Solving business needs through Infrastructure Design (Part 1)
Posted by Joe Nax on Nov 5, 2014
When approached by Philip Holt (CEO of Orlando’s new high tech co-working space, Canvs) to build out their infrastructure, we knew that there would be unique challenges to the design. First off, for those that don’t know what a co-working space is, it’s a space where startups and other entrepreneurs can get desk space for a day or a month. The space is shared with many other startups, to where idea sharing and access to mentors is a big draw, as well as the ability to get office space without high overhead or long term lease commitments. With this environment, we were faced with various challenges. The most obvious is the constant change regarding tenants coming and leaving. How would we deal with that from an operations and security perspective? How do we secure the environment without hindering flexibility and collaboration? If there are a lot of daily or social members, how do we make the on/off boarding process a breeze, yet controllable?
With Canvs being primarily focused on attracting high tech startups, we also had to consider the potential business model of the tenants. Did they have on premise infrastructure needs? Would they be hosting public facing services? Would they have VoIP (Voice over IP) phones? How many devices would they have, PCs, Mac, smart phones, tablets, printers, etc.?
One of the challenges for a tech startup is access to good technology and infrastructure. When starting, everything is competing for capital. Generally, companies need to focus their dollars on great hires, building great product(s), production (Public facing) systems, marketing and sales. Building an enterprise class core infrastructure is not usually in the budget. You need as much bandwidth as you can afford. You need to have firewalls to protect your Intellectual Property (IP). You need switches and routers that are reliable and perform as needed. You need a good monitoring system to “watch” it and you need someone to care and feed for the system without taking away from the business of building your business.
With the vision of Canvs, an important aspect to the design also had to make collaboration easy, accessible, and flawless. Collaboration can come in the way of working with your team, other members, mentors, or clients that may visit to see your progress. The intent is also to use the space for tech meetups, government and collegiate involvement, and internships. Meaning that we needed to make sure that the facilities could accommodate a few people to a few hundred people in meetings. In any of these scenarios, members needed to be able to connect to audio visual systems with ease from a number of systems.
The infrastructure needed to be designed in a way that the startups coming through Canvs didn’t worry about performance, reliability, or availability of infrastructure. Much like a utility, they should know that it’s there to assist them in creating, innovating, and building their business.
High Speed Internet – face it, most startups have a reliance on cloud services. In a coworking space, the last thing that you want is to have companies stepping on each other for precious bandwidth. This is one area where the investment will pay for itself. As an agent for a carrier Master Agency, we were able to bring deeper discounts to the table than what companies can typically get directly from any carrier.
Robust Wifi – With the proliferation of mobile devices, our potential users would undoubtedly bring an army of wireless bandwidth hogging needs to crush a poorly designed system. We needed redundancy, high speed throughput, and impeccable coverage of the space and common areas. We needed to have the ability to apply Quality of Service and service throttling if necessary. With 160+ seats as well as social membership (common space users), the number of private, community, and guest SSIDs could be overwhelming.
Flexible and reliable enterprise class physical infrastructure – We could not count on everyone bringing a wireless capable device or even prefer to work on a wireless network. We also had to be sure that any seat in the facility also had the ability to “plug in”. This would give the ultimate in flexibility for any business needs.
Flexible Audio Visual systems – PC, Mac, conference calls, video conferencing, presenting your pitch/product, meetups, etc. can all be handled by throwing a lot of money at a conference room. How do you handle the occasional visit from the Mayor with media coverage? How do you do this on a tight budget without compromising the power of presentation? How do you do this without having a multitude of cables all over the tables or a degree in Electrical Engineering to figure out how to use it? What if you want to have tech startups come in for meetups? How do you schedule a conference room if everyone is on a different collaboration system?
Security to protect Intellectual Property (IP) – Perimeter security is a need for any business. A firewall with good/tight access control lists, patched with firmware upgrades and regular monitoring handles this for most businesses. However, when there are multiple businesses, most of which are developing applications, both in a wired and wireless setting, in an open working environment, you start to realize that this has to be thought out properly. We can’t be responsible for someone’s IP being stolen. We need to consider that outside of a particular company, there is very little need to “share” company IP or assets in a co-working space. Sure, you need to share the assets of the space, you want to collaborate together, but your IP should always be under your control and segregated from everyone else’s. If the need arises to share, there are secure ways to do that via numerous cloud services. Beyond digital and perimeter security, we also had to solve for physical security. Considerations regarding badges vs. keyfobs, social hours vs. business/dedicated hours, access to network closets, and the daily change requiring on/off boarding had to be addressed.
Here, I have just scratched the surface on some of the challenges and considerations that went into this exciting and impressive project. In future blogs, we will dive into the specifics around how we solved for these areas of infrastructure needs.
Whether building new or upgrading antiquated infrastructure, proper design will enable your business’ success. The solutions we used for Canvs, may not be the right solutions for your business needs. Virtual Operations has over 50 years of experience in infrastructure design for startups to Fortune 500 companies. Call us today or click for a free consultation on how to achieve your business goals via infrastructure design and strategy! We can help with infrastructure design and implementation, Carrier/Internet pipes, security (physical and digital), low voltage and structured cabling, desk side management, furniture considerations, telephony, and much more. Virtual Operations is Your Technology Partner!