Locate a Systems Integrator
Before embarking on a network-based security system, it is important for a company to decide who will coordinate the application of systems. Most organizations do not have the capability in-house to plan and install an enterprise solution. That leaves two major options — employing the services of a security consultant or a systems integrator.
There are many good consultants that can lead a customer in the right direction and provide valuable information such as design considerations. However, any enterprise solution will ultimately require the services of a systems integrator. Selecting an integrator with the proven experience and skilled staff to create and install an enterprise system will alleviate the need and added expense for a consultant.
When selecting an integrator, look for one that has staff with certifications from Cisco, Microsoft and other leading network hardware and software providers. The integrator should have account references that are employing enterprise solutions. These customers are usually willing to talk to you about the work that was done and the processes they went through to complete the job.
Once there is a team in place, communication becomes vital. Security departments and integrators understand the necessary components of a successful enterprise system. At the same time, the IT department understands the components of a successful enterprise solution as it works over the network, resulting in all departments working together to achieve the same goal.
You need to let each party tackle its areas of expertise and come together with one common solution. You cannot have a successful solution without having both parties involved and in agreement.
Devices and Legacy Systems
When it comes to devices, there is not necessarily a major difference between an enterprise solution as compared to a stand-alone application. Video, access, intrusion, fire and other high-end devices such as biometrics can be found in either setting. It all depends on whether information is being funneled into a security operations center from one site or multiple sites.
Generally speaking, devices from various manufacturers can all work well — if set up properly — on the network. Open architecture, which is widely favored by IT departments, is coming to the security industry. Some of the barriers that we had before with the inability of some devices to communicate between multiple systems or platforms are diminishing. This allows for a wider choice of options that are compatible in the network solution.
While there are still some proprietary systems on the market, more and more manufacturers are willing to release their software development kits (SDKs) to other companies. This makes it possible for devices from various manufacturers to work well together.
One of the biggest barriers to an enterprise solution is the number of disparate systems an end-user may have installed at various sites throughout its operation. Most often, a customer looking to install an enterprise solution is not starting from scratch.
One of the key challenges is making it all work without just uprooting everything and starting over. There may have been millions of dollars spent on the current legacy system. An integrator brings great value to their customer when they find ways to reuse as much of the existing infrastructure as possible.
Many times, the key is selecting the software platform that can accommodate or communicate with the majority of the systems already in place. We need to do our due diligence and complete a full inventory of what exists. Unfortunately, we can’t always use 100 percent of what is there, but we can work toward using as much as possible.
Much of the older analog systems can still fit into an enterprise solution. With the addition of an encoder, analog video can communicate over a network-based solution. We may not get the quality we would expect from an IP camera, but they can work acceptably. Furthermore, when that analog camera finally fails, it can be replaced with an IP camera without wasting any of the infrastructure that has been built around it.
Most end-users cannot afford to totally remove legacy systems. The prudent thing to do is to maximize the investment by developing the necessary infrastructure to support an enterprise solution. This is the best way to affordably improve the system and then future-proof it by designing it to accept the most up-to-date technologies.
This is hardly the full extent of what is required to develop an enterprise-wide security solution. Nevertheless, it should provide some ideas of where to begin and what to expect throughout the process.
As you begin to think about an enterprise solution, make sure that all parties involved in the process are heard. Keep the C-level executives updated. In the end, it will be worth the time and effort.
Christopher Wetzel, executive vice president and founder of Warrendale, Pa.-based InterTECH Security, has more than 25 years of experience in the electronic security field and is recognized for his comprehensive knowledge of available security technology. InterTECH is also a member of SecurityNet, an international organization of independent system integrators providing a single contact for electronic security needs.