Everybody Loves a Showoff: Showcase Your Security System

I work with a lot of extremely high-profile clients with systems that they are rightfully proud of. They do important things with them: improve workflow; protect their companies’ assets; help keep employees, clients and guests safe and secure; and even catch a few bad guys along the way. They’ve worked very hard to master the skills involved in electronic security, and their partners – consultants, integrators and manufacturers – have been right there with them, sharing the pain and making sure everything works as promised.

All of that hard work shows, and many security end users are asked to give tours, allow photos and otherwise promote the security awareness of their organizations. For many, the natural inclination is to say no, but are you being paranoid? Then again, a little paranoia in the security business may not be such a bad thing.

Success Is in the Details

Showing off your system properly is always a good thing, but it should be planned from the beginning and carefully controlled. Most people will respect any reasonable restrictions you put in place, and having a showcase pays off in ways that aren’t always obvious.

Knowing up front that this will be a showcase system almost always improves the quality of the initial installation. Integrators will harness the cables more neatly, label things more carefully and go the next mile if they know it will be shown to potential customers.
Manufacturers support a showcase project as well, often lending additional support and ensuring cosmetic finishing touches aren’t ignored. Everyone will go the extra mile to keep the end user happy, knowing you’re willing to be a reference account.

So what makes a system show well? Surprisingly, people seem to be as awed by the back of the rack as they are with the equipment. Well-dressed cables – neatly numbered and color coded for signal flow – are always impressive. People look for equipment that is clearly marked and installed uniformly, and power cords that are either coiled neatly out of the way or cut to length with new ends attached. A service light in each rack can also illuminate the equipment during a system tour. The thought is often that companies that pay attention to unseen details must really be on top of the important things.

On the other side of the rack, look for blank fill panels covering any spaces left open for ventilation or expansion. Black faceplates should have black screws, while silver faceplates get silver ones – and all screws get nylon washers to keep the equipment from getting scratches on the faceplates. It’s the finishing touches that make a system show well, and, coincidentally, these are the very same factors that improve reliability and make a system easier to service.

Pictures Not Worth 1,000 Headaches

You may want to limit photo opportunities to ensure pictures don’t show something that would be inappropriate to be distributed. Provide your own photos if possible, and take care that the images on a monitor are never recognizable. People are often sensitive about having their pictures taken and permission to monitor employees via CCTV cameras while they are working is not the same as permission to distribute their pictures to visitors. Make sure your operators are in favor of the idea of having their pictures taken as well. In fact, you may want to consider posing for photos yourself for the publicity.

When describing your system to people, avoid statistics that might compromise security. For example, it is OK to tell people how many miles of cable are in your system, the number of connectors used, man-hours required to build the system, hard-drive capacity for digital storage and even the number of cameras and monitors. But try to stay away from topics like the number of operators on a shift, your quietest and busiest times, or where you have specific camera coverage.

Cleanliness Is Imperative

By showing off your system, your technicians and operators are honor-bound to keep things neat and clean. System add-ons and changes are more often kept neat and organized because other people will be seeing and judging the quality of their workmanship. Some find that by not publicizing the times that people will be visiting helps keep the place clean and appearances appropriate, and maintain professionalism at high levels.

It also helps to have a theme when discussing your system. Tim Bohr, surveillance director at the Foxwoods Casino Resort in Connecticut, sums it up simply and concisely: “Our goal is to protect the safety of our guests, the integrity of our employees and our tribal assets.” When allowing people to look at his systems, the steps he takes to achie

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