Case Study: Protecting Princeton Computer Science Facilities Against Visible and Unseen Intrusion

Network-peripheral hardware device provides comprehensive monitoring and management services to IT managers who are offsite or have equipment at remote locations.


More than ever before, IT managers need to secure equipment and facilities against a variety of intrusive conditions that could cripple critical operations, resulting in system malfunctions, loss of data or intellectual property, damage to mission critical hardware or even theft of valuable physical assets. Such conditions often include environmental events, failure of air conditioning systems, power outages, and untoward human actions.

The proliferation of increasingly strategic and sensitive networked equipment at remotely managed sites, including those where managers or supervisory personnel are occasionally offsite, has intensified the need to assure protection against such seen and unseen "intruders."

One of the solutions to covering this exposure is to provide comprehensive remote monitoring and protection using a network peripheral device that can provide the right combination of monitoring and management capabilities; a device that can integrate multiple existing inputs into an SNMP "trap" alarm system that delivers immediate notification via the network's native protocol.

The Princeton Challenge
Chartered in 1746, Princeton was the fourth college established in British colonial America. Last year the university enrolled 4,635 undergraduate and 1,997 graduate students at its 500-acre campus located in Princeton, New Jersey. The faculty of approximately 1,000 includes recipients of the Nobel Prize in physics, literature, economic sciences, and medicine. All faculty members are expected to teach as well as engage in scholarly research.

Like other universities and research centers, Princeton has a need to protect the intellectual property of the university, students and faculty. This includes securing facilities that house expensive equipment and sensitive data.

"Normally, the support staff members are offsite during nights and weekends," says Chris Tengi, Systems and Network Administrator at Princeton University's Department of Computer Science. "But we are always concerned about power supply, humidity, ambient temperature and related equipment that supports our facilities. If we have some sort of mishap that knocks out air conditioning in the middle of the night, we need to know about it."

The facilities that Tengi supports include the department's main computer room and labs that house workstations, PCs and other resources for Princeton's undergraduate and graduate students in Computer Science, as well as research including advanced projects in areas such as alternative models of computation, computational biology and bioinformatics.

"The threats we encounter are mostly heat and humidity," Tengi says, "although we are certainly concerned about unauthorized entry or human actions that can compromise our systems."

In fact, one of the department's major investments in monitoring and protection equipment was in motion-activated Axis security cameras that are mounted facing outside entries of the Computer Science Building as well as the main computer room. But while the cameras addressed the need to detect and monitor human activity after hours, an integrated solution to monitoring and managing heat- and humidity-related situations was still needed.

Concerned about the prospects of system problems due to human or environmental impediments, Tengi investigated the SNMP-Link Model SL61 Remote Site Manager made by Omnitronix.

Based in Seattle, Washington, Omnitronix has specialized in data collection devices for the telecommunications industry since 1988. The company's site-management product line grew out of an extensive experience in PBX alarm management and remote equipment access, especially for SNMP systems. These devices typically monitor critical business equipment - such as phone systems, power supplies or communications/ networking components - as well as the physical conditions that impact the health of such equipment, and then provide the network interface and intelligence required to get these non-networked devices into the control of the network.

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