Single-location deployments of technology solutions that provide video surveillance and other security capabilities can be challenging, but when that deployment is required across numerous and varied locations, the challenges — and the potential pitfalls — multiply in complexity.
Giacomo Catucci is very familiar with this reality. As founder and CEO of ATG Group Inc., a Providence, R.I.-based systems integrator, the challenges presented by geographically dispersed deployments so commonplace that he has developed a checklist that serves as the key to his success.
Now 20 years old, ATG, a certified Milestone Systems partner and official “Vertical Specialist” for the supplier, has 16 employees and 350 subcontractors who have worked with more than 10,000 retail stores in North America, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Mexico. ATG manufactures the hardware for servers that operate with Panasonic cameras and Milestone software. Each system is pre-configured and pre-optimized, ready to plug in and play once it reaches its location.
Catucci’s mantra for ensuring smooth multi-site deployments is multi-fold, but it centers on reliable, flexible and scalable open platform digital technology that is remotely accessible.
The Technology Checklist
- Reliability: Reliability is at the top of Catucci’s list. “It’s easy to reboot a server that’s 15 minutes away, but if your server is in Alaska, that can be another story,” he says. While reliability is a huge factor in whether a multi-location deployment succeeds or fails, it’s only the beginning of what system installers and integrators should carefully consider before choosing a technology platform.
- Scalability: Due to the variation in size of locations — which range from kiosks to large department stores — Catucci says success would not have been possible without a highly scalable IP video solution at the core of the deployment. “It’s critical that the technology you’re working with is capable of scaling to accommodate as many servers as a location needs,” he says. “We’ve been able to accommodate every application without a problem.”
- Flexibility: Of particular importance to the success of multi-location deployments in the retail sector is the issue of flexible licensing, which Catucci says is essential to be able to accommodate the frequent movement of equipment to different locations when a store shuts down or is moved, for example. He cites VMS licensing models as a critical factor to consider: “We’ve been able to take a license from one location and put it to work at another — a distinct advantage.”
- Remote Support: One of the most obvious, yet often overlooked potential pitfalls of multi-location deployments is the importance of being able to provide support from a distance. “If someone accidentally or deliberately turns off the system, it is a big disappointment to find out it’s not running later on,” Catucci says. He adds that being able to manage servers remotely has been an asset in cases where the system was shut down or, in one instance, when the server equipment was overheating in a closet. “We were able to call the store and tell them to open the closet door to cool off the hardware,” he says.
- Future Ready: It is not unusual for different locations of the same organization to embrace innovations at different times and rates. Catucci says that one of the most common — and damaging — difficulties of multi-location deployments occurs when they are based on closed platforms that are not built to accommodate new technology as it becomes available. “A software development kit (SDK) with open architecture and flexibility will allow you to support many different plug-ins,” he says. “It will enable you to grow along with the customer’s changing needs.”
- Vendor Partnership: Catucci says the complexity of deploying across multiple locations also increases greatly if the technology vendor is not fully on board. “Milestone wanted to know what they could do to contribute to the success of our implementations,” he says. In addition to making the overall experience more pleasant, Catucci says that also has practical benefits, such as expediting licensing: “We can license in minutes,” he says. “If your clients are dealing with emergencies, that’s critical.”
- Global Reach: A lack of world readiness is an increasing potential snag for multi-location deployment. For implementations in Mexico, for example, the Milestone system runs in Spanish but can easily be switched to English when American managers visit the locations. “When you’re a multi-national company, that’s a huge expense,” Catucci says. “And when we went to sell to a global client, it was a definite advantage for us.”