Training to IP
Integration, communication part of the network equation
- By Jeff Stout
- Mar 01, 2011
The world of security technology is converging with network technology
at a faster pace than ever before. Security professionals are
challenged not only with new products, but also with how they
integrate and communicate in a network-driven atmosphere.
The sales and installation process involves interaction between dealers and
IT professionals, pre- and post-sale. The days of working with facilities managers
and security directors are being replaced by the necessity of involving --
and sometimes deferring to -- IT managers and network limitations. The misconceptions
and misunderstandings about IP-based security products have
caused many dealers to avoid the systems or at least approach them with cautious
pessimism. It is a lack of understanding of the world of IP security that
creates fear and apprehension for most sales and installation professionals.
Consequently, most alarm dealers remain mired in the highly competitive,
low-margin world of analog systems. Positioning your company to understand
the language of the network world and to understand the challenges
IT professionals face every day will give you a competitive advantage over
those less willing to invest in training. Training on network-based products
and network technology is a critical first step to achieving success in the everexpanding
network-based security products arena.
Technical schools and community colleges offer various levels of network-
centric training that would be extremely valuable to installation
staff. The classes offered range from small business and home networking
to CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). The entry-level classes like
SBHN give a technician the essentials to install most small- to medium-size
IP-based systems effectively. For most applications, these level-one classes
provide enough of a knowledge base to begin installing IP video or other
IP-based security products.
For dealers looking to work in larger, more complicated network environments,
a staff member who holds a CCNA credential may be useful. A CCNAcertified
technician is competent in the ability to install, operate, configure,
maintain and troubleshoot most medium-size routed and switched networks.
You may also want to consider the Network+ certification offered through
CompTIA. This certification, along with the CompTIA A+ certification, will
give any technician a thorough understanding of both hardware and network
environments. The items that are tested in a Network+ certification include
network hardware, software, the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model,
connections and the different protocols used in LAN and WAN environments.
Another certification available is the MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems
Administrator). A person with an MCSA can configure networks in a Microsoft
Server 2003/2008 environment. These certifications can range from relatively inexpensive to thousands of dollars in class time, books and exams.
You can best determine the right type of training for your employees based
on the types of projects that you most commonly install. Be aware that it is
not essential to have one of these certifications to work with most IP-based
security products; it just may prove beneficial in both the design and implementation
phases of your sales process.
Vendor trainings and websites offer some specific, product-based knowledge
and can be extremely useful to both sales and technical staff. With the
onslaught of IP-based products, more manufacturers are offering some level
of network training, especially as it relates to their product offerings. In addition
to specific product training, vendors are also offering training on network
equipment such as switches and routers.
These training classes are conducted in numerous locations, such as the
factory, distribution facilities and online. The advantage of these training
classes is that they typically have little or no cost and are offered multiple
times a year. Bosch, for example, offers extensive online training on its equipment,
as well as detailed information on the networking essentials for making
an IP video system work.
From a sales perspective, online information from manufacturers can be
an invaluable resource when specifying the equipment for a particular job.
Most manufacturers of network-based recording equipment offer bandwidth
calculators to determine the type of switch needed to accommodate the IP
video system. Some manufacturers also offer CPU and throughput speed
analysis to make sure the network recording device can handle the amount of
data being pushed through it.
In addition, almost all manufacturers of IP-based security equipment offer
compatibility lists to make sure that the IP camera will work with the IP
recording software and/or hardware specified, and whether it can integrate
with the access control or intrusion alarms system required by the customer
or already in place. These critical upfront decisions will certainly affect the
installation and profitability of any IP-based installation.
Some vendors of IP-based security equipment also are offering certifications
in their IP-based security products. Choosing a vendor partner and becoming
certified in its product can prove to be beneficial for many reasons.
