Securing Devices in a Collaborative Business Environment

Aug. 19, 2015
Asset control systems on the market today are more than simple locking cabinets

In today’s business environment, meeting spaces, desks and even devices are shared between personnel. Often a single mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, will be the “official” device for maintaining social media or other online business accounts. There are a number of benefits to this type of collaboration, mainly the ability to spread responsibilities among multiple employees rather than tasking a single individual, which helps boost productivity.

 In addition to their benefits, these types of collaborative workflows can also create a number of security challenges, the most notable of which is the control of devices, including preventing them from simply walking out the door. Without a system in place to manage who has access to which specific devices, for how long they may have them, and if or when they are returned, there is no accountability for ensuring their safe return, which increases the likelihood of their disappearance.

 One effective strategy many organizations have employed to address these challenges is to install a cabinet system that controls access to lockers where devices are stored. Similar to those used in advanced key control systems, these asset management solutions can reinforce access control policies that are already in place and can help reduce the cost and inconvenience associated with lost devices or unmanaged access. Before they are able to access a cabinet, users must provide their credentials using a combination of ID cards, biometrics, prox cards and/or PIN codes. Another layer of security and accountability is added by granting access to only those items or devices each user is authorized to remove. Reservations, time limitations and other controls ensure that individuals have access to the device they need when they need it. Management is also able to better organize and allocate items to optimize their correct usage and prevent both misuse and theft.

 Today’s most basic cabinet systems typically consist of a computerized storage cabinet with lockers for securing devices, a locking mechanism and a tracking system. Building on this basic configuration, there are a variety of options that can be added to enhance and customize the solution and help protect the investment as needs grow and change.

 Asset control systems on the market today are more than simple locking cabinets; they have become high-level management tools for effectively addressing the security and safety of building occupants and the security of assets. Knowing the identity of authorized users, which device or devices they have access to or have in their possession at any given time, when devices are used and when they should be returned are among the many essential pieces of information necessary to help ensure the integrity of devices used for collaboration. For example, a specific device that has been lost or stolen can be deactivated remotely to prevent unauthorized access to an organization’s network and/or sensitive data. Email alerts sent to selected members of management if a device isn’t returned on time allow organizations to act quickly to determine the appropriate actions to take.

 Ease of Implementation

The process of implementing an asset control and management solution is very straightforward, requiring just a few simple steps: take inventory of devices to identify which are shared among staff; ascertain the needs of employees who share those devices; and establish a policy with procedures that are easy to follow for effective device control and management.

 The ability to add on the specific components your organization needs, or to change modules within the locker cabinet when needed, helps protect your investment in an asset control and management solution. This let’s you avoid having to rip out and replace an entire existing system if you need additional functionality in the future.

 Most important, a simple but strong set of guidelines for administration and use of the asset management solution will help define and assign areas of responsibility and enable better control of devices.

 Simplified Configuration

Once installed, asset management solutions are relatively easy to configure. The process consists of identifying the needs of the organization and employees and then building the system with the components that meet those needs. The combination of features is entirely up to the organization, ensuring that the system can not only be customized, but can be changed later on to accommodate growth or other specific needs.

 Configuration can also include additional security features that help enhance the integrity of the system. If protection of the asset lockers is mission-critical – and in the case of devices, it should be – a remote access panel provides an additional layer of protection by allowing the locker system to be installed within a secure room. A second PIN and verification would then be required for an authorized employee to access the contents of a locker.

 Options for accessing the asset cabinet can also be customized with a built-in keypad, a fingerprint reader or magnetic or proximity card reader. Systems that incorporate card readers often utilize the existing access control cards already in use throughout the organization, making system implementation easier and more convenient. Necessary changes to an individual’s access authorization can be made instantly by program administrators. For easy accessibility, optional user interfaces can be integrated directly into the cabinet, or an organization may choose to keep them separate. In either case, users have access to only those stored items they have been authorized to remove or return.

 Integration with Other Systems

In most cases, asset management solutions can be integrated with physical security systems without the need for expensive upgrades or complete overhauls. Asset control systems that feature alarm and relay inputs/outputs, for example, can be integrated with existing video surveillance systems for added security. Ethernet and USB capability help to ensure system compatibility and integration.

 Compatibility with security and network access systems and integration with existing databases save time and money. For ease of use, Ethernet or TCP/IP communications ports enable direct connectivity to printers or other devices, as well as network connectivity via Ethernet.

 Tracking and analysis

The ability to manage all programming, remote functions and reports with a software-driven solution is one of the biggest factors for successfully implementing an asset management system. Similar in concept to popular access control systems, a PC-based package of management software streamlines and unifies day-to-day operations and activities. Authorized management can add users from a global list, with any specific settings that are added or modified automatically synchronized across the entire system. Profiles can also be assigned for improved user control, and there are various options for tailoring administrative access privileges to specific needs, including reporting or alerting.

 With built-in scheduling capability, systems can be programmed to automatically download all data to a secure PC as required by users. This allows management to better sort and analyzes information to maintain maximum control of devices. Scheduled email reports that detail what devices are in or out, who has or had them and for how long provide the up-to-date information security management needs to ensure the integrity of shared devices within an organization. Should an incident occur, such as a device not being returned on time, management can quickly query the system for specific details that, when combined with audit data, provide a strong evidence trail.

 Mobile capability

With advanced communication capabilities, asset management systems can be monitored and administered remotely from tablets or smartphones, as well as from a desktop. Authorized personnel can quickly and easily check device status, cancel an alarm or alert and/or remotely disable user access and more. These are just some of the many capabilities available that provide mobile users with one more layer of convenience and control for asset management.

 The many available features and functions of today’s advanced asset control and management solutions allow businesses to continue to reap the rewards of collaboration without concern about potential theft or loss of devices that are shared between multiple employees.

 About the Author:

Fernando Pires is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Morse Watchmans.