network cable installers will be prepared to run the cables if necessary. Cancel old services Most telephone and Internet service contracts call for some period of advance notification, three to six months is common, in order to terminate service in advance of the contract expiration. Some contracts also have a clause which gives the customer the right to cancel in the event of a move. Since most of us sign these contracts without reading the fine print, and then can never locate the contract when we need it, it s best to notify your communications providers as soon as you decide to move. You should then follow-up with a written or ed confirmation and make sure to get a return confirmation from your provider. We recommend that, post-move, you Page 4 of 8

5 call to verify that your old services are in fact cancelled, and get a second written confirmation to that status. We have seen too many customers forced to pay for their old service by service providers who require them to adhere to the full term of their contracts. Move IT on out Every office has a variety of equipment (servers, workstations, printers, phones) and networking devices to be moved. Each type of equipment requires a different plan as to who and how that equipment should be disassembled, packed, moved, unpacked and reassembled. The first step in designing this plan is to take an inventory of every piece of IT equipment that s going to be moved. It is a good idea to take pictures of all of the servers, or any other location with several pieces of equipment, so that you can see how it was laid out to make reassembly easier. For various reasons, a company may decide not to take all of the equipment to the new location. In this case, it is prudent to make an appointment for an e-waste recycling company to pick up any of this old technology on the day of the move. Next, assign move responsibilities to various groups of people based on the type of equipment being moved. In a smaller organization, it might make sense for the staff to label, disassemble and box his/her personal equipment including computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, scanner and printer. Larger organizations might consider hiring an organization, such as Stemp, which specializes in moving IT equipment. In either case, users must be responsible for labeling their personal equipment. Please remember to use removable labels and not post-it notes which may fall off. Rack-mounted servers and rack-mounted networking devices need to be removed from their racks before they can be moved. Depending on the complexity of the infrastructure, disassembling a rack usually requires a certain level of IT expertise. The disassembly process should also be done in an organized manner with a goal of simplifying the reassembly in the new office. Smartboards, TVs,and other bulky electronic equipment require special care and muscle to remove from the wall, and may be best left for specialized movers. It would be helpful to reserve freight elevators for bulky equipment (such as large copy machines) so as not to delay the move. Also, find out if loading docks are available. Make sure that access can be gained to the building at required times if this equipment is being delivered at a separate time from the main office move. After all of the equipment is boxed up, it is generally up to the moving company to transport the boxes to the new office and secure the equipment against theft during the move. In the case of a medical facility, a loss or theft of servers containing personal health information (PHI) could expose the facility to large HIPAA violation fines and the need to make public disclosure of the loss. Thus we Page 5 of 8

6 recommend using a moving company with trained staff, secure storage facilities and appropriate insurance. In addition, if you have a lot of servers or SANs (storage devices), it is recommended to use a moving company with specialized packing materials and experience moving such highly sensitive equipment. It can be less costly to have your IT service provider personally move one or two servers in their cars rather than pay for this specialized moving support, but then you give up the other key benefits of using an insured moving company. Putting it all back together again Disassembling the equipment in preparation for the move can be done a bit haphazardly. Reassembly, however, leaves no margin for error if you want your systems to work correctly. Servers and network devices must be reassembled and placed in the racks by your IT team. We recommend that even the workstations should be reassembled by the IT staff who will test all workstation peripherals and make sure that all cables are neatly installed (with proper lengths of patch cables). The goal of this recommendation is to ensure that once a user starts working at his/her new desk, that the user can be fully productive and not experience any frustration. Backup There is always the possibility during a move that sensitive equipment can be damaged or lost. Before you start pulling plugs all over, we highly recommend that you back up all servers and take backups of network device configuration files. As with all backups at any time, make sure to test and verify the restorability of this pre-move backup. Depending on what device you back-up to, you should move the backup separately from all of the rest of the equipment. So, if you ve chosen to have a moving company move your servers, we recommend that you have your IT service provider move your backup device. Move or replace I frequently get asked by my clients should I replace workstations before I move or during the move? We believe very strongly that companies should never combine a move with either a server upgrade or a mass workstation upgrade. There is enough confusion during a move as it is, without dealing with potential issues cause by upgrading to new equipment. If possible and cost effective, we encourage installing new switches in the new office so that the new location will be 100% ready to simply plug-in the workstations and servers as they roll off the moving van. It is better to upgrade the workstations either before the move or after you ve settled in to the new office. Page 6 of 8

