The wave of security system migrations to network-based communications is riding high with manufacturers and resellers of Internet Protocol (IP) security devices announcing record volumes. However, considerable planning and coordination is required when you start encroaching on the hallowed ground of the Information Technology (IT) department for the implement of an IP-based system on your organization’s local area, wide area or global network (LAN, WAN or GAN).
If you plan to use a dedicated, purpose-built network just for security systems, your project may fall outside of the IT department’s jurisdiction but, in many organizations, IT will claim responsibility anyway. In these days of hacking, malicious code and denial-of-service attacks, IT’s most important task is to audit any new technology — hardware or software — that could impact their resources or operations. IP cameras and access control field panels may be very familiar to us, but they are foreign to the IT folk and they will require time to get to know them before they can be allowed to run within IT’s domain.
Let’s first review the differences between analog and IP technology, and how it all connects before discussing the operational, organizational and coordination aspects of a migration project. This article will concentrate on video systems technology, although most of the elements are also applicable to IP-addressable intercom stations and door control panels.
Analog and IP Technology
IP technology encompasses IP-addressable items (e.g., cameras, workstations and servers) and to the cabling and network equipment needed to interconnect all of the components into an Ethernet networked system. Analog systems — although many of the devices may be digital — refer to older technology where Ethernet protocol is not used (e.g., coaxial cable video transmission protocols).
Just to confuse the distinction between analog and IP some more, there are some blurry lines. Some examples: coax cable can be used for Ethernet transmission; hybrid video management system (VMS) hardware can accept analog video signals using internal or external encoders that convert from analog to IP signals.
The Migration Path
Analog: There are both benefits and detriments to analog and IP technologies. If your existing analog system is local — where all the security devices are located and system monitoring is performed at a single site where connectivity is relatively easy — the system and any upgrades or device additions are less expensive, less complicated (truly plug-and-play) and easier to operate if kept as an analog system. Since you are not using corporate local area network (LAN), the connections between the digital video recorder (DVR), network video recorder (NVR) or video management system (VMS) and any additional monitoring or administration workstations must be dedicated.
It should be noted that the video “head-end” is usually an IP-addressable computer, even if the cameras are not, and could be monitored and/or administered from other sites via the internet and an internet service provider (ISP). However, your IT department may raise red flags since they are justifiably leery of network threats from the internet, and their charter may give them responsibility for all IT connectivity within the organization, regardless of who initiates, designs or installs it.
Hybrid: A hybrid solution is the next step along the migration path and offers the benefit of maximizing the investment in your existing video system while providing greater access to new IP camera technology for upgrades, replacements and add-ons.