Halfway between your home office (which may be your sofa) and your own office is a serviced office. These are great mid-way points for companies that are bigger than a single person, but smaller than an enterprise.
But what should you look out for, when it comes to the IT support on offer? There are two things to find about before making any moves:
- The internet: availability, bandwidth and outages
- Security: comms room access, shared networks, and firewalls and VPN
But before we get into that, let’s go over what a serviced office is in case anybody is confused.
What is a Serviced Office?
A serviced office differs from a leased office in several ways. While the latter is entirely yours for the duration of your lease, the former is managed by an operator. It’s their space which they rent out to you on a pay-as-you-go basis. So you’re not contractually locked into staying there as you would be with a lease. There’s more flexibility.
As the name suggests, it’s serviced. It comes with chairs, desks, tables, printers, and most of the equipment you’d typically find in an office. Many will come with an internet connection too, but it’s worth checking out the specifics of this - we’ll get to that in a second. But you don’t have to supply any of this yourself.
In a leased office, you’ll be the only tenants. But in this alternative, you’re sharing with others. You might find yourself sitting opposite someone from another company, so there’s an opportunity to foster some collaboration and community spirit (your choice).
Most serviced offices will come with an internet connection. But this is worth making sure of. It would be a disaster if you moved in and found this wasn’t there, or if the connection doesn’t have enough bandwidth for your business needs. And there’s always the possibility of a connection outage.
So ask the owner these questions before moving in:
- Is there an internet connection?
- What bandwidth does this have?
- How long will an outage last?
Is there an internet connection?
We know how obvious this seems, and most providers will have an internet connection in their offices. But it is always worth checking out. If it’s not provided, you’ll need to supply it yourself. Depending on what kind of connection you want, the installation times could vary.
What bandwidth does this have?
Like we said, most offices will come with an internet connection. But that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear just yet.
You could discover that the connection doesn’t have enough bandwidth for the tasks you need to do. This is particularly problematic if you use cloud-based applications or send large files over email.
So ask the operator what bandwidth the internet comes with. If this isn’t enough for you, see if you can change this or install your own private connection.
How long will an outage last?
Nobody wants the internet to go down. But sometimes, it can’t be helped. When this does happen, you need to know how long the outage will last and if you can work without it for this time. You should be able to find this in the operator’s service level agreement (SLA) to you.
You can go one further by having a disaster plan ready for when there is no connection. This might involve tethering your smartphone, where you use the 3G or 4G data on your device to power your laptop or tablet’s connection. This can take up a lot of your phone's data, so it’s not a permanent solution.
No company is immune from the threat of cyber attacks. Hackers will try to breach any business they can, no matter how big or small it is.There are some cybersecurity risks to a serviced office you need to be aware of:
- Comms room access
- Shared networks
- Firewalls and virtual private networks (VPN)
Comms room access
The comms rooms is where the server equipment for the entire serviced office is kept. It’s full of wires and can look very untidy. And it has the potential to be a security risk for two reasons.
The first is that everyone will be able to access it at all times. With so many cables, they could easily be muddled up. One of yours could be pulled out, or someone else’s plugged into your port. This could be by accident or on purpose with malicious intent.
The other scenario is that only the operator will have access to the comms room. They’ll open it when something needs changing and then lock it again. If something happens in error that compromises your network, they may have left the building.
The best solution is to ask if there’s a logbook of the changes made, so you can keep track of what changes are made and when.
There’s a good chance you’ll be working on a shared network with the other users of the office.
With several companies fighting using the same bandwidth, it will be a dream come true for a hacker if they can access all the data. And it’s likely they’ll only need one password.
That’s why it’s worth encrypting all of your files, emails and smartphones. That way, nobody can access them without knowing a secure passcode.
Firewalls and VPNs
Once you know what the comms room access is like, your next step is to ask what changes you can make to your part of the network.
A firewall can help you with that. Essentially, this is a barrier between the internet traffic that goes in and out of your network and keeps an eye out for malicious activity. Most devices come with a firewall built in (called a hardware firewall), but you can add an extra layer of security by setting one up on your network (called a software firewall).
You can add even more security by working on a virtual private network (VPN). This encrypts everything on your device so nobody else can access it, even if you’re using a shared network.
Want to Know More?
Serviced offices give you the chance to share your workspace with like-minded individuals and companies. You aren’t as contractually tied down to staying there as you would be with a leased office, as they work on a pay-as-you-go basis. And most office supplies are included in the rental costs.
But there are a few things to be aware in regards to the internet and security available:
- You need to know if the internet is included, if you can work effectively on the bandwidth provided and how long an outage will last
- What access to the comms rooms is like, how to protect yourself on a shared network and if you can add additional firewalls and a VPN
Several of our clients are enjoying the benefits of working in a serviced office. To learn more about how this could support your business, and if this will meet your company’s IT support requirements, get in touch.
Note: This blog post was originally published as ‘7 Things to Look for in a London Serviced Office’ in January 2018. It was updated in February 2019 to address more IT-related issues.