7 We have heard others recommending just the opposite of our advice. They recommend having new workstations on the users new desks in the new office so that the users and the computers are ready to go. A second reason for this recommendation is the cost savings since movers don t have to move old workstations. Our counterpoint to this recommendation is based on the fact that most corporate networks are set up in a Microsoft domain environment. In this configuration, new workstations cannot be connected and made fully functional, with corporate data and applications, until all of the servers are moved and users log in for the first time. Therefore, it is not possible to have the new workstations ready until users sit down at their computers on the first day of the move. This approach will cause an extended period of high demand for IT support during the first week of the move. It will also severely diminish worker productivity while the help desk struggles to deal with user issues alongside other IT issues encountered during the move. Another equipment upgrade that companies sometimes consider in connection with a move is a phone system upgrade. It is likely that the new phone system requires a different infrastructure (cables, dial tone service) than the current phone system. If a company is already considering a phone system upgrade, it will be more economical to build out the new office with the infrastructure required by the new phone system than to install the old phone system and later implement the new phone system. My comments above, about confusion while implementing a new system during a move, are still relevant but the cost savings may override the limited period of chaos. This confusion can be partially offset by providing as much training as possible in the new phone system, using a demo environment, before the move. Contingency planning Ideally, a well-managed move will be executed without any complications or delays. But there are most definitely risks associated with even the most well-planned project. A full-service, well-staffed, proactive IT provider, such as Stemp, can help mitigate many of the risks associated with moving IT equipment. Consider the following scenario. All of the IT equipment is disassembled and boxed up. Your lease is up tomorrow. The moving company has already loaded your office furniture and files. The move is well underway. Now the unexpected happens During the move, some of your equipment was lost or damaged, or the moving company van got into an accident. The move could not be completed due to some severe weather event such as a Page 7 of 8

8 hurricane. As the move is being completed, it becomes evident that there was some miscommunication regarding the timing of some key tasks or resource availability. Key personnel such as the Project Manager or certain IT staff, become ill or otherwise unavailable. There are unforeseen delays in the completion of telephone or internet circuits or in the receipt of central IT equipment (such as a network switch or firewall). Any of these scenarios can disrupt the best made plans. Here s how your IT support team can help. A full-service IT provider should have loaner equipment available, stock new equipment for immediate delivery, and have relationships and credit with hardware vendors in order to get quick deliveries of replacements. An IT company with a facility to host can quickly set up a hosted Exchange environment and temporarily reroute s to give users full access to new . This same hosting facility can also be used to load applications off the back-up appliance and make full application functionality available to users. Depending on your phone service, the IT provider might also be able to host your VOIP phone system within their hosting facility. All of these hosting scenarios enable your team to carry on business from some alternate location (that has power and internet service) such as another office space or employee homes, until the delays are resolved. The support and hosting services described above is also critical in helping an organization survive other disasters such as server theft or damage, office fires, and natural disasters. In Hurricane Sandy, Stemp hosted for close to 500 users from clients who lost power or internet, within our existing hosting environment, within two days of the disaster. Considering the vital role a full-service IT provider plays in mitigating the risks associated with a move, it may be appropriate to consider moving your IT support to an IT company that offers the full range of IT services described above. In our experience, appointing a project manager as a primary point of contact for all move related coordination will lead to a greater chance of a problem free move. Stemp s IT project managers have frequently played this role while supporting the relocation of our clients. Conclusion Proper handling of all of the IT issues during an office relocation, including office design, resource coordination and scheduling, and risk mitigation, can convert potential chaos into a hassle-free experience. There should not be even a single workstation that doesn t work when you plug it into the wall in your new office. Proper planning will make this happen. Page 8 of 8

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