It's been more than a decade since the IT and telecom industries first introduced early warning systems to prevent catastrophic network failures. But not until this past year's ASIS show in Orlando did the physical security industry begin showing signs that it was really ready to apply this technology to network security systems.
With the avalanche of news last fall that came during that tradeshow, one press release that may have gotten buried was for a new service called Net.Monitor, from routing/switching manufacturer Allied Telesis, specifically designed for the surveillance world. Essentially, Net.Monitor proactively monitors the critical components in an entire system – edge devices, network infrastructure and even application servers. Through skilled analytical programming, which has been used in the IT networking world for more than a decade, the service recognizes potential fault conditions and proactively notifies the user before they actually occur to forestall outages from happening.
Separating fact from fantasy
This omniscience sounds like science fiction in the vein of Minority Report or Person of Interest. It's akin to having your NVR send you a message saying it's going to fail within the next 24 hours. But the value is very much grounded in reality.
Imagine a security director or operations manager responsible for thousands of buildings spread across the country, each with hundreds of network cameras deployed – yet his or her company doesn't have local IT personnel keeping tabs on the system. Fortunately, IP-based systems are intelligent by design, and this networking hardware intelligence is the final piece to the puzzle to keep systems up and running.
Cameras are obviously no longer the dumb devices used in the analog world. Network cameras with active tampering alarms can not only alert the user when they have been re-aimed or covered, but also when they are not working. Many VMS platforms have built in fault notification capabilities that send alerts if video is not being received. Now with intelligence specifically designed for surveillance systems to keep tabs on other networking components (switches, servers, routers, etc.), the old horror story of searching for video of an incident only to find that it wasn't recording will become a thing of the past.
If you apply this proactive oversight to the network infrastructure as well as the servers that are hosting the recording applications, you'll soon realize that the payback grows exponentially. Each component could fail in any number of ways but if the system could monitor itself and inform you that, for instance, a fan in the server at the Chicago site just stopped, you could deploy someone to swap it out before the whole server overheated and became damaged beyond repair. The IT sector has been using network management for over a decade and, in many cases, reaping the benefits of extended uptime in the realm of 99.999 percent.
And realize this: Not only will system failure be avoidable with proactive oversight, but this intelligent reporting makes identifying a point of failure faster and easier, instead of having to check each individual component one by one like you were testing a string of Christmas lights.
This concept isn't futuristic or farfetched. It's here today, but how does it work?
The simple elegance of SNMP
The IT industry uses Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to manage devices on a network and includes SNMP as a subset of the Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Devices with built in support for SNMP include switches, routers, printers and servers. How does this relate to the security industry? Many manufactures also include the protocols inside network cameras and networked door access control systems.