Building Software

Building Software

Unifying the enterprise will help security run smoother

Today’s security leaders must present solutions to enterprise organizations that meet the needs of these diverse organizations. Enterprise organizations are characterized in a number of ways: they are typically widely distributed across geographic boundaries, have completely distributed network architecture topologies and, in most cases, operate with a number of smaller security operations centers in place. This creates more than a few problems with traditional physical security information management (PSIM) systems, which have typically been built in a client/server system design, and are far less successful in addressing the needs of the enterprise customer.

Enterprise customers come in many shapes and sizes, but share a common set of goals as security becomes a C-level agenda item, and risk management demands that the scope of security is widened beyond just premises security, to that of the entire organization. These organizations seek a new product solution that will meet a number of requirements, including a need for consolidated operations, greater situational awareness, enforceable standard operating procedures, reliable reporting capabilities and more efficient security operations. Above all, a clear return on investment (ROI) is necessary to delivering in this market sector, and this component is driven by speed of deployment and a low cost of ownership, two things that traditional PSIM systems have struggled to deliver.

ENTERPRISE PSIM SOFTWARE

The challenges that the enterprise customer faces makes designing PSIM software for the enterprise a large undertaking, but several characteristics must be present for the software to be successful. This software needs to be agile, robust, scalable, extensible and simple to deploy and use operationally.

The system must also integrate with a wide variety of different subsystems and provide centralized situational awareness for the security professionals responsible for coordinating a response to any perceived threat.

To do this, an essential, four-part system architecture of the software can heavily influence the operational success of the system, and through design, better meet the needs of an enterprise organization. Built on a significant amount of the same characteristics found in other products in the security marketplace, such as those from Axis, Lenel, Brivo, Genetec, Milestone, Avigilon and more, beyond the security market, these comparable characteristics can also be seen in enterprise-grade cloud solutions. These range from Google Apps for business, Microsoft Office 365 and Azure, along with platforms like Salesforce. This isn’t coincidental, but a reflection of manufacturers whose products evolve to meet the developments in organizational structures, as well as the IT and networking technologies that support them.

To deliver a performance-based and maintainable system, these architectural characteristics need to be a part of the system’s basic DNA, and are critical to meeting the challenges that face today’s enterprise organizations.

SCALABILITY

Scalability is essential to PSIM software for the enterprise. This means it must have the ability for the application to grow and adapt to the needs of customers both large and small. Related to enterprise applications, the system must also provide redundancy to protect from system failures, as well as the ability to extend its capacity as companies grow and demand more from the software it has in place.

One way this is achieved is by building the platform to run in the cloud, developing a database structure that supports a multi-tenant framework that allows data separation to be enforced throughout the system. This means that separate divisions and groups within an organization have the flexibility to run their own independent system, while still leveraging the common infrastructure of the main platform.

The PSIM software for the enterprise focuses on providing enterprise organizations with the flexibility to deploy the system in a way that fits their operational structure today, while still allowing the platform the ability to adapt as needed for the future.

EXTENSIBILITY

As an enterprise organization grows, whether locally or globally, it’s imperative that a PSIM platform be extensible to customize the system with this growth. Extensibility allows support for a range of different systems that go beyond typical physical security systems, including situational awareness platforms. Finally, it allows the customization of the system without creating a one-off version, which can be expensive to support and maintain. Instead, the basic platform is built on an application program interface (API) that ensures customizations are supported as an integral part of the overall system.

This API provides the instructions to integrate a wide range of systems from traditional physical security systems, to situational awareness platforms, incident management and even “home grown” systems customers have developed specifically for their businesses.

AGILITY

Agility is another element that is important in building PSIM software for the enterprise, that is, a system that is quick and easy to deploy, maintain and adapt. To answer this, the platform should ideally be a Web-based system, which eliminates the high IT costs to maintain and deploy, especially in large, complex organizations. These systems allow for centralized management of all updates, which means that as new features, functions and integrations are added to the system, all users, no matter where they are located, have access to the latest version.

Additionally, by standardizing everything to the Web, the management of the system is simplified and provides another level of flexibility in controlling access to the system. It no longer has to be solely operators in the command center who have the client application installed on their machine; logins can be created for management, key vendors such as integrators, field security officers and law enforcement. This wider adoption and easy access to the system becomes critical when coordinating the response to an event or managing a crisis. The cost of maintenance is also sharply reduced.

OPERATIONAL ELEGANCE

The design of PSIM software for the enterprise must deliver all of the software to meet the needs of an enterprise organization while still maintaining operational elegance, including ease of use and the ability to seamlessly maintain the software. With a minimal amount of training, a user should be able to log in and use the system, providing an intuitive interface.

Additionally, only the proper amount of information should be available to a user. This means that the information presented to an operator is very different than that presented to a manager, or even the information presented to a law enforcement officer. This greatly reduces the training burden on individuals, while increasing the adoption and collaboration of the system across multiple business roles.

Operational elegance outlines how the system interfaces with other systems and how complex tasks are automated to eliminate time-consuming manual operations. The key to this is streamlining operator responses so that data is easily synchronized between platforms, an important tool for bringing an entire security operations center together from a number of disparate systems.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Combining the four components for designing PSIM software for the enterprise are essential to building the kind of platform that is necessary in an enterprise organization. Customers that keep a close eye on the broader trends in application design and cloud technology should be called on when discussing the development of this software, as developers cannot shoehorn new design needs into yesterday’s technology. Instead, developers need to design applications that from the outset are flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing world of the enterprise organization.

At its core, PSIM software should deliver the ability to integrate with a variety of systems and provide centralized situational awareness to operators. It is also crucial for these deployments to be ready in weeks instead of months so that these organizations can realize true ROI and support changing security operations for years to come.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.

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