IT tutorial for physical security managers

[Editor's note: John Honovich publishes this and other information on network video at IPVideoMarket.info .] What do You Need to Know? Security managers do not need to become IT experts to manage deployments of IT based security systems. However...


Enabling Remote Access

Whether you are IP or analog, you will need to provide access to view video remotely. Inside of the corporate network, this is usually just an issue with bandwidth. The most accepted technique by IT departments and supported by video recorder vendors is to implement a bandwidth throttle. What IT is most concerned about is that one day, you will need to view lots of video remotely and you will bring the network down.

Bandwidth Throttles

Bandwidth throttling is a software feature supported in most video recorders that restricts the recorder from only sending a set amount of bandwidth to remote viewers. For instance, let's say you have a branch office or a remote store that only has a DSL or cable modem connection. The bandwidth throttle can be set so that the recorder never uses more than 25% or 50% (or whatever level you set) of the amount of bandwidth available.

This almost always eliminates IT concerns over bandwidth. They may want to test it but once that passes, it usually is approved.

Information Security

IT cares about security systems that connect to the network because those devices can be sources of carriers of information security problems. Fundamentally, the concern over security systems is the same as letting your teenager's laptop connect to a corporate LAN. IT does not know what is on those systems and what, if anything, is being done to protect them.

There are 2 fundamental ways IT can readily approve a device to connect to the network:

• The device (e.g., DVR) is treated exactly the same as any PCs in the network (same anti-virus, firewalls, restrictions on applications, etc.)
• The device is deemed a network appliance (like a switch, router, ip telephone) and does not need any additional security measures.

What IT departments definitely do not want is a security device that is essentially someone else's home-built PC. In other words, if your DVR is essentially a PC loaded with a Windows OS and an application to manage video, many IT organizations are going to see this device as an unacceptable risk.

This is why software only video management systems are so favorable to Information Security inspections. The VMS is simply seen as another application running on a standard PC with standard Information Security standards applied.

Alternatively, if IT accepts your security device is an appliance similar to a router or ip telephone, they will often allow the device to be installed with no further action. This is one of the reasons that Linux or embedded DVRs have become so popular. Indeed, most telephone or switches are simply Linux or embedded applications running on a computer.

IT departments verify and approve in a variety of ways. Some simply have a phone call. Others will want to check product documentation. More demanding organizations will require vendors to complete an information security review. the most demanding will actually have a unit sent in for testing and analysis.

Handling Installation and Service

IP addresses, bandwidth and information security are generally the big 3 disqualifiers for connecting security systems to IT networks. Beyond that, the next big issue is who does the work - meaning who is going to install and service the equipment.

Historically, security equipment was entirely managed, from install to lifetime service, by security integrators. IT was not directly responsible and would only get involved if there was a specific issue like (a) the network is out, (b) an IP address conflict, or (c) an information security problem. Still today, lots of projects are managed in this way.

Every physical security manager needs to determine how they want to handle this. Many will continue to use their security integrator because it is a known and established practice.

To the extent that IT becomes responsible for doing the installation or the service, the more they will want hardware that is consistent with their existing selections. For instance, if IT is responsible, they will prefer purchasing servers and storage from their existing suppliers (rather than from a video surveillance manufacturer).