Real Life Stories of Integration Success

Consider: A vice president at a major financial services organization leaves his New York office with plans to stop in at company offices in Cleveland. But once he arrives there, he finds that his access card doesn't work and that he needs special security clearance to even enter the building.

Or consider this: A potentially serious security incident has arisen in the Orlando office of a national banking corporation, but the San Francisco-based head of corporate security can't research the event until the Orlando office mails him the related videotape or he travels to the site himself.

Both of these scenarios deal with problems that can arise when organizations do not have integrated security systems. Wasted time, additional expense and possible compromises in security result when organizational security systems lack equipment integration and standardized procedures.

Of course, most organizations would prefer the enhancements of an integrated system. Who wouldn't enjoy being able to use one access card no matter which office you're in? Who wouldn't prefer the time savings of posting video on a server with an Internet address, enabling instant access and viewing from anywhere? But how does one go about what might seem a daunting task for organizations with hundreds, even thousands of branch offices nationwide?

One way is to work with a security systems integrator with the national scope and capabilities to make such an effort successful on a large scale. The following examples describe two national organizations that integrated their security systems. The companies took different paths to integration, but in both cases equipment was standardized and linked through networking software, and procedures were clearly defined and became uniform throughout the organizations. Both organizations chose to use a nationwide network composed of independently owned security system integrators to assist them in their integration efforts.

Case 1: A nationwide home mortgage company with more than 1,000 locations throughout all 50 states.
Following the events of 9/11, the company's corporate security unit made it a top priority to ensure a consistent approach and methodology across the enterprise with regard to general office security equipment selection and installation. After security selected a nationwide vendor network, the integration project began.

Since the organization had established security equipment standards, it was already one step toward security systems integration. But the integration vendor aided the company significantly by helping to ensure consistent application of those standards.

Each office integration project began with the same process: a comprehensive, internally prepared needs assessment. This was followed by a formal proposal from the security systems integration partner. Feeling that a hodgepodge of equipment would only cause confusion in the installation, operation and maintenance of the many systems, the security vendor decided to use only equipment from the corporate security approved products list.

The list designated access control systems using card readers for most of the offices, with some of the smaller offices still employing key locks. Keypads were specified in some areas, such as data rooms, that require a higher level of security. Alarm panels were also installed in many of the offices, and digital cameras were used in about 75 percent of the company's offices nationwide. Other security components, such as turnstiles and biometric devices, were used only in the larger, mission-critical operational sites.

Following project approval and installation, the system was thoroughly tested before being turned over to the site manager to oversee. For the most part, each office had a standalone system. Corporate security felt there were far too many offices for the department to monitor from one central location. However, the manager of corporate security could connect to the corporate network to view live or recorded video from those offices equipped with a digital video recorder.

The organization's security standards are constantly reviewed and updated by its corporate security and office managers. The integration vendor team is kept updated on any changes. The company carefully considers any changes in equipment, not rushing to buy every time a new product is introduced. It always strives for cutting-edge products but insists that they be proven before making them a part of the plan.

Case 2: A major financial services provider with more than 50 company offices worldwide.
This provider decided to create a centralized, integrated security system, noting that most of its offices had independent security systems. Realizing the improvements in safety and convenience and reductions in cost that could come from a networked system, the organization set about linking access and video surveillance systems in its numerous national and international offices. In less than three years, the job was completed.

The company leveraged money it had already spent on security hardware to keep safety high while squeezing some costs out of the operations. Those offices that already had systems were connected onto the company's wide-area network, and plans were made to buy equipment for the offices without systems.

Again, a security systems integrator made the job easier. The integrator worked with the organization to create the network design that now serves as a standard for all its corporate offices. The integrator provided expertise and guidance on selecting the best proven technologies while ensuring that the plan fit within the company's budget. They analyzed ways to leverage existing technology and suggested enhancements to the system where appropriate. The integrator handled U.S. installations, upgrades and other associated tasks to ensure a smooth, uniform process and equipment standardization. In other countries, they worked closely with international systems integrators, making sure that the job met plan specifics and kept to high quality standards.

Once the project was completed, the company had a fully integrated system featuring updated technologies and a centralized monitoring system. The company operates redundant command centers in New York and in London that monitor both the access and video surveillance systems from throughout the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All activities from the access system are recorded on a backup server in the New York command center and then archived to DAT for about a year. When specific, pre-defined alarm conditions are met, both access information and video images are automatically brought up on monitors for review in New York.

Overall, there are more than 1,600 readers on the system. The access system has the flexibility to limit access by time and location, depending upon the employee. The security system also includes about 1,800 security cameras, dozens of monitors and 80 digital video recorders that allow the company's security officers to monitor events in company offices around the world. Each DVR has its own IP address on the network so that corporate security can access the video worldwide. But to save bandwidth, video is only transmitted upon demand.

In today's changing security landscape, where risks are greater and potential losses staggering, organizations with multiple offices should consider a systems integration project. A well-planned integrated system can help preserve a company's assets, minimize risk exposure and create a safer environment. These security benefits, along with increased convenience and cost savings, make it well worth the effort.

Raymond Dean is president and founder of PEI Systems Inc., a 29-year-old New York City-based security integration firm. Mr. Dean has served as secretary, vice chairman and chairman of the New York City chapter of ASIS International. He is also a founding member of SecurityNet, a group of independent security system integrators chartered in 1991 to provide globally integrated security solutions and services to the corporate marketplace.

Jack Morris is the founder, president and chairman of the board of VTI Security Integrators. VTI, founded 23 years ago, has several major security accounts in the financial and insurance market. For the past 10 years, VTI has been a member of SecurityNet.