While the old adage ‘location, location, location’ is still of primary importance in a company’s search for office space, there is an increasing focus on technology as a key consideration a business must factor in when choosing where to base itself.
One of the biggest issues facing companies in London is poor internet connection, with both businesses and politicians calling for better connectivity for the business community; one MP suggested that it would be quicker to send a carrier pigeon than to email a large, high-quality file.
Contrary to popular belief, this problem is not unique to Tech City - internet speed and reliability are crucial for almost all modern-day businesses.
There are additional hurdles for businesses to overcome when it comes to technology, including lengthy installation delays, high fees or even months of costly hold-ups when moving to new offices, followed by waiting for a wayleave for the internet service provider (ISP) to install a fibre cable. It is often neither the fault of the landlord nor the ISP - many businesses are simply not aware of the significant costs and logistical challenges associated with installing broadband in a heavily built-up area.
There are multiple stages to the process, including on-site visits, planning permits, digging up roads and eventually the installation itself. The recent government initiative granting £3,000 for small businesses to cover the cost of installing broadband goes some way to reduce the associated fees, but in no way speeds things up.
The problems don’t stop when your broadband is installed; you then have to contend with the ongoing battle for wireless broadband taking place in London’s multi-let offices. With the majority of workers using a computer, as well as a smartphone and often a tablet, the number of devices and apps requiring wireless connectivity is increasing and the wireless broadband in many locations is unable to cope with the demand.
So what can landlords do?
Since 2011, we have seen a 50% year-on-year surge in demand for wireless broadband access, while the number of frequencies on which networks can transmit signals is actually limited to just three viable UK channels. So the first step has to be providing innovative wireless solutions. With the majority of companies relying on high-speed internet on a daily basis and small businesses adopting a more fleet-of-foot approach to office space, the digital infrastructure of a building should be the primary consideration when creating an attractive work space.
Access points need to be smarter and accommodate more traffic; they should collaborate to ensure companies do not compete for bandwidth within a building; and upload and download speeds should be kept at over 100mb.
Landlords must recognise the vital importance of high-quality technology to new and growing companies and, if required, consider entering into strategic partnerships, as Workspace has done with Excell Group, to ensure customers have access to high-speed, reliable and secure, business-grade digital services for the length of their lease.
As more landlords look to increase their competitive advantage by merging cutting-edge ICT technologies for voice, data and mobile into a unified, cost-effective business communications architecture with a scalable pricing model, we may find that companies start to look for ‘location, location, technology’.
Jamie Hopkins is chief executive of Workspace