Planning Your IT Infrastructure
In today’s Information Age, a company requires reliable communications systems to carry on almost all forms of business. In fact, a functional and efficient system is vital to the health and success of a business. In preparation for any office relocation, your company’s information technology infrastructure should be designed well in advance – it’s as important as planning for your electricity, plumbing and heating needs.
When you are planning your office design around equipment, making the most of your available space is always key. At the same time, it is a good idea to account for future growth. One way of maximizing space, while at the same time allowing for growth, is to build up in a vertical fashion by using furnishings like stacked racks and tall cabinets. Rack-mounted servers are becoming increasingly popular as more and more businesses need to maximize their rack space capacity. These units, known as ‘1 U’, occupy only 1 rack unit and measure approximately 2 inches high.
When designing your internal communications infrastructure, make sure that all cabling is routed to the main communications room, which should be centrally located in the facility. You will also need to have all cabling terminated properly, grounded and protected from power surges.
When using larger racks in your computer room, make sure they don’t interfere with ceiling sprinkler systems or fire alarms. You will also want to ensure that they are safe for staff to use when installing or patching equipment. Appropriate air flow to cool the equipment room is another consideration. Also, make sure there is enough electrical density to support existing and potential future power needs.
Another thing you should plan for upfront is where your phone and internet main connection will be housed. In the past it was easy enough to delegate space in a closet or hidden corner, but the requirements for these communications circuits have changed drastically in the past few years. Today you may need to have the service provider install extra equipment, possibly requiring a dedicated area with specific environmentally controlled conditions.
Wiring and general electricity issues are complex for any business in today’s world, so proper planning before an office relocation is an absolute must. Since there is an ever increasing dependence on computers, you will need to provide a suitable environment for all network and communications equipment and ensure proper power and signal grounding.
In planning your design, you should take into account both the planned installation and future projections for equipment expansion. You should consider the type of power that is needed for each area of your office space, where to land the power as well as the number of circuits your equipment racks will need.
When planning your design, consider the following:
Electrical density is an important consideration now that IT systems are able to pack more equipment into smaller spaces. Make sure your facility’s electrical capacity can handle growth and more power demands.
More and more devices are being manufactured with dual and triple power supplies that access diverse power feeds, in order to mitigate electrical outages. This is another thing to think about when planning the electrical density of your facility.
In today’s computing environment, making sure power and signals are properly grounded is a must, since even tiny fluctuations in power can damage your equipment or cause data loss.
Most workstations these days have a dedicated computer, so planning the electrical circuitry beforehand will save having to add additional ones in the future. Other power requirements you will want to consider are for equipment such as copiers, scanners, fax machines and printers.
Like power, voice and data cabling should be looked at early on in the design process. Here are a few issues that you need to consider:
In the past most networks could be run using Cat 5 UTP cable (Category 5 Unshielded Twisted Pair), however today’s high-speed networks are more often being run using Cat 5e and Cat 6 cabling. Take your future bandwidth projections into account when you plan your network design. This will help you determine the type of cable to install.
Meters and meters of cable lying around can be an unsightly mess, so you will want to look closely at your cable management. Cable management is also an important factor in the life span of the cable plant; by ensuring the correct ratio of separate cable components to the capacity of the cable plant, you lengthen its longevity. Features like self-healing/reusable harnesses or cable management databases can also be installed in anticipation of future growth.
It is likely that at some point or other you will need to accommodate for expanding equipment needs, so it makes sense to plan for this in advance and install extra cable during construction. That, and a well-planned and documented cable plant, will make adding wire in the future a lot faster and easier.
Whether or not you are currently using a wireless infrastructure in your facility, you will probably want to install the appropriate hardware in your new location for possible future use. You should consider whether you will eventually want to use wireless solutions such as a wireless amplifier, a wireless voice network or perhaps a 3G wireless network. By adding additional network drops into your initial design of the facility, you will easily be able to increase your network capabilities at a later date.
Systems and Networks
When you move communications systems to a new location there are some other issues you may have to prepare for:
When changing computer network addresses, there may be a significant cost attached. You will want to see whether you have enough IP addresses to create a new branch office and how the address scheme fits the corporate addressing plan as a whole.
Before moving into your new office, try pre-testing your connections with spare network equipment. The last thing you want is for your staff to arrive to work on the first day and be unable to log into the network or use the phones.
Make sure that the new equipment room has been planned thoroughly in terms of rack space, power supply and environmental controls. You will want to be able to move all of your equipment and install it into your new space quickly and without any glitches.
In today’s world, a good communications system is a mission critical resource for any business, and so knowing how to design a company’s IT infrastructure is more important than ever. Remember that just one weak link in the IT infrastructure can cause untold problems.
To deal with this changing demand, there has been a recent development of the role of the IT Infrastructure Design Consultant or Project Manager. These specialists act as consultants to facilities project managers, and provide technology infrastructure design advice in the early stages of the design-build process. A good design can help a business save thousands of dollars in the long run.
Should you choose to hire a consultant, here are some of the services you should expect from them:
Design that maximizes your space while taking into account future expansion or reconfiguration of your facilities.
Delivery of a communications infrastructure design that allows for changes to be made easily in the cabling system.
Layout design and installation of all technology spaces such as the network and server rooms, cable plant, technical labs, and IDF rooms.
Planning for the installation of shelving, cabinets, cables as well as coordination with services such as HVAC and security systems in the office’s technology areas.