A driving need for Coworking space WiFi

Digital transformation is shaping the way many start-ups, with smaller and larger organisations joining the movement towards coworking environments. If you take a look at current trends in the office, many organisations are ditching their existing expensive long-term leases & purchased offices to release equity and move to an operational expenditure model with all their office bills wrapped up into a single on-going cost. This provides flexibility to scale with minimal or no notice period and removes many infrastructure considerations for the coworker.

Entrepreneurs, being one of the main stakeholders that made organisation like WeWork so successful are able to enter market spaces with very little capital behind them, bringing only their determination and whit to drive innovative solutions in their blue oceans. This therefor frees up there capital to invest in the R&D or other business areas.

If teams of coworkers are going to be successful operating in these spaces, the coworking spaces themselves need to deliver exceptional services that do not slow down or hinder the coworker. Specifically, I am referencing the networking infrastructure that will underpin the communications for them. In the existing office realm, the network would typically be managed by an internal IT team or outsourced as a managed service to IT companies such as ourselves. In these environments, the organisation can be very specific about what traffic is allowed to enter and leave their network, what devices can connect to it and so forth. The security posture was for a better explanation determined entirely by the organisation itself. The challenge presented to a coworking space is, how does it protect the data and user privacy of each member or silo, enforcing a hybrid of their security postures as well as its own network design. Blocking ports, blacklisting websites at a very high level is not a one size fits all approach as alienation will happen and ultimately the space will fail as coworkers become frustrated with limitations.

Let’s take one step back for a moment and consider some of the types of devices likely to connect to the network, and by who. Coworkers themselves need a secure local network to work within their silos, they’ll likely want to have access to shared headless devices and resources such as printers if they are fully embedded in a coworking space methodology. Within the silos themselves, the teams may enable BYOD for the staff, allowing their own devices to also access network resources from local file storage to headless printers. They may have onsite meetings, needing to view and book the local meeting rooms, with an invitation calendar invite sent to their guest which also includes details of how to connect to the Guest WiFi / Visitor WiFi. These users in fact could be requiring wireless or wired connectivity. These co-workers are also, to add to the complexity likely not even in the same building and operating nationally or internationally to provide seemingly 24-hour open office hours. Just from the example above, this can be a huge nightmare for IT administrators at the coworking space to manage. How can new tenants be on-boarded and off-boarded, how can the individual requirements of each co-worker and team be addressed, how can a group of users gain access to network resource only if they have paid a premium to access them? How can you expand the local network across these multiple sites and treat them like one local network? How do you cater for the high density of the multitude of device types that will require network access whilst providing enough bandwidth to each device? How do you securely add all these devices into the network?

There are many products available to address different problems and choosing the right solution can leave you with a nasty headache. Too often have we spoken to a coworking spaces who went down one rabbit whole only to discover they have taken the wrong approach and need to migrate some of the solutions. This is why it is very important to consult with experts in this field before purchasing and integrating a green field solution or even adapting the exiting network. Careful consideration needs to be taken about much more then this article covers and only serves as an appetiser to the complex world of coworking networking considerations. We offer consultation and design work shops aimed specifically at these environments, that can leverage our experience in this sector to deliver a reliable and secure network.

We hope this article has offered some insight into the challenges faced by coworking space.