Managing and migrating aged legacy systems

Practical advice for upgrading

You have just finished reading another article (just a few short pages from here), or maybe you just attended a webinar and had your appetite whetted for a high-level video analytics software package equipped with the magic of algorithms and new meta data capabilities. Perhaps, during a recent trade show, you saw a demonstration where the latest in ID technology - image capture, live comparisons and other data gymnastics - were performed.

"Integration" has come to mean the ability to seamlessly manage disparate databases and elements of your control system in one big, happy, easy-to-use, intuitive desktop application. That's what you have isn't it?

Now, let's get back from the future to your current control systems - a mostly reliable patchwork of systems and subsystems that were installed over the course of perhaps decades. During that time, your organization has grown, moved, merged and now has a cornucopia of security control products and providers - all designed and installed by many dealers and integrators. The many systems include different ideas of what constitutes a standard installation technique, a mish-mash of different components and separate means of interacting with the functions of each "sub-system."

So a bit of the technology boom blasted right by you? Are your security controls systems limiting your ability to deter, detect and respond to security threats? Does the current hardware and software you employ limit your ability to perform accurate forensic analysis of events and perform investigations?

Advances in the consumer electronics market and advances in electronic security control hardware and software offerings leaves many a consumer and security purveyor wondering, "Can I catch up?" - or worse, feeling left behind. End-users must be able to respond affirmatively when asked: "Will you have the data needed for an investigation when called on to produce it?"

The technology boom is facing a lackluster marketplace. Limited budgets are facing off against pent-up needs and the relentless need to mitigate risks or perhaps the need to meet compliance or insurance requirements. Many companies are struggling to understand their options during these challenging economic times.

The market is responding - albeit slowly - to these changes in fortune and do not require the wholesale removal and replacement of the old with the new. Challenges are being met with hybrid products designed to use older technologies and provide a bridge to newer features and data management capabilities.

My friend Ray Bernard and I have presented at many seminars, and topics surrounding both emerging technologies and convergence have been hot for some time now. When we have discussed the changes in technologies and the desire for migration, his comment is that in the IT space, convergence is more than a decade old and they have summed it up as the management and distribution of voice, data and video using common IT and network equipment (wired or wireless) and over a common IP data network infrastructure.

With the development of many other IP-centric devices, we must now think of security systems as "IT Systems" and understand the full spectrum of convergence. The security space is playing catch-up.

How Do I prepare?

As the late Dean Ralston said when I attended undergraduate school, "Plan your work and work your plan." It is the best advice that both a freshman and a migration strategy can have.

There have been many seminars and sessions and volumes of reference materials on methods to aide those tasked with a migration project. Regardless of the methods, it is universally understood that a clear understanding of your current circumstances requires some form of cataloging.

The plan should start with identifying your project team. Perhaps not only security but, facilities/engineering, your IT department and operations need to be drawn together. Your goal is to ensure you have not only mitigated risks, but also integrated the overall organization's needs. Woven into the fabric of your assessment are those things often in the purview of CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design).

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