One Pane, Less Pain
Making the case for a unified security solution
- By Rob Druktenis
- May 30, 2023
Company A decides to kick its proprietary security system to the curb and replace it with an integrated solution. They finally have the freedom to pick best-of breed-devices and software and build the security system of their dreams. But what the company soon discovers is that it might have swapped one set of problems for another.
Just because a solution is built on an open-standards platform doesn’t ensure that all the vendors’ systems will work together as promised. Some features may not be supported, or not supported to their fullest potential. To achieve the integration they want, the company may have to pay additional licensing fees for certain features and/or hardware.
Other issues that come to the forefront are integrations that stop working when solution partners update their firmware and drivers on different schedules. There may also be inconsistencies when it comes to cybersecurity standards, which creates vulnerabilities that cyber criminals can exploit. Furthermore, managing all these components requires logging in and out of multiple system platforms. Moreover, with so many vendors in the mix, who do they call when something goes wrong?
Integration vs. Unification
But if an integrated security solution isn’t the best choice, what other option does the company have? The answer for many organizations is to adopt a unified platform solution instead. Because the platform is built on open standards architecture, unlike a proprietary system it can support multiple vendors’ hardware and software.
Unlike an integrated system, there is only one user interface needed to program and administer the entire solution – from access control and video surveillance to intercoms, audio, credentialing and more. By employing a single log-in pane, a unified security solution makes it easier for the security team to do maintenance, system health monitoring and other operations across the whole ecosystem.
Equally important, unlike in an integrated system, in a unified solution there’s only one vendor to call for support, warranties and merchandise returns. When a problem arises, there’s no confusion or runaround about which vendor to call. Nor is there a long wait for resolution while the case is handed off from one ecosystem partner to another. A single vendor takes charge of resolving the entire service ticket.
There are financial benefits to adopting a unified security solution as well. Foremost is the significant reduction in licensing requirements. Typically, a unified solution vendor doesn’t charge additional fees to integrate video and access control systems or require recurring software service agreements for each system.
Whether you are looking to unify access control with a video management solution, or seamlessly integrate intercoms, audio, and analytics into your security mix, there are always a few things to watch out for when choosing a unified platform solution.
Verify integration and support. Not all unified platforms are created equal. It is important to confirm that the platform supports the devices and software you intend to deploy in your security solution. Can you directly link access control events with video surveillance footage to visually verify who is walking through the door and when? Is there a close relationship between vendors and their development teams to ensure new firmware releases don’t negatively impact the operation of other devices in your security solution? Does the technical support team have the deep knowledge necessary to help you keep your various components working well with one another?
Avoid being pigeonholed. When choosing a unified security solution, it is important to think long-term. What happens when you need to add more cameras and/or door controllers and you have maxed out the number of devices your platform can support? What is your growth path? How much of your original hardware investment can you migrate to a bigger platform? You shouldn’t have to rip and replace all your components when you move to a larger unified platform. You should be able to take most of that investment with you. Make sure your future unified platform provider continues to support your older access control hardware and video cameras as they age, even as you add newer, more advanced devices to your solution.
Share benefits across departments. Think more broadly. A unified security solution can also serve as a platform for other departments, supplying an uncomplicated way to manage and support their multiple systems. In addition to using the convenience of a single pane user interface, the open standards architecture makes it easy for other departments to incorporate new features into the ecosystem.
For instance, your facilities management can integrate wireless door locks into access control systems in locations where hardwiring is not feasible. Your public safety department could integrate people counting analytics or tailgating detection to minimize overcrowding or flagrant security violations. A unified security solution can also lessen the burden on a company’s IT department because applications like Active Directory and general hardware and software maintenance can be done remotely through the same single pane.
Expand credentialing options. While fobs and PIN codes continue to have their place in access control, a unified security solution should also give you the flexibility to incorporate next-generation, open standards credentials without having to go back and forth between platforms. Through the one user interface you should be able to easily link smart, mobile credentialing usage – such as Bluetooth apps on phones, QR codes, license plates, etc. – with relevant video streams to verify user identities in real-time or during investigations.
Standardize cybersecurity measures. Consider the whole security solution ecosystem. A unified security solution is not just about technology. It’s also about the relationships among partners. It is about maintaining the same cybersecurity standards across all devices and software to prevent compromising the security of the entire ecosystem. In a unified security solution, the primary vendor collaborates closely with partners to ensure that security patches are issued promptly, that one partner’s patches do not negate functionality in other parts of the ecosystem, and that other cybersecurity measures are undertaken as needed to protect the ecosystem.
Furthermore, a unified user interface should make it possible to push out patches, firmware revisions, and new cybersecurity updates to multiple devices simultaneously which helps to ensure prompt adherence to the most current cybersecurity standards.
Is an Open, Unified Security Solution the Right Path for You?
While a unified security solution isn’t for everyone, there are decided advantages to migrating access control, video surveillance and other security technology onto a single open standards platform. You get the flexibility to choose the hardware, software, and credentialing tools that best meet your needs. While the same could be said for an integrated solution, the experience is far more cumbersome when it comes to user interfaces, system operations, updating firmware and software, maintenance and support.
In a unified security solution, integration is much more streamlined. Instead of jumping from one system platform to another to manage your ecosystem, you can access all your security systems through a single pane. In addition to being easier to operate, a unified security solution provides you with a single point of contact for support – someone who takes responsibility for seeing that certifications are met, that version releases and patches from product partners don’t disrupt functions between systems – all the while helping you maintain the highest level of cybersecurity for your ecosystem.
This article originally appeared in the May / June 2023 issue of Security Today.