Ask LH: What Technology Should I Include In Our Office Refit?

Dear Lifehacker, We’re moving office in about eight months’ time, and it’s a good opportunity to smarten up our outdated internal technology. Any tips on what to avoid/embrace in an office fit-out? I’m mainly concerned with making the space feel shiny for staff and customers whilst not getting locked in to one vendor or looking dated in three years with plasma screens when everyone else has holographic displays and telepathy.

So should we go wireless displays and projectors? Smartboards? Telepresence? Desktop videoconferencing ? VOIP or a few real handsets? Structured cabling or wireless? Smart access security cards or phones with NFC? Thanks, Moving And Shaking

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Dear M&S,

Fitting out an office is a rewarding but time-consuming process. The exact requirements vary from business to business, but there is one overriding principle to consider: be as flexible in your choices as possible. Gear that requires complicated fixtures (such as screens) will be harder to replace. Security concerns may mean you can’t always avoid that, but the less stuff that requires mounting in permanent fashion, the better.

The second thing to remember is that buyer’s remorse is a fact of life. No matter what you purchase, something new will emerge to replace it. You can’t afford to worry about that too much. Ideally, you need technology which can be fairly easily upgraded, and which doesn’t tie you too closely to a single vendor.

Some specific thoughts on the issues you raise:

Networking. If you have more than a handful of staff, you need both wired and wireless networking. Wi-Fi is great for impromptu and formal meetings, but the speed benefits and reliability of cabled systems are worthwhile, especially for staff who spend most of their time in the office. If you want to implement VOIP or teleconferencing systems, cabling is also essential.

Telephones. Your approach here will depend on your provider. The ultimate aim is to save money, and a VOIP-based system may well do that — but you need a specific quote, not a vague idea. Existing building policies when you move will also play a role here.

Displays. Your needs here will vary widely depending on the nature of your business. In cost terms, plasma is a pricier option. I’m not a big fan of smartboards — if there’s a clear business need for them, you’ll already know.

Conferencing. If you regularly conduct meetings with clients in other locations or run multiple offices, a videoconferencing system can be useful. If it’s only a very occasional requirement, skip the dedicated equipment and use software-based solutions.

Access. Unless you purchase an entire building, this is likely to be dictated by your landlord. An NFC-based system using phones will only really work if you supply all staff with phones. For most purposes, access cards are a simpler solution.

Extra ideas from readers are, as always, welcome in the comments.


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