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Taking the Opportunity to Upgrade

Like most companies wanting to save money, you want to utilize the best of what you already have, rather than buying everything new. However, you'll have to buy some things, so why not get something good that will last? Identify the areas of best value (those that offer the most "bang for the buck").

Here are some areas that we identified as being worth the extra cash now while planning for the future:

  • Cabling. We upgraded from Category 5 (CAT5) to CAT6 cabling. We had to pull cable, so thought we might as well plan for the future. After all, we were signing a ten-year lease. I have plans to run Gigabit (GB) to the desktop some day. Until then, 100MB still gets the job done. In addition to physical cable, we installed wireless access points in several areas to provide a wireless network for our notebook users. (Much more on this in a future article.)

  • Network switch. We purchased and installed a new Cisco Catalyst switch. The one we were on was working fine, but a few factors came to mind in making the decision. The switch was six years old and was at the end of its lifecycle. By that I mean that Cisco no longer sells that model and would eventually have limited parts for service. We were moving over a weekend and needed a functional network at the old facility until the movers showed up on Friday night. I wanted to have a functioning network already in place at the new facility for the cutover. What helped was buying a new switch and patching it into the new cable plant. Everything was tested in advance and we didn't have any wiring problems the first Monday in production.

  • Security system. Instead of numeric keypads for which everyone and his brother knew the code, we implemented a key fob system that's unique to each user. Now we issue the fob, and get it back when the employee leaves.


    This system sure beats a pocket full of keys, too. For the first couple of weeks in our new building, I couldn't get used to not having to carry around the four extra keys I had formerly needed to get into the building, suite, computer room, and supply closet.

  • Audiovisual system. Before our move, when we wanted to set up a presentation we had to find a spare laptop and fumble with setting up the tripod screen and making all of the attachments. Sometimes we found out about a meeting as people were arriving, and it was terribly embarrassing to look so unprepared for our guests. Now, we have built-in AV systems with mounted projectors, drop screens, and electronic source-switching gear. It has been a real bonus for IT and provides excellent customer service to our clients.

  • Phone system. By far, the biggest upgrade we installed was a new phone system. As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, I had never managed a phone system before and had a lot to learn. (I still do, as a matter of fact.) We had a basic shared-tenant phone system arrangement. Shared tenant is several tenants in an office building sharing the same phone system and service, outsourced to the providing company. We had basic voice mail capabilities, but still did manual faxing. Our very sophisticated new system ties to our network for faxing from our PCs, unified messaging (getting your voice mail with your email in your inbox), and a host of features for keeping in touch with the office while out on client appointments.

Later articles in this series will provide full details on how we went about selecting and installing these upgrades.

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