When I first joined the team at NextSpace over 7 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Every day I woke up ready to dive in to this new thing involving people, space and business tools. It was exciting, like colonizing the moon, everything was possible and everything was uncharted territory. It became obvious really quickly that my faculties as a connector, my relationship building and client management experience and the multitasking with a smile skills I had acquired as a mother were the perfect assets for someone operating a coworking space. What I didn’t know was how much my technical mind and background as a theater electrician would help me understand the complex IT systems required to provide our members with their IT needs, however varied they might be. I didn’t know that I’d be patching cables, installing switches, assigning static IP addresses, troubleshooting network issues, restarting routers, setting up VPNs, installing printer drivers across multiple operating systems, creating and maintaining spreadsheets on the network infrastructure and generally providing help desk support for members with outdated hardware to get them connected to our network and just like that I became an “IT guy”.
If you are just opening your shared work space, you might be in this same boat. You know you need internet, you might even administer your home network or maybe you set up a small office network for your team. Those skills will take you part of the way, but understanding the diverse needs of your members, and architecting an IT infrastructure is something that requires a high level of knowledge about hardware, bandwidth, traffic shaping, wifi and RF interference to name a few things. If you’re the rare bird who actually understands all of those things (Congratulations, you’re definitely ahead of the game!) there’s the implementation and streamlining of staff and member on boarding workflows, integration of WiFi and door access control systems, network and data security risks, redundant failover systems, VoIP System requirements, password management and so much more!
What I’m getting at is that this is not just a plug and play business where Internet Technology is concerned. IT is the backbone of your product. Without solid Internet you’re just a place for people to hang out, and an expensive one at that. One solution is to get an IT expert on your side, you can hire, borrow or beg them, but having them on your team is a huge help. Ideally, your IT helper will be someone with experience in setting up networks for organizations with a majority of mobile workers, since that’s who your members are.
Some things to think about for existing spaces, looking at taking the next step in upgrading your network.
IT (primary pipe + back up line, hardware, network architecture, troubleshooting) will comprise roughly 1/4 of your operating expenses
Your members will be connecting on multiple (3-5) devices at the same time and will be as diverse in their traffic as they are in their business models.
You will want a seamless onboarding experience that minimizes staff time and maximizes member experience.