Bringing virtualization into the access control conversation

Virtualization in Access ControlCost efficient, powerful and effective, virtualization has become a well-used tool in today’s tech-savvy world. As demand for computing increases, so has the need to make maximum use of physical servers by creating virtual machines within them.

Most servers are idle for a good amount of time, so it only makes sense to deploy virtualization to make the best use of what is already in play.

Of course, not every user has the same needs and expectations. And so it’s important to understand virtualization and its opportunities and limitations for a particular security scenario.

Think about your individual situation as it applies to virtualization and a key security need such as access control. Where do you fit in?

A small operator, such as a convenience store with a few doors to control is looking for virtualization on a whole different level than a government-run operation that requires a high-degree of reliability — to the level of 99.999 percent.

In the first scenario, the end user may be OK with some degree of downtime. Servers running virtual machines will fail and restart and in the process lose some, but far from all, data. That high availability may be good enough for some access control requirements.

But others, large corporations or governmental enterprises as an example, are looking for virtualization that is fault tolerant, meaning that in the event of a system failure, there are duplicate components in play that will keep processing on the same CPU clock so that no amount of data is lost. They can’t afford to have doors that won’t open — or close — or present opportunities for cardholder information to be compromised.

Also part of the decision-making process when it comes to virtualization is the level of expertise you have and the degree to which you want to own the oversight of the system.

The mom-and-pop store operator who wants to partake in a virtualized access control environment may not have the expertise to do this on his own. Fortunately, there are solutions involving access control products and virtualization providers that can be deployed as a “black box” for virtualization without the need of an expert.

In contrast, companies with highly skilled IT departments that require virtualization can customize the solution to fit their needs. Those firms have the flexibility to implement a range of solutions from black box simplicity to high complexity and high cost.

While the computing world has certainly seen its share of fads, virtualization isn’t one of them. In fact, it is the gateway to cloud computing and when used properly can be a critical factor in your access control solution.

To learn if a virtual environment is right for your security needs, watch my recorded webinar on Virtualization in Access Control, held in conjunction with Stratus Technologies.

Webinar recording u002D Virtualization in Access Control

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Source: Tyco Blog

Leaving the Door Open: Different Door Controller Choices for Access Control

Decisions, decisions. We make them every day – some are fairly mundane, like what to eat for breakfast, and some are pretty significant like which financial investments to make.

Within a physical access control system, the decision to grant or deny access to a cardholder normally happens at the door controller located at the individual door or centralized with one controller handling multiple doors. The controller handles the authorization process, determining who has access to a particular door and if they can enter, or sometimes exit, an area.

Deciding which system architecture is right for a particular installation means closely examining the pluses and minuses of each of these scenarios and settling on the one that makes the most business and security sense for an organization. The good news is that with today’s technology, you can select a system that plays to the strengths of your specific situation.

Sometimes the decision is determined by the configuration of your building. Will the system be installed in a building occupied by a single corporate office, or in a building that houses office suites? Is it planned for a public space, or a private space?

Access Control Door ControllersFor example, deploying individual controllers at each door location means that technicians will need easy access to service and maintain each one. Does the physical set up or aesthetics require the controllers to be placed under ceiling tiles? While certainly doable, you may have to reroute people to different access points while the controller in the ceiling is being serviced. This may be a small inconvenience, but it is sometimes an important consideration for hospitals and healthcare facilities, where ceiling disruptions require the area to be cordoned off for a period of time.

Think as well about how much your system will grow, and in what ways. Will you need to customize specific doors because of the type of area you’re protecting, or are you anticipating wholesale expansion that could bring dozens of doors online? Do you have clusters of access control doors located in close proximity to each other, or are they spread out?

An IP reader at the door, which bypasses the need for a control panel altogether, can provide easy installation and quick access to database information. The only caveat is that information and wiring located on the unsecure side of the door is prone to tampering, vandalism and hacking.

Another option is to locate the decision-making power at the server, which can be viewed as a more efficient choice. However, since each real-time access decision is taking place over the network, this option is inherently less reliable.  If the network goes down, or the server goes down, so do all of your doors.

