Ask The Expert

This month's expert answers one of today's most popular questions: "How do I converge?"

OVER the past couple of years, security professionals have had to learn to work in a very different world -- one that includes professionals from the IT department. Rapid changes in technology have brought about a convergence of physical security and IT security that would have been difficult to imagine a decade ago.

This subject is being addressed in this magazine and others in the industry as convergence makes the move from an interesting idea to a reality. But where does this leave the corporate end user who suddenly faces blending two disparate departments within the organization? What steps can you take to make the transition work? And if you look to outside help, how can you be sure that you are getting what you need?

ISSUE: Can convergence be handled in-house?

SOLUTION: Before IT staff members agree to allow security data on the network, they will want to know what equipment is involved, what demands it will place on the infrastructure and who will be overseeing the project from the security side.

That means that an in-house security staff may have to learn a new set of skills. And with many staff members coming to the job with a law enforcement background, computer skills may be in short supply. It may make sense to send security staff members to classes for training on IT issues. But it may take weeks or months to bring them fully up to speed.

An outside security system integrator, whose livelihood depends upon keeping current on technology, may be the best bridge between the security and IT departments.

IT staffs are generally cautious and skeptical about adding new systems to the corporate network. This is a proper approach, given the importance of the information being moved along the data highway. Finding an integrator that can inspire confidence with the IT folks is a good first step in beginning the convergence of security and IT.

ISSUE: How can a security integrator prove competence in the IT world?

SOLUTION: A skilled integrator with an IT background will be able to show one or more industry-recognized credentials that help to demonstrate knowledge. Among these are Microsoft-Certified Professional, Microsoft-Certified Systems Engineer and Cisco-Certified Network Administrator.

There also are certifications, such as Certified Protection Professional and Physical Security Professional, awarded by industry associations that also can demonstrate competency. And an employee with a four-year degree in computer engineering or other related field should be reassuring.

ISSUE: Are there any alternatives to security and IT sharing the corporate network?

SOLUTION: The advantages of having security systems on the network are too strong to turn away from at this point. But one alternative beginning to surface is the creation of standalone IP networks that are just for security. This arrangement involves the same type of equipment and standards of wiring, but does not use the regular corporate bandwidth. Security data will be shared via a parallel network isolated from the enterprise network.

While separate pipelines for physical security functions can work well, many times getting adequate network space comes down to the fine art of negotiation between the IT and security staffs.

Look for ways to minimize conflict. For instance, the security department can consider things like sending out smaller packets of data (for IP video) during peak activity periods. A knowledgeable, experienced systems integrator should be able to help negotiate an arrangement that will keep everyone happy and sharing in the benefits of technology advances.

This month's question from a reader asks:

ISSUE: I am a security director for a retailer with stores across several northern states. We operate a large warehouse in Minnesota, where the winters can be extremely cold and windy. The outdoor camera housings we use have had problems. If the heater stops working, we have to replace the entire housing. Also, the housings don't seem to be entirely airtight. Is there any advice you can give on a type of fixed and dome camera housing that might work best in our climate?

SOLUTION: Most CCTV manufacturers design exterior enclosures to withstand varying environments. Temperature, humidity, precipitation and sunlight are considerations that all CCTV manufacturers factor when designing camera enclosures and domes. Factory- and field-installed accessories typically include blower, heater, window defroster, sun shroud and thermal insulation.

Wind chill and ice storms are the two most difficult factors that impact your CCTV enclosures. Wind chills that exceed -60 degrees Fahrenheit can play havoc with your PTZ camera. The mechanical components of PTZ are not designed for these conditions. You must ensure when purchasing PTZ cameras for extremely cold environments that your units are insulated and contain heat strips with maximum wattage output.

Most pan/tilts have stepper motors that generate heat. This is a great by-product to help keep the unit warm. It also dictates the constant running of a blower motor to help circulate air during the summer months. This helps preserve the life of your unit's circuitry when things heat up. The constant movement of air helps keep the enclosure or dome's plexiglas defogged.

Don't hesitate to ask your security systems integrator to ensure that he or she has properly sealed your dome after opening the unit for a preventative maintenance check. Room temperature vulcanizing is a silicone that works great when resealing your dome. Technical support recommends that you apply RTV not only to the dome seal, but also to the last two to three threads of the mounting bracket as it mates to the dome.

What's on your mind? Do you have a question or a topic that you'd like addressed in Ask The Expert? If so, please e-mail it to asktheexpert@stevenspublishing.com.

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