Risk Management: What Keeps You Up at Night? Part 2

PSIM Introduction
Situational Awareness

Previously I talked about the unintended risks of managing security systems and technologies. While that is a serious responsibility, there are solutions that can help reduce that anxiety. Now we start getting to the meat of this blog. How you identify and delegate these responsibilities is a separate discussion for another time.

Nearly all security systems have a means to monitor the health of their critical resources and connected devices. From properly installed end-of-Line resistors and video loss detection, to server services and network connectivity, your systems should be installed and configured to detect and report all faults. Fully supervised systems also provide the ability to ensure that operators are monitoring and responding to critical system events. It is crucial to make sure that all the built-in supervisory services are being utilized to help mitigate the risk of inoperable components or processes, by notifying the appropriate personnel when there are failures. While most integrators set up the common capabilities, there are usually many other aspects that get missed. A systems audit by a 3rd party service is recommended to ensure effective operations and fault monitoring, even if you have in-house staff to manage those responsibilities.

If you are concerned about the end-to-end health of your systems, you start to realize that there are components and functionality that cannot be monitored through the internal supervision of your security systems. Take electric locks as an example. The Physical Access Control System (PACS) doesn’t have a means to monitor the condition of those devices. We can use events such as “Valid Access No Entry” or latch sensors to possibly monitor that situation, but those are not always effective fault indications. Additionally, there are can be circumstances where the system itself has a fault or is not able to detect the failure. I have seen events where a DVR created an internal video stream loop and did not trigger a video loss event. When video was needed to review an event, all that was available was a 20 second clip from an earlier date played over and over. Yes, we still need to configure these features, but sometimes we need additional help. This is where the fun begins.

The solutions I will be talking about go beyond the basic supervisory capabilities each system can provide on its own. We now have secondary solutions available to identify device outages and sometimes identify trouble before the outage occurs. My definition of a superior support program is when the end user does not even know it exists. When we can get to the point that we identify and resolve potential issues before they fail, risk and anxiety will decrease, while ROI will dramatically increase along with client satisfaction.

Let’s start by looking at power supplies. There are now power supply systems that provide their own monitoring services and can report when a lock output deviates from its expected voltage or current range. This capability not only helps you know when an electrified locking device fails but may also provide indication before it fails. These power supplies also monitor all their own health aspects and notify support personnel of service events such as battery replacement and inspection schedules. Many PACS are incorporating these power supplies into their own systems to augment their supervisory capabilities and provide unified enclosure panels. The same principles are also applied in power supplies for CCTV, Fire and other security systems.

One of the newest and most promising solutions for enterprise systems monitoring, are those that provide in-depth supervision of network attached devices. These systems provide separate monitoring of multiple criteria that are relevant to the health and operation of each device, presenting information on a dashboard and sending notifications to support staff when thresholds are exceeded. In the example I provided of a video recording failed due to an internal DVR video loop, the camera bandwidth sensor would have alerted that it was below the normal expected streaming bandwidth. Other sensors for IP devices include, HTTP status, processor status, CPU load, temperature, voltages, uptime and many other conditions depending on the device. While there are common IT systems that monitor servers, network gear and infrastructure conditions, they do not handle device monitoring as well. The security device monitoring systems can provide the infrastructure services as well, or just monitor security systems and devices.

Another tool available to network-based security device management is that of network PoE switches that provide monitoring and control capabilities for attached devices. These switches can provide reports that show operating conditions, diagrams of network architecture, connected device inventory and other valuable system information. When network devices become inoperable or problematic, support staff can cycle the power to that network port remotely, effectively resetting the device to see if that resolves the issue. Additionally, some switches can be configured to automatically cycle power on a port when it detects predetermined bandwidth conditions. If this happens too frequently, it will notify the support staff.

These are just a few examples of great tools to help augment security systems management. The primary objective of developing these capabilities is to reduce risks from system and device outages. The quicker we can identify and correct faults, the less likely a critical event will be further compromised by systems and resource outages.

We are not done yet. In the next blog, I’ll start talking about the benefits of a Security Systems Management Platform. I believe this is the future of Enterprise Security Risk Management.

Stay tuned…

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