Networking Security at a Multiple Building Campus

Located in the tranquil setting of Lanwades Park, Newmarket, in Suffolk, the Animal Health Trust is a charity which sets out to provide specialist veterinary, clinical, surgical and diagnostic services for companion animals--those commonly viewed as pets. With a number of separate buildings on the site, the trust's IT support engineer, Leigh Harvey, felt it would be easier to monitor and control the use of doors via an electronic access control system. Previously, there was a site security guard, mechanical push-button locks and key locks on external doors.

One of the buildings, the Allen Centre, already had Net2, a PC-based system from Paxton Access. Leigh Harvey decided to expand the Net2 system gradually across other buildings on the site. "The addition of access control to all of our buildings will be a gradual process," he explained. "It is essential that the system chosen is easy to expand. Net2 is a system that we can grow, by one door at a time if necessary. It will also operate over our existing network via TCP/IP. I need to have central control of the system from my office. Net2 will allow me to do this."

The first building to be added to the Net2 system--installed by Aztek Services--was the Grade II listed stable block, home to the John McDougal visitors' centre and some of the offices. Seven doors are now controlled by the Net2 system. The building known as The Hall has also been added to the access control network. External doors all have readers on both sides of the doors, providing read-in and out control. One interior door is also fitted with a proximity reader and access through this door is restricted. As the system expands across the whole site, all of the doors will be set up as read-in and read-out. The benefit of this approach is that Leigh plans to use the system to aid roll-call and muster reporting in the event of a fire alarm, making it possible to see from the log if anyone may still be inside the building.

Although Leigh has administrative authority for the system, it is the health and safety department that is responsible for the day-to-day management of users and issuing of access rights. Departments, timezones and access levels are used to facilitate the issuing of cards with default access permissions. Access levels are set according to which building an employee works in and their need for access to other areas. Individual permissions are used where necessary.

Temporary monitoring

Earlier this year, the trust upgraded its system to Net2 Version4, and Leigh is making use of its advanced features as part of his expansion plan. "The triggers and actions facility in the software means that I am sent an e-mail if an invalid token is used, or a door is left open or forced. I also like the idea of SMS messages being sent to our security guards' mobile phones if anything untoward happens."

The system also uses an input/output board to monitor use of the pharmacy, with an e-mail sent to Leigh to notify him of any out-of-hours use. The device sits on the network and uses an input to take a signal from a magnetic sensor, before sending it to the Net2 system. With their ability to be plugged into any network port, they provide a useful way to temporarily monitor an area, be it a door or a window. They also enable other devices to be switched on, such as lighting or heating, to provide a more integrated approach to building management. "The I/O boards are great," said Leigh. "I love the fact that if I decide to use this anywhere else on the site, I can just move it to another location and plug it into the network! It is very simple to set up the trigger and the action in the software."

He also wanted to link the access control system with the CCTV cameras installed throughout the site. Previously, in some cases, relays had been used to trigger a camera to take a snapshot of anyone entering a particular area. However, this has now been superseded by integrating the Version 4 software with Milestone's IP camera software, sothat camera images can be associated with events in the Net2 software. The software records continuously to a central PC, generally at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. In the event of the server falling down, the storing of access control information at a local level allowsthe system to operate unaffected.

At the Visitors' Centre, the door is unlocked during normal working hours. An infrared beam is directed across the opening, which triggers a fixed Axis IP camera every time someone enters or leaves. Threemore IP cameras are deployed in the Hall to view the exterior entrances. When a Net2 token is presented to enter the building, the event is recorded by the Milestone software. An icon highlighting the eventwill show up on the Net2 events screen, which when double-clicked, will bring up the associated image.

"The Milestone software works well," said Leigh, "It is great having the camera images associated with Net2 events available instantly from the Net2 software. Searching the Milestone software for images not associated with Net2 events is also incredibly easy. I can easily look for and find images from a particular day, time and place."

As the Milestone software is run on a separate server to the Net2 system, there is plenty of server space to store all of the images. The intention is that as the access control system is expanded to all of the other buildings, more IP cameras will be installed, all linked to both sets of software.

Site graphics is another new feature which Leigh believes will really benefit security operations at the trust. Leigh has imported drawings of the site into the Net2 software and added existing doors and cameras on the plan. "Once all of the buildings and doors have been added to the Net2 system, site graphics will be used by the security guards we have on site." The plan is that as soon as a door control module receives an open signal from a sensor, it will flash up on screen on the site graphics.

The access control solution has certainly made Leigh's life easier, as he explained: "It runs over our networks, avoiding expensive cabling. The easy expandability combined with the flexibility of software is great. Our security, which is already good, will be further enhanced, giving us greater control and traceability."