How we relocate a client’s technical environment to a new premises

While it isn't a frequent project request, it's always exciting whenever a client starts making plans to move to a new location. Office relocations are complex and require a fair bit of planning, but also present the opportunity to iterate and improve a few workflows that may have been constrained or non-optimal based on the previous physical limitations.

From an IT perspective, our challenge is to move the company's entire IT infrastructure and network configuration - all with as little downtime as possible.

In this post, we wanted to share how we recently planned and orchestrated the tech relocation of our client's headquarters.

1. Preparing the Network

Planning and orchestrating the physical move of 30 office workers from one office to the next is not just a case of pack up and go.

A network must be set up in the new office either after or at the same time that the furniture is being arranged. And all of this is to be done with minimal downtime - meaning that on-prem servers may have to be moved to the cloud for all users to access and a network set up and ready for users to plug in and carry on.

In our client's case, moving the existing network would result in downtime as this was their current production network. In this instance, we were fortunate as the client had a spare switch on hand. 

Once the Fibre connection was installed in the new site, we completed the routing and switching. Completing this enabled us to have a fully-functional network setup ready to which staff would connect as soon as they arrived. Only once all the people have been moved, we would then move the balance of the original networking equipment.

If the client does not have the spare equipment, the scheduling of downtime or the possible purchase of new equipment will need to be discussed - especially if the client requires minimal downtime.

2. Furniture  

Although equipping an office with furniture does not fall under IT requirements, this step in a client's overall moving plan is a dependancy that impacts the success and deadline of our project commitments.

In order to set up each workstation as well as printers, routers and network cabling points, the office furniture layout needs to be confirmed and, ideally, the desks set up beforehand.

Without power and a desk, we would not be able to complete the move of the users. It also helps to have a blueprint or office layout prepared which specifies the name of the person to be seated at each desk, to assist you when moving their workstations from the previous office.

Our recommendation is to not bring in any devices before confirming that desks and power points have been installed. This will help eliminate avoidable downtime in your project and for your client, as well as avoid accidental damage to the devices that are brought in while the office is still being set up.

3. Using the Cloud to help with transitory environments

In the case of a phased move where 2 or 3 departments are being moved at first while some remain at the previous office, moving any on-premise file or application servers for the benefit of the relocated staff will cause downtime for the remaining staff.

The next logical but sustainable solution is to move these servers to the cloud. In our recent client's scenario, we went ahead and set up their Sage Pastel server within Microsoft Azure, and empowered all workers to make use of secure Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to connect.

Not only did this approach empower staff in both offices with access to their accounting system, it also meant that the server could now be accessed securely from any location - making remote working possible. 

In the case of their file server, migrating the server's data over to SharePoint gave us the same result as moving Pastel to the cloud, granting workers in both offices access to their files and, at the same time, with the added benefit of decommissioning an old server and reducing overall maintenance hours.  

4. Moving people

Moving 30 people is not the largest task to be done in this project, but can present you with a few interesting challenges. It's important to remember that moving to a new environment can be stressful for the people impacted, so providing enough information and choreography upfront can help give them insight into what to expect.

We find it best to involve the client in this step to create a schedule which will be communicated to all staff members beforehand. A simple roster of which person is to be moved at which times would let everyone know when each department may be in transit and therefore unavailable.

Once each person's turn comes up, their workstation, peripherals and cables should be packed together into a labelled box, loaded up and sent over to the new office.

An important factor to take note of is that printers under maintenance have to be moved by the contracted company as there are specific ways some printers have to be moved. This also removes a high-risk and high-value item from your list of items that need to be moved.

Once at the new office, it is simply a case of connecting the users in their newly-allocated work area, powering up their devices, confirming that all is working with regards to their network connection and then mapping their printers.