No Size Fits All

Mike Howard, General Manager of Global Security for Microsoft, discusses the challenges of securing a huge corporate campus

Corporate campus security is often considered a no-brainer. Some access control, some cameras, maybe some CPTED and a guard force. Some CSOs delegate it entirely to their directors and managers and focus instead on more complicated business issues. But corporate campus security is not one-size-fits-all. Campus size, location and demographics, as well as business sector, facility type and risk factors of nearby businesses and landmarks, are all integral parts of an effective and appropriate corporate campus security plan. And security executives should also inject into its design their in-depth understanding of the company and its culture.

Two members of the Security Executive Council recently discussed with us their corporate campus security plans and goals. In some ways, their campuses are similar, and in others vastly different. But where they share some goals, each has chosen a unique path to enable the best protection of corporate executives, assets, personnel and intellectual property.

Microsoft: Security Under the Radar

It’s fitting that one of the world’s largest software companies would make its home base one of the world’s largest corporate campuses. With more than 130 buildings spread over more than 15 million square feet centered around Highway 520 in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft’s headquarters campus looks imposing on paper. But Redmond’s natural beauty — the Cascade Mountains on one side and the Puget Sound on the other — is enhanced on campus by long, tree-lined walks, garden landscaping, a lake, open lawns and sports fields.

This park-like ambiance is, of course, all by design. Microsoft prides itself on maintaining a creative, relaxed atmosphere to energize its employees. While in some ways the campus acts as its own small garden city, with its own museum, filming studios, dry cleaning, convenience store and more, it is also woven into the fabric of Redmond and surrounding businesses. Public streets run through and across campus, and at least one other large business has a facility on Microsoft grounds.

In all this openness, Mike Howard, General Manager of Global Security, has carved out a role for security that honors the company’s creative, casual culture while protecting the people and assets that make up one of the most recognized brands in the world.

“We’ve grown,” Howard says. “When I got here (in 2002) we had 20,000 employees in the Puget Sound region, and we’ve more than doubled that and doubled the square footage,” he says. The sheer size of the campus makes it impossible to rely on a guard force to monitor all events, and the corporate culture would suffer if the guard presence blanketed the campus. Since the campus lies along public roads, there are no perimeter gates or checkpoints. Whoever wants to come on campus can do so, and this can present a problem.

“We work to keep it low-key here and around the world, but because the Microsoft name has such a high international profile, we get a lot of people trying to contact our employees at all levels looking for monetary support for causes, and they may get angry if we don’t provide that support,” Howard adds.

While Security deploys roving guards in white vehicles with Microsoft Security labels, they have chosen to focus on leveraging technology to provide a presence that the guard force alone cannot. “You may spend a day at Microsoft and not be aware of security guards,” Howard says, “but that doesn’t mean Security hasn’t noticed you. We’ve deployed hundreds of digital cameras and recorders around campus to give us more eyes and ears on the scene and to be able to respond to suspicious activity. All our buildings are card-accessed and monitored by cameras.”

The data from these systems flows into Microsoft’s Global Security Operations Center (GSOC), which provides event-based monitoring of cameras and access control events, streamlines dispatch and enables seamless emergency response and continuity. The Redmond GSOC is one of three that together monitor more than 375 Microsoft facilities worldwide. The event-based methodology is critical to keeping manpower needs low.

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