2 January 2019

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A Model for the Best Riser Management Company for Commercial Buildings

Data Center by Tom Collins

Can you imagine the mess you would face if you went 23 years without cleaning out your closets? Unfortunately, that is a frightening reality for the telecom risers and phone closets in many older commercial buildings.

I was touring one building, and in one of their telco closets, there was a whole rack of equipment powered on for a telecom company that had been out of business for five years! Telecom risers play the vital role of housing data and phone communication in commercial buildings from the basement minimum point of entry (MPoE) through vertical risers to commercial tenant offices. Riser infrastructure needs to be managed by professionals to avoid the headaches caused by abandoned cabling infrastructure like fire hazards or damage.

The current state of commercial cable risers can be traced back to 1996 when the Telecommunications Act deregulated the industry. Deregulation meant better price and selection for businesses, but it also led to an influx of telco vendors who were installing cabling in commercial risers. During the same 23-year period, internet technology adoption worldwide grew over 5,944%, and business demand for data bandwidth began to soar. These factors converged into a recipe for very cluttered cabling closets.

Commercial landlords in older buildings are wise to worry about the risks of a poorly maintained cabling and telco infrastructure. Hiring a riser management company can seem like the right solution to create a safe, productive workspace for your tenant’s businesses. Even if you aren’t in an older building, you may be researching managed solutions to attract new tenants or simplify property management.

But should you look for the best riser management company or should you explore other solutions? Riser management companies may provide a needed solution, but they can carry little-known risks. These service providers are far more expensive and could lock your tenants into paying exorbitant fees.

How do you approach choosing the best riser management company for your commercial building? We’ll explore the pros and cons of this emerging solution.

What the Best Riser Management Company Would Look Like

Asking about the "best" building riser management provider isn't necessarily the most useful question. Instead, you should be asking about what riser management companies do.

Riser management companies are managed service providers who provide comprehensive maintenance services for the telecommunications infrastructure in commercial buildings via site-wide surveys, remediations, installations, and ongoing support. Generally, these companies require tenants to purchase data service from a preferred partner. They also typically charge commercial clients ten times more for installations and connectivity than it would cost for the client to work directly with a business internet company.

Over several decades in the telco industry in the greater DC metro area, I've learned surprisingly few commercial properties need a full-scale riser intervention. It's rare to find a building where the riser infrastructure needs to be repaired or replaced. We encounter structures with full cabling conduits or cluttered phone rooms caused by old, unused blocks and equipment left behind by former tenants. These commercial properties don't necessarily need ongoing riser management, however. Instead, the most cost-effective solution is to hire an expert to remove old gear.

The best model for managing commercial risers is the one which delivers the most value at the lowest cost possible. If your conduits are cluttered, you may need to hire a company to remove abandoned cabling instead of a managed services provider.

Learn more about how building riser management stacks up to alternatives.

What Is Riser Management?

Riser management is the support, maintenance, and expansion of the internal telecom infrastructure which extend from the MPoE to phone closets through vertical cabling conduit systems, also known as building risers. Commercial properties can improve telecom safety and security by performing a riser audit and removing unused cabling and equipment.

The Pros and Cons of Riser Management Companies 

Riser systems are an asset which can have an impact on profitability and property valuations. Failure to maintain risers can introduce costly risks. Unsecured or damaged cabling can compromise safety and contribute to possible fire hazard code violations.

While many commercial properties need expert service providers to evaluate and maintain the riser systems, a riser management company isn't the best solution for anyone. Before you choose an answer, make sure you understand the pros and cons of a riser management provider.

Pros

  • May decrease riser system risks such as fire or unreliable tenant data
  • Limits the number of telecom providers with riser system access
  • Can perform a site-wide audit and significant revision to risers
  • Provide managed services for new client telco installations
  • Offer tenant maintenance and technical support

Cons

  • Increase tenant installation costs from $500 to $3,000 to $7,000
  • Some providers may lack the technical expertise to yield improvements
  • Quality and responsiveness of tenant support could vary
  • Potential impact on tenant satisfaction due to cost and vendor lock-in
  • Not all commercial properties require managed service or revision

For an in-depth look at the potential pros and cons, we recommend How a Riser Management Company Might Hurt Commercial Landlords.

Other Options for Riser Management Services

There’s little question that your commercial property needs a strategy for riser management, especially if you’re aware of crowded cabling infrastructure and telco closets. Offering secure and highly reliable data and phone infrastructure can attract prospective tenants. However, a riser management company could present more risks than benefits.

While outsourcing building services can simplify property management, you know first hand the risks of hiring a poor service provider to perform riser management, security, landscaping, janitorial work or any other number of property services. If you employ a riser management provider who is unresponsive to your tenants or damages your cabling infrastructure, it impacts the reputation of your commercial property. In virtually every engagement scenario, new tenant satisfaction is likely to suffer from the tenfold installation costs markup associated with riser management providers.

If you're concerned about the current and future safety of your building risers, the first step is to receive an expert audit from a specialized provider who isn't trying to sell you on long-term managed services. Consider hiring expert contractors for the project of removing redundant cabling and abandoned equipment, depending on the results of this audit. To maintain the future integrity of your riser systems, create a list of preferred business communications vendors for your tenants who offer expertise and exceptional service at a reasonable cost.





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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.