IT Protection During Consolidation

Q: My company is consolidating its office space and I will be selling or subleasing some space. What should I take into consideration on the technology side?A: Office space consolidation is a great idea, regardless of the economy. When dealing with subleasing or selling the space, however, there are a few issues you should take into consideration regarding the physical and logical segregation of your IT infrastructure.Regarding your business, consider the following: Have you conducted an IT assets audit? A network security audit? We recommend performing an IT assets/network security audit annually and whenever major changes occur–office moves, consolidations, prior to switching accounting systems, after mass layoffs, et cetera.Other points for consideration:• When you move your employees/staff, are you organizing them by current lines of business or future growth strategies? Make sure to leave room for staff growth, as the last thing you’d want to do is constrain your business expansion plans.• An office consolidation is a disruption in your business processes. Are you poised to take advantage of it? This is a great opportunity to re-evaluate your technology needs and increase productivity. For instance, if your PCs are three to five years old, this is a great time to look at upgrading or replacing older, slower systems. And if your staff has become more mobile, you may be better off switching over to laptops. Also, if you have legacy servers in your wiring closet or IT room, have you considered consolidating them into smaller, faster servers? Server virtualization is a great way to combine several separate systems into one or two physical systems.When it comes to subleasing, consider the following: • Is your wiring plant (the network and telephone cables that run throughout your space and converge into the telephone closet or IT room) set up such that you can physically isolate and segregate the network and telecommunications jacks in the sublease space into their own switches? • What about Internet access for the subtenants? Will they share yours, or can you segregate them and put them on their own DSL or cable modem circuit? • Does your telephone system allow you to bill separately for the phones in the sublease space? Or will you charge the tenants a flat rate? • Will the subtenants be allowed off-hours access to the space? What about access to the IT closet?• Will the tenants have access to your printers or faxes? We find that sharing high-end color printers, scanners, plotters, et cetera can be a real challenge, especially if these resources are set up in the default “we trust all network traffic” modes.• Does your office have wifi (wireless Internet) access? If so, have you locked it down and secured it? Does it allow unfettered access to your network assets or is the wireless traffic shunted to an untrusted zone?• Will you allow your subtenants access to your wireless network? Allow them to set up their own?Finally, if you are selling off space, consider the following issues:• When selling off space, you must absolutely ensure that the network and telecom wiring is segregated off your network.• If you can partition or physically isolate your IT closet, great. If not, you may have to get those cables re-run into a new IT closet/IT space.• For a whole host of security, reliability and compliance reasons, you must ensure that no one in the sold-off space can access your network and telephone systems.You cannot control what the buyers will do in their space, so you must ensure that your wired and wireless networks, servers and desktops are safe and secure.Overall, to maximize ROI, when performing changes to your IT infrastructure, pay attention to the operating expenses, not just capital expenditures. Over time, reasonable investments in capex can lead to significant decreases in opex.Checklist of procedures:1) Perform a pre-consolidation IT Assets/Network Security Audit.2) Reevaluate your desktops and laptops. Upgrade or replace old clunkers.3) Review your telephone system’s billing/chargeback capabilities.4) Lock down your wireless networks.5) Determine off-hours premises access policy for subtenants.6) Determine IT closet access policies for subtenants.7) Isolate the subtenant/selloff space wiring from your network.8) If possible, get the subtenants their own DSL or cable modem for Internet access and keep them off your network.9) Within 30 days of tenants moving in or space being sold off, conduct a post-consolidation IT Assets/Network Security audit.Send your technology questions to Rajesh Goel, chief technology officer at Brainlink International Inc., via Suzann.Silverman@nielsen.com.