Getting to Know IT

The best chance for survival in a converged world is by becoming familiar with the IT side

IT'S inevitable: Physical security systems are now on track to blend with IT systems in corporations big and small across the country. Like it or not, it's no longer a matter of if, but when. Dealers and integrators who take the initiative to educate themselves on IT technologies and methods will, in the end, be the ones to make it in the future security marketplace.

To find success in any project that requires the cooperation of physical security experts and IT folks, three areas must be concentrated on: technology, attitude and policy.

Like it or not, it's no longer a matter of if, but when. Dealers and integrators who take the initiative to educate themselves on IT technologies and methods will, in the end, be the ones to make it in the future security marketplace.

Here are the issues that if ignored could get you knocked off the ladder by an angry IT guy.

1. Watch the bandwidth. Connecting an alarm panel, access control system or IP camera to a shared network instantly increases the traffic across one or more network segments. Remember that the IT department has each network "tuned" to expect a certain traffic level. Always ask your customer sponsor to communicate your bandwidth needs to the network operations team.

2. Wireless worries. Adding one new wireless access point affects the load on all others. Be sensitive to the number and proximity of existing wireless networks.

3. Backup and recovery. The IT department has a plan for backing up and restoring any critical device on the network. Be sure your DVRs, NVRs and access control systems are listed in the IT recovery plan.

4. Maintenance. Some companies take network segments offline periodically for routine maintenance. If you don't know the maintenance schedule, you could lose contact with your cameras or panels indefinitely.

5. Use of closets. The last person to touch the closet is at fault. If your project causes you to pull cable or install systems in common networking closets, you'll often get blamed for problems you didn't cause. Whenever possible, take digital before and after pictures of the wiring configuration or videotape your installation. Better still, install a NetBotz unit from APC to monitor all conditions of the closet after you leave.

It's a fact that IT professionals can be very possessive of their network and servers.

1. Respect their turf. Document every way you touch the network. If you boot up a PC, install a server, configure software, install cameras, plug in IP panels or unplug anything, write it down on a nicely formatted Word document and forward it to IT management.

2. Be secure in your identity. You're not the only security professional. The IT department has a very skilled group of IT security experts. Refer to yourself as a physical security professional and to your counterparts as IT security professionals.

3. Age before beauty. The median age of physical security directors is 12 years older than IT managers. Don't be surprised if your gray-haired team members are seeking approval from pony-tailed geeks. It's just part of the chemistry that makes convergence projects work.

Most IT managers are overly concerned with policies and processes. You'll go far by observing them.

1. Passwords matter. If any of your systems use passwords, you must conform to existing IT password policies?otherwise you will be held liable when a hacker breaks into the corporate network through your access control server.

2. Change management. The IT department has a three-ring binder laying around somewhere outlining the steps for approving a change to any software or computer on the premises. Find it, and read it.

3. System security. Some companies comply with IT security standards like Generally Accepted Information Security Principles (GAISP), COBIT or ISO:17799, which give guidelines on the security of software, servers and network connections. Familiarize yourself with the standards of your customer.

4. Regulatory compliance. Besides standards, there also are regulations. Sarbanes-Oxley and some privacy regulations don't affect your systems in most cases, but be ready to answer questions about how information on employees or visitors is stored and managed. Moreover, improve the situation by managing policies to all systems with a product like Quantum Secure's S.A.F.E. policy manager.

For Additional Reading on the Subject?

  • "Know IT Security," by Jim Litchko, available on or at
  • For more information on COBIT, visit
  • For more information on ISO:17799 and GAISP, visit
  • For more information on NetBotz, visit
  • For more information on Quantum Secure, visit
  • 4A Insights available on
  • This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Security Products, pgs. 57-58.


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