There is also the option these days of centralizing system management in the cloud. While this set up can work well for reporting and processing activities, putting the real time card access go / no-go decision making power in the cloud isn’t widely embraced yet.

The key is to look closely at what you want to achieve with your access control system, its size and potential for growth and then select a configuration of single or multi-door controllers that best meets the overall needs and security considerations of the business. It’s not a matter of right or wrong choices, but rather having the luxury of customizing your access control scheme.


Which type of system architecture have you deployed and why was that the right choice for your project?

Source: Tyco Blog

Security’s New Spin on the User Experience

Security User ExperienceWe can update our Facebook status, find a ride, and make a dinner reservation through a few swipes on a smartphone, so why not apply that same intuitive user experience to security systems?

While the adoption of the latest technology has forged ahead on a consumer level, it has lagged a bit in some areas of business, such as managing physical security. But the continuing shift toward mobile applications and cloud-based systems has as much a place in the security world as it does with managing our day-to-day lives.

When we look at the spectrum of solutions offered for managing security, there are definite benefits in moving away from traditional models and introducing user experiences that employ the latest technological advances.

Consider, for example, the act of removing someone from the access control system when they quit or are fired. If they carried an ID badge, or were granted access to one or more buildings or rooms within those buildings, they may show up in several databases. To correct that, staff resources would need to be spent finding and removing that person from multiple systems under most existing systems.

But under the latest scenarios, it is possible to bring all those databases together on a single platform. So rather than taking multiple steps — logging in and out of various databases to make changes — now one person can do it all in a single step, ensuring that the ex-employee’s access privileges to doors, phones, computers and the like are all canceled simultaneously.

Along that same vein, another change in the user experience is just who is performing that maintenance. Again, the traditional approach is for companies to maintain their own systems, adding and deleting names and only calling upon their security integrators when the system crashes and all the data is lost. Today, however, more companies are opting to go with hosted or managed solutions that put system management in the hands of a third party, either completely or partially. The advantages of this approach include less burden on the IT department and more continuity with databases and their maintenance.

Of course, a discussion of the evolving user experience wouldn’t be complete without looking at the growing role of mobile applications. Not only do these apps move us away from reliance on desktops, but they also allow end users to take action quickly and efficiently, enabling them to respond to emergencies on the fly. So not only can a business owner unlock a door for an employee who forgot their key, but a school administrator can lockdown the building when alerted of a potential threat to the facility.

We all want convenience in our lives and now, through the latest developments in the marketplace, we can have that same easy usability and portability with our security systems as well.

Want to learn more, then watch my recorded webinar where I discussed the importance of the user experience in security and latest technologies in the market that are driving a new type of security – one that is all about usability, portability, and convenience.

Webinar Recording u002D Making the User Experience the Main Feature

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What would you like to see added to simplify the Security User Experience? Please leave me a Comment below with your ideas.


Source: Tyco Blog

Making POS data work for you

One clear benefit of living in our electronic age is the amount of information businesses are privy to on a daily basis. For those looking to determine the whos, whens, whys and wherefores of what is occurring in their retail space, they have only to look to their POS (Point of Sale) systems to come up with a huge array of information.

But the flipside of having all this information, of course, is making it into something that is usable and actionable. A retailer can run dozens of reports, but even a reduction of thousands of transactions to hundreds in a single report are not actionable and may be of little use.

POS dataThe integration of POS data and systems with surveillance and video recording has moved retailers one step closer to putting the data to work for them. Now, when there is an incident that raises a red flag, the retailer can go to the video and check out that specific transaction.

But that still requires the retailer to determine that something is amiss and search through the appropriate video files until he finds that particular transaction.

However, by employing analytics to the long list of transactions, the business owner or his loss prevention person is freed from doing a lot of the investigative work on his own. Analytics allows him to drill down, making both the POS data and the video more usable.

