By Ken DeMaria, Vice President of Technology, ATLAS Workbase.

Part 1: Flexibility

Coworking spaces by nature create unique challenges for the technological infrastructure. They must be reliable, and more importantly, they must create great experiences for those who use them. Just like a typical office space, there are many similarities in the services that IT must deliver to its tenants.

There are also quite a lot of differences and expectations from those tenants, as they run the gamut from full time to one time users, from individuals to large groups; monthly and weekly users, day users, big groups, small groups, corporate teams, and startups. All must be accommodated.

At ATLAS Workbase we’re changing ‘coworking’ with a brand new kind of sophisticated experience aimed at a sophisticated business audience. IT and how we deliver technology to our tenants is a big part of that experience.

In this three-part blog I’m going to share insight on the building blocks we used for creating our infrastructure. In this first post we’ll talk about ‘Flexibility of Services’ and the way we serve our tenants. We’ll follow that up with a second post about the importance of hiring Customer-Focused IT Staff who are so vital to creating a create experience; and then in our third blog we’ll talk about Foundations, the core infrastructure that makes a unique place like ATLAS run “at the speed of business.”

For starters, we provide varied and flexible solutions for the diversity of a coworking customer base. While one customer may only need a good WIFI connection, another might need higher levels of security and inter-connectivity within its team of workers; another may need teleconferencing, and still another may need help with downloading a new app.

A coworking workspace resembles a typical corporate workspace, but it does not need all the file servers, email servers, and backend IT infrastructure. From an IT standpoint, this approach simplifies the process. So, we focus on being an internet service provider, a technical customer service provider, and a physical space provider.

This focus is achieved through AV conference rooms, extremely fast internet, security, ease of use and access, flexibility of infrastructure, and staff who are willing to always put the customer’s needs first.

More to the point of flexibility is the ability to quickly create and deploy new Wi-Fi networks and secure network segments on a per customer basis. This allows users to have many of the same network features they would have in an on premise enterprise network, while still enjoying the flexibility that coworking offers.

Flexibility also requires responsive work-around solutions for that group’s particular needs. It’s about interactive, face-to-face communication, where a corporate IT team would more likely write that communication in an email to all staff.

The people in a coworking space won’t have a singular corporate policy. These professionals come from different backgrounds. They have differing equipment and unique needs. The IT team can’t create standards that suggest everyone using the space has a MacBook, for example. Coworking spaces can’t force uniformity, which means IT needs to be responsive to what any user needs.

Moreover, coworking spaces means lots of BYOD.  BYOD allows people to interact with their co-workers and business interests in whatever way they feel most comfortable. The job of IT in a coworking environment is to set these people up for success.

The first challenge is to ensure BYOD devices are not bringing malware into the space. It’s about protecting users from themselves! These devices can’t be a vector for security risks or outages. So, first and foremost, we must educate coworking customers about what security means. At ATLAS, we train our users on how to practice safe security using seminars, in-person/one-on-one training, and comprehensive FAQs. Teach and train is our mantra.

Secondly, flexibility and BYOD also bring challenges that you must acknowledge and mitigate. This means you’ll need to create multiple networks with varying levels of security, and segregate your users based on what they require. Install threat detection systems, and as your networks grow you must put in place systems that both inform users of issues, but also protect them from those threats in the first place,

A complete solution is a balance of both education and security. This can be as simple as having different Wi-Fi networks with differing levels of firewalled security, or as complex as having a dedicated centralized Threat Detection System. It might also holding classes or discussion groups to talk about all types of security while in the space, including electronic and physical security.

Hope you enjoyed the insight; please stay tuned for our next IT post on Customer-Focused IT.

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