The Infrastructure Backbone

There are many elements of an end-users system infrastructure that must be examined before they adapt to the latest technology or make any additions to their current network. Dealers and systems integrators can work with the end-user and educate them on...

Due to the shift toward whole-building automation, security systems are no longer built in isolation. With multiple building systems operating on a single network, systems integrators and dealers must fulfill the role of consultant and liaison for security professionals to connect them with other stakeholders and departments within an organization, especially the IT department. Without a direct connection to the IT department, the security department remains isolated and its technology roadmap may never align with the overall organizational technology roadmap.

The IT department serves as the central hub for all systems on the network and it is critical that all areas of an enterprise respect and communicate their goals to this central department. By identifying and connecting internal stakeholders, IT executives can clarify which department has control and jurisdiction over what system from the very beginning of every project. This means the security department must work with the IT department, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning), communications and all stakeholders who interact with the system's network. Through this collaborative approach, systems integrators, dealers and end-users become aware of what other systems are running on a network, as well as the capacity and capabilities of the network, prior to any installation. In turn, all other departments are also aware of the functions and limitations of the network, which prevents network bottlenecks.

In addition to facilitating communication between internal stakeholders, systems integrators and dealers can also help end-users save time and money by bringing external contractors into the conversation early. Without this early communication, each contractor will work independently on a small section within a larger project without realizing how other areas of the project might be affected. Pieces of the project might be put in place that will later have to be changed, which can cost the end-user down the road. For instance, if the electrical engineer does not size pathways with an eye on future growth, it may affect the end-user's ability to add services in the future.

As with all other building systems, it is critical all codes and regulations are strictly followed. A security professional who is unfamiliar with the standards and codes of the cabling industry should work closely with a cabling expert to ensure that all national and local requirements are met. A cavalier approach to codes and regulations could result in an unwanted disruption in business if a fire marshal or other regulator deems the building unsafe.

Balancing cost and future-proofing

As more demand is put on infrastructure systems due to high-bandwidth data transfers and convergence trends, the need for more bandwidth and higher download speeds is inevitable. We can also anticipate that mobile access for security systems and high-definition video will continue to increase the demand on infrastructure systems as well. When planning an infrastructure system to support security and access control and other systems on the network, help the end-user plan for the future without overspending on technology that may become obsolete. Technology changes so rapidly that it is impossible to predict an organization's needs 15 or 20 years down the road, but it is possible to meet immediate needs while incorporating three-to-five years of growth. The key to future-proofing is building a flexible infrastructure system instead of using rip-and-replace methodology.

The good news for end-users is all structured cabling manufactures must comply with cabling standards from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek Group (ETL) and the National Electrical Code (NEC), as well as the design and engineering standards of the EIA/TIA Commercial Building Wiring Standards, which means organizations are free to choose any brand of cable and components as long as they meet the industry standards. Unfortunately, due to aggressive marketing techniques, many organizations continue to be bound by a narrow, internal company standard that restricts purchases to one specific brand. Your end-user's IT department may have a designated "standard" for a specific high-cost brand of cable when another brand of cable of the same quality that meets the same standards may cost significantly less. Instead of brand comparisons, end-users should evaluate cabling products based on features and performance.