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Office Fitout Best Practices

Not every business has the luxury of operating from modern, purpose-built premises which use the best layout and power, cabling and hardware infrastructure. And it can be impractical to transform an older building or tenancy while the business is operating. But when moving premises, or refreshing premises is an excellent opportunity to set things up for the best results. Many computing problems are caused by bad power or inefficient network cabling.

Workstations

Power: Count devices for each workstation and then add 50%. For example: desktop computer/laptop, monitor, phone charger, personal printer. That's four, so you'd want six at each workstation. That would accommodate addition of a second monitor, label printer etc.

Or, depending on the layout, four at each workstation, and then some extra communal power points to share amongst a group of 4-6 people.

Power point assemblies are now available with embedded USB charging ports, so this can reduce the need for standalone power points to accommodate smartphone and tablet charging.

The aim is to reduce to zero the number of power boards required.

Data

Minimum two data points per workstation, one each for computer and telephony. Some phone handsets have an inbuilt switch but this forces the workstations to use much slower connections, so each device having a dedicated data point is very important. If workstations are clustered, have 1-2 spare data points for each cluster.

Additional data points in common areas for printers, wireless access points, surveillance cameras.

Server / Comms Room

Consider future network expansion. Size the switch hardware by counting the active data ports, adding 50% and then rounding up to the nearest appropriate device. For example, suppose you count 15 data points, and an additional data point for the router, that suggests a 16-port switch. But in that circumstance, the device would be full immediately. So add 50%, which yields a 24-port device. If the port count is 22, add 50%, which is 33, and then round up to the next size router, 48 ports. (Of course, it is possible to add switches to accommodate network expansion, but this requires space in the comms rack which may not be available, draws more power and creates a bottleneck via the link between switches.)

Switches should have some power-over-ethernet (PoE/PoE+) ports for wireless access points, IP cameras and such.

Use Cat 6 cabling.

Uninterruptible power supplies may not behave properly when attached to power points linked to safety switches. Consult your electrician. In the communications/server room it may be necessary to have some dedicated power outlets for UPS devices which will not conflict with safety switches.

Keep the server/comms room locked. Even if your business is cloud-only and you don't have an on-premises “server”, an adversary may be able to attach a malicous device to a switch which would allow attacking the network from inside and possible compromise or data exfiltration. Practical/physical attacks are not common but they should be mitigated as much as possible.

Meeting Rooms

Data and power, ideally located so devices can be plugged in without running a cable across traffic areas.

Meeting rooms should be lockable so people can leave their devices/documents there temporarily (eg during meeting breaks).

Conference Rooms

Will often have dedicated projector/display/computer equipment so data and power need to be located appropriately.

Locate additional data and power around the edges of the room. Inbuilt USB charging sockets for guests.

Power and data points located centrally in the floor.

Boardroom table should have central gap, so devices can run their cabling outwards into the centrally-placed data/power points. Ideally half a dozen power points and data points depending on expected use for the room.

Conference rooms should be lockable so people can leave their devices/documents there temporarily (eg during meeting breaks).

Wet Areas

Bathrooms/Toilets/Kitchens/Dishwashers. Consider what would happen if there was a flood due to blocked pipes etc. Where would the water go? Could it reach the communications room, where servers and comms equipment is kept?

In many small businesses, the communications cabinet would have equipment located at the top of the cabinet, so inundation of water would not affect it. But if you have so much equipment the entire cabinet is being used, consider the water risk. Perhaps two smaller cabinets, mounted at a reasonable height, is more appropriate. Also be sure that power and data incoming to the comms cabinet is up high.

Air Conditioner / Hot Water System

These units are sometimes in ceiling spaces. If they leak, water may damage equipment. Be sure that these are located where water leaks will not affect servers and communications. Better still, be sure they are located on the outside of the premises (eg wall-mounted instantaneous heating).

Always assume the air conditioner or hot water will leak one day, and design appropriately.

Theft Mitigation

Opportunistic Theft

Staff who work in areas accessible to the public should not keep their belongings at their workstations. Provide lockers that are kept towards the rear of the office. Ground-floor offices on main roads are particularly susceptible to opportunistic theft where would-be thieves can simply explain their presence by being lost or “looking for (the business next door)”. But offices in multi-level buildings are also susceptible to opportunistic theft, despite the escape route being more complex, as those buildings have many people coming and going.

Break-Ins

If you have a room with a server, this can be a high-value target and/or the most inconvenient item to be stolen during a break-in. Keep the server room locked. A thief generally only has a short window of time to operate before alarms will bring the security patrols or police. If they cannot achieve ingress to the locked server room in a short time, they may give up and focus on something less valuable.

Ideally the server room should have an additional bolt in the lower half to be more resistant to being kicked-in. This makes legitimate access to the server room more inconvenient, so this is a question of balancing risk, utility and the effect of having a server stolen.



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