From a sales standpoint, having your sales team certified by one or many
manufacturers allows them to confidently specify the right equipment to the
end user. Also, once your technicians receive certification, they will be far
more likely to install the equipment with fewer problems. Typically, manufacturers
will offer a priority level of technical support for those dealers who
choose to complete certification, as well. Another benefit of product certification
is that some manufacturers offer pricing discounts for those who are
certified in their products. They also may offer products not available to installing
companies that have not completed the certification courses. This will
limit the amount of competition that you could run up against in the sales or
One example is Panasonic, which offers its iPro Certification course
throughout the year to certify dealers and train them thoroughly on its IP
video solution. Some of the certifications are free, while others can cost in
the thousands of dollars. Be sure to investigate costs to determine whether it
makes financial sense to enroll in these classes.
There also are good sources of training available to sales and technical staff
that may be enough to get you started in the IP security space. Distribution
companies offer IP trainings throughout the year that can serve as an excellent
source of information. For example, Tri-ed/Northern Video Distribution
trained more than 2,000 dealers last year in networking basics (IP Video 101)
at its facilities across North America. These classes were designed to give a
product-agnostic view of networking and IP video combined with vendor
presentations to present product-specific solutions in the network-based
video security world.
In addition, dealers were able to receive CEU credits for this class, which
is a consideration for those dealers and technicians required to renew their
licenses. Manufacturers and distribution companies also teamed up to offer
full-day expositions featuring IP-based security products in a tabletop format
and seminars that covered the spectrum of IP security solutions. These types of
events can offer the novice to IP security a chance to review the breadth of solutions
available today, as well as the technology that is just around the corner.
If you are looking to partner with a manufacturer, attending one of these
events can help you decide which products will fit the demand of your particular
marketplace. For those looking to keep a “best product for the application”
approach to sales and installation, distribution facilities host numerous
trainings at locations near you and typically do not charge to attend. This will
allow you to source the best product for the application while still being able
to purchase the product at a competitive level. Local ESA associations and
the like are also starting to offer basic network training to members. The associations
are certainly aware of the necessity of training their member base
in network-based security solutions as the industry is moving that way.
If you have attended an ISC or ESX show in the last couple of years, certainly
you are aware of the number of manufacturers offering some type of
network security product or network security solution.
The industry is trying to overcome some of the compatibility issues and
confusion surrounding IP-based security products. In the IP video space,
ONVIF and PSIA standards are in place today to allow for best-in-class solutions
in the IP video market. The standards are supported by the major manufacturers
of IP video equipment and software, and are designed to ensure the
compatibility of various IP video solutions. As these two standards continue
to develop and are adopted by manufacturers, the process of selecting an IP
camera, a network recording solution and a software package will become
more seamless and less complicated. An ONVIF-certified camera will record on an ONVIF-certified NVR or software package. While this is not
directly related to training, understanding this will help an end user
select the product or products for use in a particular application.
What type of training is right for you and your staff? What do
I look for in an IP training class, and how do I get started? Those
questions may be the most difficult to answer. Identify those team
members who are a good fit for network training. These people
are typically those who set up their own wireless routers at home,
have a real comfort level around PCs, and don’t mind a little “self-study”
to increase their knowledge and their value to the company.
Make sure that, initially, you attend a class that covers the basics of
networking. If your sales team can understand the challenges IT
professionals face, it will be more effective than your competition
when working with IT departments. Your technicians will be able
to at least have a basic glossary of terms and can communicate effectively
with IT personnel.
Next, examine the analog-based systems that you are installing
now and determine the IP-based projects that you want to go after
as a company. This will help you determine the products and
manufacturers that will best serve your needs. You can then decide
whether product certification makes sense and would be worth the
investment in time and resources. Next, consider if the class offers
CEU credits. If it does, you can achieve two goals by sending your
technicians. They will receive network or network security product
training, and they will receive credits toward alarm license renewal.
Additionally, several manufacturers offer demo equipment at up
to 50 percent off if you attend their class. Getting products in your
facility for your technical staff to test and program is essential to
their comfort level on the jobsite. Your sales team also can benefit
by learning the feature sets and advantages of network-based
security solutions, thereby making them more effective selling the
solution in the field. Understanding the rapid shift in security products
from analog to digital, from closed systems to network-centric
solutions, and training your staff effectively can help move your
company out of the ultra-competitive, low-margin analog world to
the higher-margin, solution-based IP realm.
This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Security Today.