Best Practices for SOC Design

Tips for planning and deploying an in-house Security Operations Center

The functions on the list, their volume and time of occurrence lead to a determination of staffing requirements and the number of “stations” required for the SOC. The selection and layout of the equipment required at each station will help to determine station size and the final space requirements with the architect.


Front and Center

If the monitoring post is to be located in the building entry lobby, the primary function of the security officer or concierge will be access control for building occupants and visitors. Even if access control of regular occupants is automated through the use of building credentials, identity verification and host validation of visitors will require much of their effort.

The design of the lobby desk will be dictated by the architect, so it is very important to coordinate security’s operational and equipment space requirements. In addition to PCs, screens, phones, and badge printers, operational aspects such as log-in card readers, sign-in logs and ADA access should be considered in the design.

Remember also that there are other functions competing for lobby desk space, such as fire alarm and command stations, elevator displays and other controls. Decisions on display screen viewing priorities need to be made before an effective layout can be designed — and each system designer considers their equipment to be the most important!


Behind the Scenes

The design of security monitoring and control functions in a dedicated SOC that is situated away from the hustle and bustle of entry lobby traffic has few of the design constraints evident for lobby desks — assuming sufficient space is allocated to the SOC. Older designs were centered on vertical (or angled) consoles that housed bulky video display equipment. The display function is now implemented using slim, flat screen LED or plasma technology.

Here are some important questions that need to be answered: Does the SOC require multiple workstations? Is there a need to split the monitoring and control workload between two or more stations? If so, should it be split by function (e.g., one station monitors video while another interfaces with parking lot controls and turnstiles), or geographically (e.g., by area, building or floors)? Should the stations have the flexibility to perform all functions so that staffing requirements off-hours can be reduced? Is a supervisory workstation needed? Or, perhaps, one dedicated to investigation (e.g., review of archived video and access/alarm transactions)?

If only one or two workstations are required, multiple video display screens at each station may be more practical; however, if many workstations need to see the same video images, a video wall may be less expensive and operationally preferable. A few dedicated screens at each workstation still make sense for alarm verification video selection and administrating functions.

Each workstation needs to provide sufficient desktop area for reference notes, camera schedules, operating instructions and any other data that that is not normally displayed on a screen. An 18-inch-deep work surface with a pull-out keyboard is useful. Computers and video display servers, as well as network switching hardware and filing cabinets should be housed under the desk.

The workstation should be designed for easy maintenance access (e.g., slide out CPU trays), cable management and thermal management (dissipation of heat generated by the equipment). Display screens should mount on frames at the front edge of the desk and have the ability to be angled for optimum viewing.

Not to be forgotten is the workstation chair! Since the operator will be spending many hours sitting on this piece of furniture, it should be ergonomically designed for the purpose, adjustable to match the operator’s physique, and comfortable to eliminate distraction.


Infrastructure and Environment

The infrastructure and environmental support factors that have the most impact on the effective operation of the SOC are temperature, humidity, lighting and electrical power.

• Temperature and Humidity: The heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in many office buildings are designed to operate in the most cost-efficient manner. Often, during non-business hours, they automatically set back to levels that are not intended for human comfort. If the SOC or lobby desk monitoring location is to be staffed around the clock, arrangements should be made to provide environmental support for these spaces, possibly through the use of supplemental HVAC units.