By Joe Azzi & Jean-Pierre Matte

Remote work is here to stay, but the office isn’t going anywhere either. Many organizations will embrace a hybrid model where people will split their time working between home and the office. Companies who are on the ball will see this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their office space, reduce operating costs and course-correct their digital transformation. At Beanfield, we understand these challenges, and we’re here to help. 

From Disaster Recovery to Future Proofing 

The COVID-19 pandemic allowed merely weeks, if not days, to prepare for a fundamental shift in how most offices operate. Companies scrambled to fill the connectivity and telecommunications gaps caused by employees working exclusively from home. While we at Beanfield tip our hats to Operations and IT professionals everywhere for enabling their remote workforces almost overnight, we also realize that many decisions were intended as a temporary stopgap to ensure business continuity. Now, as many of us are transitioning back to the office in one way or another, it’s a great time for companies to take a second look at their business continuity decisions and find the best communications and connectivity solutions  for their long-term needs.  

We know the pain of coping with a hastily acquired patchwork of communications and collaboration tools, first-hand: expensive, difficult integrations, complicated workflows, multiple providers, and siloed teams. Being our own customer, in this instance, showed us that our communications solutions needed to adapt to what remote workers require the most: an all-in-one solution to collaborate with each other, our partners, and our customers, from anywhere. That’s why we partnered with Cisco to integrate Webex into our existing Broadworks voice offering. With Webex , we offer a single, feature-rich app to support virtual collaboration through voice, instant messaging, videocalls, and team spaces, across multiple devices. 

Let’s Talk Bandwidth: 10G is the new 1G 

Before the pandemic, an average company with a remote working policy could support a small proportion of employees working remotely at any given time. LAN and WAN remote access resources typically provided enough bandwidth and network licenses to support a low level of use. It might sound counterintuitive that work-from-home (WFH) measures led to an increase in corporate bandwidth demand, but many companies were forced to upgrade their office and/or data center Internet connection to get extra bandwidth at their offices so remote employees could access company servers from home through VPNs. Of course, this solution leverages the employee’s residential Internet as well, including for bandwidth-greedy video conferencing tools. 

Companies with a hybrid workforce won’t be able to do away with the additional bandwidth they acquired during the pandemic. In fact, they may find themselves needing more! It’s safe to say that the teleconferencing apps that gained popularity during lockdown have now completely surpassed legacy audio teleconference bridges in terms of standard meeting tools. This increase in streaming activity at the office will add significant bandwidth demand. We’re noticing that several of our current 1G clients are asking to upgrade to 10G connections. They expect that their on-site staff will be using video conferencing tools more frequently to collaborate with teammates working from home, and they want to make sure their Internet connection can accommodate this new way of working.  

Better Space, Better Connectivity 

For most organizations, the “return to the office” doesn’t mean a return to the way things were before. Having less staff onsite, whether it’s due to a portion of employees working from home, or from staff reductions, has caused many to reconsider their current office space. Some organizations might find it challenging to welcome their staff back into their existing space while ensuring safe distancing and might seek out alternatives. Some fortunate organizations have grown tremendously in the past year and need more space. Whether the demand is for more or less square footage, or even a different type of space (with more private areas that might limit the spread of germs, for example), many are finding themselves in spaces that no longer work for them. 

The market for office space in Montreal and Toronto is extremely active right now. According to CBRE, in Q2 2021, office vacancies are up 0.6% quarter over quarter in Montreal (to 13.6%) and 0.9% in Toronto (to 13.3%). Though far from catastrophic, this rise in vacancies has resulted in a slight downward pressure on prices, as well as more choice and more flexible conditions for prospective tenants. Companies are realizing that there are several attractive options available to them and are taking advantage of the opportunity. 

Whether a company is upsizing, downsizing, or moving their office to the suburbs where rent is cheaper, one need remains the same: the need for connectivity. Unfortunately, when it comes to connectivity, not all buildings are created equal. Some have digital infrastructures that are better able to assure uninterrupted broadband. Choosing a building with multiple high-speed fibre providers means more choice, and access to competitive pricing. We would absolutely recommend selecting a building that has a robust and secure infrastructure, including the 2,700 commercial buildings in Toronto and Montreal that contain Beanfield fibre (and we would be happy to advise you about that!).  

Still Housing Data On-Site? 

Finding suitable space for your on-site server room can be an expensive proposition, often requiring significant remodeling if not the construction of a custom space. It needs to be fitted for the installation of bulky power, air conditioning, and networking equipment; it has to be able to bear the weight of heavy IT equipment. Effective cooling requires proper airflow planning, and tight spaces won’t work. And above all, a server room must be secure, with monitored and controlled access. 

This is a tough setup, if you don’t have staff on-site 24/7 to respond immediately should a server go offline. And go offline they do! From power, to networking, to air conditioning, each of these components can be a single point of failure for the system as a whole. If there is only one router and it breaks down, the entire server room goes offline. The same is true of switches, power distribution units, cooling, bandwidth, and the list goes on. 

Server rooms used to be a common sight in connected companies. Yet, a small to medium-sized business getting started today would not be able to match the economics of renting cabinet space in a data centre, by building an onsite server room. This is especially true when we factor in equipment upgrades, staffing and maintenance costs. 

Companies would be wise to consider moving their onsite servers to a data centre, or migrate their data to the cloud, regardless of whether they’re moving to a new office. And for those who are moving, there’s probably zero economic benefit to outfitting a new server room in a new location.  Beanfield can provide secure, affordable connectivity in nearly every major data centre in Montreal and Toronto (including the five data centers that we own!).  Beanfield’s Cloud Connect service offers both dedicated and hosted connections to reach the cloud provider of your choice. 

If you’re re-evaluating your company’s connectivity, communications and technology needs, contact Beanfield today. We will work with you to ensure that your teams are equipped to work together and stay connected, whatever the “new normal” brings.