Managing Network Risk

As security technology has continued to change and advance, security directors have been presented with a vast array of choices in designing and implementing a physical security program. The range of options can be a bit overwhelming at times, but...


As security technology has continued to change and advance, security directors have been presented with a vast array of choices in designing and implementing a physical security program. The range of options can be a bit overwhelming at times, but you're considered to be a progressive and innovative leader, and you've selected an appropriate set of solutions for your needs. Each component offers functions that meet the security objectives you've determined are necessary. Each component was well researched and successfully implemented. They've all been tested, and every one of them works within your expectations. So you're done, right? Not so fast. Chances are, you have security components or systems that are IP enabled. It is also likely that you use your corporate network to connect these systems as well as to operate and administer them. If this is the case, there are other concerns you need to be aware of.

Whose Network Is It?
If your security systems run over the corporate network, one of the first issues you need to be aware of is that it is no longer your wire. The network has many uses, many populations of internal users, and lots of processes, all on the wire at the same time. Your organization has a network administrator or network operations group that is charged with keeping the wires humming. Your needs are not the only needs these people need to meet. So what does that mean to you as a user of the network?

First, you need to be aware that all networks have capacity or bandwidth limitations. Each use of the network takes a percentage of that bandwidth that is then unavailable to other users. The network administrators monitor bandwidth because overuse will fill up the pipe and slow the responsiveness of the network. Since the network administrators are accountable to all users for uptime, they typically will jealously guard any and all additions to the network traffic. So the cardinal rule in connecting to the network is to communicate your needs to the network administrators early in your process. Better yet, have a network technician on the project team to assist you. Whatever you do, don't surprise your network administrators. Never connect a component to the network without their active participation.

Determine Your Networking Requirements
How much bandwidth do you need? Some processes don't require a great deal of bandwidth, but some clearly do. For example, simple alarm relays and sensors don't typically require a lot of throughput to be effective. However, streaming media such as a direct streaming CCTV system will take a significant amount of bandwidth. If you miscalculate your bandwidth needs, it could end in network outages. Likewise, if another user changes his or her bandwidth use significantly, the picture quality and usability of your CCTV system is degraded.

The solution to this problem is to carefully coordinate your needs with the network administrators. Have them test the throughput impacts of your systems and bench test for impacts to the network. They have many tools to help structure your network use to maximize efficiency and minimize impacts. In some cases, network enhancements or upgrades are necessary to carry all of the traffic.

The next item of concern is availability of the network, or uptime. You need to find out if the network administrators have scheduled planned outages, which they frequently do to accommodate network maintenance and system upgrades. Discover what those planned outages are and whether they conflict with your system needs. Imagine a bank alarm not being received because of a simple system maintenance cycle that you were not aware of. Again, clearly communicate your security requirements when connecting to the network so that you don't get any surprises.

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