A CTO’s perspective on the best technology for flexible spaces and office portfolios
In today’s office market, not only workspace operators but landlords and property developers too are developing propositions for enterprise-level tenants. These occupiers are not only seeking community, collaboration, and attractive amenities, but they have strict IT and security requirements. With the rise of corporate uptake of flexible workspace, it’s important for landlords to know the stringent IT requirements that these tenants demand.
Who better to shed light on this topic than Bryn Sadler, the Chief Technical Officer at essensys, the industry’s leading provider of flexible workspace technology and software. Bryn is one of three co-founders of essensys and has a longstanding background in the flexible workspace industry. He assisted in engineering the essensys Platform, the award-winning proprietary software platform that simplifies the management of in-building networks, digital services and spaces through intelligent network automation.
Bryn gives us insight into what flex-space operators must consider in terms of workspace technology infrastructure and the importance of secure connectivity to meet the wide-ranging needs of today’s office occupiers.
How do workspace technology needs differ among freelancers, SMBs, and enterprise tenants in the coworking space market?
The users of flexible workspaces are incredibly varied, as such their technology needs are equally as varied, so workspace providers need to be flexible in the services they provide. For example, smaller or newer businesses, will not be bringing a legacy of tech infrastructure to their workspace – gone are the days of on-site servers and storage drives or bulky phone systems. Everything is cloud-based and accessible from wherever the staff chooses to work. These organizations require fast, secure wireless Internet access with predictable speed and reliable, high-quality telephony that offers geographic numbering but won’t tie them to their desks.
Larger organizations on the other hand typically have a remote, centralized IT function that has information security standards that must be met and will have tighter control over the devices the staff use. As such a workspace provider must be able to engage, either directly or through a trusted partner, with the tenants at a technical level and provide the reassurance that the infrastructure in place meets those security requirements. It’s likely that larger organizations will need space in multiple cities, and so being able to offer features that make this inter-site working easier can support this type of working.
What impact can connectivity have on both the operator and the members of coworking spaces?
Connectivity is of paramount importance these days, mainly as most user data is now stored in the cloud and, without connectivity, productivity drops off completely. As a result, the most fundamental requirement for a flexible workspace is robust and performant Internet access.
From a reliability perspective, this should include multiple high-capacity circuits from different reputable providers and making sure that the supporting infrastructure is as robust as possible, duplicating equipment wherever feasible. It isn’t just about availability with Internet access though, being able to guarantee a certain amount of capacity or performance to a coworking member can be just as important, so being able to appropriately divide the bandwidth amongst your customers to guarantee they get what they pay for is critical. Being able to offer differentiated Internet with multiple grades of service can also be a great source of additional revenue.
How important is it to have a secure network? What problems could an unsecured network lead to in a coworking space?
Security has always been a primary concern of coworking space operators using IT systems. It’s important to be able to separate different tenants within a site to ensure there’s no danger of one tenant snooping on another’s data in transit, and also to prevent the spread of viral infections that can seriously compromise users’ devices.
Insufficient measures can leave operators and their tenants vulnerable to having private financial, personal and business information stolen, shared or misused. This puts the coworking brand and reputation at risk which is a dangerous game in such a competitive market. Making sure that only authorized users are connecting to your network is also an important part of guaranteeing that the service is not swamped by freeloading users, which can affect connectivity reliability, speed, and performance.
What do multi-site operators need to consider regarding technology infrastructure?
The real opportunity behind operating multiple sites is the mobility and flexibility it extends to members to work from or conduct meetings at a network of locations depending on their needs. To make this as seamless as possible, the infrastructure is inevitably more complicated than it might be for a single-site operator. For example, enabling seamless yet secure Wi-Fi roaming across locations can make mobility painless for staff and members alike.
The other thing to consider is that with more coworking sites comes more infrastructure. Managing all the equipment and moving parts that keep the sites running becomes an ever more complex task requiring additional automation or staff. The back-office functionality must also be considered. This involves making it easy for staff members to book resources or rooms at other sites, as well as facilitating the inter-site billing and presenting it to members in a simple, consolidated invoice.
What are some of the technology demands of corporate customers taking up space in a coworking space?
Enterprise customers will have their own IT standards defined, so being able to mold the service offering to support or encompass those requirements is critical here. Quite often the corporate customer will have centralized IT resources hosted at a head office or in a data center, and the remote sites will need connectivity back to those resources. This might be a software VPN client on the desktop, but it could equally require the installation of a firewall in the coworking office space that will require a public IP address or even the installation of a dedicated circuit which then needs to work in conjunction with the managed infrastructure in the building.
Larger customers will also require more information up front during their decision-making process, around how the infrastructure delivers security through things such as authentication, user segregation, and other approaches.
As the CTO at essensys, have you seen ways that an enterprise-grade platform can play a wider role in the broader scope of a flexible workspace business?
By implementing key operational processes, these systems can become a core enabling technology for the wider business, generating data and insights that can help management understand how their business is performing and functioning. They can inform strategic decisions about geographic markets, product offering or services, and overall contribute to a seamless member experience.
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