By telling the system what he is looking for — for example, filtering the reports with hundreds of exceptions to show only the one with no customer present — he is able to narrow the information to an actionable list of transactions and collect video with each transaction. Among the 100 merchandise returns on that given day, ten are highlighted as having no customer present; now the retailer can focus on those cashiers and see why this is occurring.

And what about all those reports he is able to run? Is there a way to link video to them so the information is more manageable?

Exception reporting is a tool used by loss prevention specialists to compare current POS data with historical standards, looking for anomalies along the way that could be the indicators of fraud or loss.

While the data from these reports is certainly important, when tied in with video, it becomes even more valuable. Now as each item on the exception report comes up, so does the video that adds visual evidence to that specific exception. And the viewer can easily discard incidents that don’t show suspicious or illegal behavior from his list, and focus instead on those few exceptions that may be linked with actionable activities.

For the loss prevention professional charged with creating and acting on exception reports, this makes the job easier, faster and more effective.

The data in the reports can also be presented as a graph, making the information more understandable and easily consumable to a store operator looking for anomalies that he can tie to video for further explanation. Beyond security, the user can also overlay these graphs with historical performance data or with data from other stores so he can observe trends in his business operations.

The goal with all of this data is to make information that was once static and complex, pertinent and easily discernable through the use of analytics and video.


Does your organization already use analytics as part of your loss prevention program? If so, please leave us a comment below.

Full Speed Ahead on PSIM Solutions for Port Security

A backbone in international commerce, ports provide their own unique security challenges, with threats coming from land and air as well as on and below the water.

PSIM Solutions Port SecurityPorts also house a wide variety of governmental and private commercial enterprises, spread out over a huge land and water mass. As a result, there are likely more than a dozen different systems —radar, sonar, security, fire and more — in action at any given time involving local law enforcement, Coast Guard, private security and other agencies, making the need for proper communication among system users crucial when an incident occurs.

So how can all these agencies best coordinate their communications so when an event does occur it can be responded to, recorded and reported on in the most efficient and accurate fashion?
Physical security information management (PSIM) has been employed in situations such as these so ports can be more proactive, rather than reactive, when addressing a particular threat or action.

Consider, for example, how a port could react using a PSIM solution when a fast-moving vessel is detected on radar. The alarm sounds as the vessel reaches a certain speed and sends an alarm notification to the PSIM system. The system operator, in turn, is alerted by the alarm and gets all of the details on a detailed map, but can also access information via video, if it is available. Along with the information is a pre-determined list of instructions on how the operator should react: Who to call, what actions to take, etc., in order of how they should be done.

There is still room for the operator to make his or her own assessment, such as dispatching the Coast Guard, but the information is also passed on to a dispatch group for further action. All the notes are recorded and updated as further actions occur and are available for an after-incident report, which can also include any video related to the event.

Similar scenarios can be set up for incidents that occur on land, such as a fire in one of the commercial warehouses at the port. The smoke detector or fire alarm triggers an alert, along with video at the location so the operator can verify that a fire is indeed in progress. If so, he or she is provided with instructions specific to that building and its contents, including which agencies to dispatch.

The advantage here of PSIM is that it is able to bring together disparate systems to a single operations center for an integrated response. Depending on the situation, it can be handled automatically, through a series of instructions, or manually, with the operator making decisions based on what he or she is finding out via alarms, video and other systems. But operators don’t need to train on a dozen or more systems — instead, they learn one that allows them to manage the entire port.

PSIM solutions also take care of storing all the information as it occurs, so the operator isn’t leaving out information when it comes time to prepare a report. In the heat of action, it’s easy to forget a step or two; but the PSIM solution will record the data and make the reporting function not only more accurate but also quicker.

Now a process that used to take days can be handled in a matter of minutes by using a PSIM solution. Additionally, the reports can give insight into incident management that could influence when, where and how to staff the port in the future.

In the end, it’s all about developing a methodology for responding faster and more intelligently and coming away with information that can be useful now and for planning in the future. For ports, that translates into smooth sailing.

Please leave any questions or comments about PSIM in the comments section below. 


Source: Tyco Blog