Designing and deploying an integrated security system for mid-size companies is often like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Traditional integrated security systems were either designed for smaller, single-building installations or larger, multi-location corporate campuses. The systems were either hard-wired, single-facility systems or high-end, expensive client-server-based systems.
But the maturation of IP-based security systems is revolutionizing the options mid-sized companies have for installing and scaling their security systems as business expansion and acquisitions dictate, while containing operating costs at the same time. These new systems are based on 3G-third-generation-system architectures borrowed from the IT world.
Three Keys to Design
This paradigm shift in security offerings with today's IP-based security systems is made possible by incorporating three key elements into the design of products: application scalability, geographic independence and Web-based architecture. These elements directly address the costs to install, administer and maintain a fully integrated system.
Application scalability, simply put, is the integration of a broad mix of security management applications into a single system. Common applications include video, visitor management, access control, alarm monitoring, intercom and temperature monitoring. Applications can be added at any time to meet the specific needs of the site.
Geographic independence is the ability to expand the product from a single system to a global network of systems regardless of where the components are located. This is especially important for businesses that grow by acquisition or that are expanding offices in remote locations. A critical feature for these customers is a system that allows the management of a mixed card population, avoiding the need to re-issue access credentials.
The third element of the product design is a Web-based architecture. Web-based architecture allows an application to use a common Web browser to deliver an easily understood and rich user interface. This means that not only are systems easier to learn because they behave like common Internet Web sites, but their use often does not require the installation of special software-the Web browser is already there.
Some newer systems take these elements one step further by providing a solid-state implementation, meaning that they have no moving parts and thus have MTBF (mean time between failures) far in excess of systems that require traditional PC servers. Network-based solid-state systems that require more memory than conveniently fits can use network attached storage, available these days for very reasonable prices.
Scalability and Complexity
As expected, when a business grows and the scale of a security system increases, the price and size of the system will also increase. These new 3G systems allow mid-sized businesses to expand their integrated security platform at their own pace, without having to "over-buy" up front to enable future expansion. In the scalability and complexity matrix on the next page you can see that there are many security systems available to meet the differing levels of complexity and scalability. However, two significant problems are evident when looking at today's offerings.
First, as a mid-sized company grows and moves up either axis, or both axes, it is forced to switch security systems. Second, in many cases, there is no simple solution available to meet the company's specific mix of scale and complexity. For instance, if a company grows by adding a number of small sales offices, it would have to buy a high-end system in order to acquire the features to integrate these individually simple small sites under one access control management system. Today's evolved 3G systems use communication over the Internet to drive down the cost of integrating multiple sites.