Moving Day: How to Protect Your Company During a Relocation

In its 16 years of business, DataServ Solutions has relocated five times. That makes David Berndt, CIO at the document-digitization and process-automation company in St. Louis, Mo., something of an expert on the topic of securing corporate moves. "By now, we've got a good process," he says. In the most recent move this past February, nothing was lost or damaged. "We shut down the office at about 2:30 on Friday, and we were up 100 percent on Monday, with no disruption for our clients and no service levels missed."

But with all the planning involved in ensuring your most valuable data and other corporate assets get from one location to the next without incident, it takes a few relocations, he says, before you can feel confident you've got it right. Topping his list of lessons learned: Create a cross-departmental moving team, start shredding unneeded documents months ahead of time and, during the move, never take your eyes off the movers themselves. "You have to be very granular in your planning," he says.

Also see 'The 7 deadly sins of building security'

Here, then, are a collection of tips for ensuring the security of your next corporate move.

Start planning your move early

When it comes to planning a move, time is only your friend when you have lots of it, says Alan Nutes, security manager at the Department of Watershed Management for the city of Atlanta. With a good head start, you can make note of specific assets that may require heightened security: blank check stock, any controlled substances or hazardous materials, physical keys and so on depending on your business. You can also create a records-management program for taking inventory of all your sensitive data, both physical and digital, and plan a robust backup strategy, including storing copies offsite. "Unfortunately, security is drawn in as a last resort most of the time," he says. "It's on us as the security team to sell our programs to get to the forefront during the planning stages."

Create a move team

Two months before DataServ's move, Berndt formed a project move team, made up of staff from all seven of the company's business departments. The group met once a week and, over time, formed smaller subgroups dedicated to specific tasks. It used project-management software to track its progress in a way visible to everyone. Beyond the move team, it's also important to consistently update the rest of the company on the status of the moving plan, says Hugo Valldejuli, CIO at Dacor, a luxury kitchen appliance designer and manufacturer. Dacor has endured three corporate moves in the last 30 years, most recently an in-state relocation from Diamond Bar, Calif., to Costa Mesa. "We did a weekly update in our corporate meetings so everyone knew what was going on," he says.

Minimize what you need to move

The fewer things you need to move, the fewer boxes you'll have to track, so this is a good time to purge old, unneeded documents. But disposal needs to be a managed effort, Berndt says. For DataServ's move, he organized a shredding campaign that he began publicizing about six weeks before the move. Employees were told to identify unneeded documents and each week the move team distributed 50-gallon plastic tubs to collect documents for secure shredding and disposal. Berndt educated department managers on the cleanup process to ensure it was followed correctly. "We had to start early to make it successful," he says.

Nutes agrees that with the threat of dumpster divers intent on industrial espionage, it's best to let the security team take charge of throwing away documents--even once they're shredded. He recalls a time at one of his previous employers, Drexel Burnham Lambert in Manhattan, when workers at competitor Kidder Peabody joined in the fun of a ticker tape parade by throwing print-outs out the windows. "Our salespeople were catching them, because some were customer portfolios," he says. "It's important to have centralized shredding locations."

Some businesses take advantage of the opportunity to shred hard drives as well, and dispose of other outdated computer and office equipment. The less you move, the less you spend on trucks and manpower, and the easier it will be to organize in the new space and get up and running.

Choose your movers carefully

Even though Berndt was satisfied with a moving company he had hired for an earlier move, he did not automatically reward that firm with more work. "We interviewed movers, had them give us bids and asked how they'd approach the job," he says. "It wasn't just a dollars-and-cents decision."

Even after contracting again with his former mover, Berndt had DataServ's own infrastructure staff move the company's servers and a high-end scanner. The company's primary data center is not located at its headquarters, so it was only moving its test environment and e-mail servers--about a rack and a half worth of equipment, plus the scanner, he says.

"We've had a negative experience where we lost a fairly expensive piece of equipment," he says. For moving computers, he says, it's usually best to hire a company that specializes in electronics. But in this case, given the small volume and short distance--just 1.5 miles--Berndt decided it wasn't worth the extra cost.

For sensitive hard-copy documents, Dacor's Valldejuli turns to specialized movers like Iron Mountain. (For a detailed look at Iron Mountain's secure document transport process, see How to secure the paper chain.) As an added measure of protection against loss, he had the financial staff audit the documents and he conducted a before-and-after inventory.

Like DataServ, Dacor no longer concentrates its primary computing equipment at headquarters. As for the storage equipment and servers it did move, Valldejuli divided them into two separate trucks to avoid losing everything in the event of a traffic accident. "If we lost one set completely, we could limp along on the remaining set," he says. "Plus we had servers in [our manufacturing facility] as a third backup. It was painstaking to plan."

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