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Five steps for a successful technology move

For any company planning a move, the relocation of its information-technology infrastructure can be the most complex aspect.

For any company planning a move, the relocation of its information-technology infrastructure can be the most complex aspect.

Regardless of size or in-house IT expertise, many firms share a similar challenge: how to shut down servers, phone equipment, Internet services and other equipment, move them and have them back up and running as soon as possible.

“We thought we had all the answers the first time we moved,” said Brian DeCew, chief executive officer of Beyond Architects, an architecture and interior-design company in Manheim Township, Lancaster County.
But after three moves and two office expansions, DeCew said he learned there was more involved in an IT move than what he first thought.

To maximize the benefits of moving to a new facility and minimize the stress of relocating technology, companies should consider these steps:

Step 1: Assemble a team
From managing the new facility’s layout and assessing cabling needs, to dismantling, reconnecting and testing networks, there is a lot for one person to handle.

Taking a team approach, whether with two people or 20, is key, said Dave Brandt, director of facilities at WITF Inc. When the public-media company moved to its current location in Swatara Township, Dauphin County, two years ago, Brandt’s role involved overseeing the entire process.

“It’s important to have a team leader,” he said. “Someone needs to be the delegator and the one to put out fires.”
Brandt was able to use WITF’s technology staff of seven people. He brought them into the process early and involved them every step of the way, he said. As a result, the company’s more than 125 workstations were moved in three days.

“It went a lot smoother than I had expected,” Brandt said.
Not every company has the in-house staff or the know-how to pull off a move, said Dave Baddorf, a systems and network engineer with iCepts Technology Group Inc. in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County.
“It’s well worth it to at least meet with an IT support firm to get an idea of what’s involved,” Baddorf said.

Step 2: Evaluate IT needs

Whether moving to a newly constructed building or an existing one, knowing where the IT equipment will be helps companies plan for cabling and telecommunications needs, said Lamar Weaver, president and owner of TCW Computer Systems Inc., a software developer and technology manufacturer with locations in Rapho and East Lampeter townships, Lancaster County.

“To avoid any wiring issues, companies often bring us their blueprints,” Weaver said.

It is less expensive to have extra cable and outlets installed before you move than to make changes afterward, he added.

A move is also a good time for companies to upgrade any servers, computers, phone systems or other outdated equipment, said John Mackprang, a senior consultant with Momentum Inc., a business-and-technology consulting firm in Camp Hill, Cumberland County.

“We looked at making upgrades as a long-term investment,” DeCew said.

After outgrowing two previous offices, DeCew learned the importance of planning. His company’s current location has extra wiring to accommodate more workstations if necessary.

When upgrading and planning for growth, be careful not to take on too many changes at once, Mackprang said.
“It could add a lot of complications during a move,” Mackprang added.

Step 3: Develop a moving plan

Proper planning can ensure a smooth transition of your company’s technology, as well as minimize downtime, said Denny Michel, customer-service manager with Alliance Computers Inc., a computer sales and service provider in Swatara Township. Start by scheduling a date for the move, he said.

“We planned our move over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,” Brandt said. “It gave us extra time to make sure things were up and running by Monday.”

Once a move date is scheduled, planning should start anywhere from two months to a year in advance, depending on the company’s size and the complexity of its technology, Michel said.

Coordinating the transfer of telecommunications can be one of the more time-consuming aspects of a move, he added.

“We utilized the entire six months of planning prior to our move to select a new phone system and service provider,” said Keith Witmer, operations manager for Norlanco Financial, a financial-planning and investment firm that recently moved from the west side of Mount Joy to the east side.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” Witmer said.
Last but not least, have a worst-case-scenario plan for IT operations in case something goes wrong during the move, Michel said.

Step 4: Prepare to move

Moving week is when most of the last-minute details come to a head, from packing and touring the new office to backing up data and confirming phone, Internet and network installations.

“Being organized is the key to minimizing the stress level,” Brandt said.

To prevent any confusion for movers, Brandt incorporated a labeling strategy that was used on everything in each workstation from computers to cables to boxes.

All the items in each workstation were labeled with a number that coordinated with a numbered cubicle at the new office, Brandt said.

“Out of more than 100 boxes, only two were misplaced,” he said.

No matter how careful you are moving hardware, data can still be at risk during the IT relocation, Baddorf said. Taking the time to back up all data before a move is one of the most important things a company should do, he said.

Step 5: Move, reassemble, test

The No. 1 goal on moving day, and the reason for months of planning, is to minimize downtime and loss of productivity.

“In our line of business, time is our most precious resource,” DeCew said.

Once computers and servers are properly disconnected, moving the actual hardware is pretty straightforward, Weaver said. In most cases it’s done by a moving company, the technology consultant or the company’s in-house team.

“You obviously want to take precautions,” Weaver said. “You don’t want to drop things or bump hardware around too much.”

After the equipment has been successfully moved, it’s time to reassemble and test it.

From phones and fax machines, to printers and e-mail, test everything, Weaver said. Don’t assume that because you have Internet access you can also send e-mail.

“The IT firm we worked with was in the building on the day we moved,” Witmer said. “They were there to troubleshoot any problems and to get the network back up and running.”

Dos and don’ts of IT relocation

  • DON’T expect your IT person to handle everything alone.
  • DO take a team approach; designate a team leader.
  • DON’T underestimate the time involved.
  • DO seek advice from an IT consultant.
  • DON’T take on too much risk when it comes to upgrades.
  • DO have a moving plan, as well as a disaster plan.
  • DON’T forget to keep employees in the loop.
  • DO back up data.
  • DON’T be disorganized when dismantling hardware and packing cables.
  • DO test everything at the new location.

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