How Blank Rome’s Access Control Changeover Was Built in (a Little More Than) a Day

Find out how The Protection Bureau swiftly and seamlessly migrated law firm Blank Rome to a new multisite solution.

ONE of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of electronic security for integrators and end users alike is when a proprietary legacy device or system is no longer supported.

This culprit can be obsolescence over an extended period of time or significant manufacturer changes, such as a strategic shift, selling or consolidating, or shuttering operations altogether.

Whatever the circumstances, the net result can be alarming for those counting on that device/system to secure their facility, people and assets – particularly in large-scale deployments. It can also be a pressure-packed scenario for those tasked with delivering a viable, timely and cost-effective alternative. By the same token, it can be a golden opportunity for solution-oriented integrators and equipment suppliers to shine.

Take the prestigious law firm Blank Rome, for instance. When management of the 70-year-old company learned the current access control system was nearing obsolescence, Director of Information Security Robert Weaver was faced with a daunting decision. Should they continue forward with the existing system – Casi Rusco’s Facility Commander Wnx – where getting replacement parts could become expensive and difficult to source, or should they consider a new alternative?

“Our facility access control system was approaching end of life. Before parts began to become scarce, we decided to move to a long-term solution, but needed to keep costs reasonable,” says Weaver. “Many selections we could have made would have involved a full rip-out and replacement of readers, cables, cards and panels, and that would have gotten expensive fast. So we went with an alternative that allowed us to transition to a modern software solution while supporting our existing cards, hardware and cabling.”

With its 13 locations nationwide and an office in Shanghai, serving roughly 600 attorneys in total, Blank Rome sought a centralized enterprise system to limit access throughout its offices and protect its physical assets. Remote monitoring and identity management were also critical requirements for the system.

Those parameters would be a tall enough order for most security systems integrators to fulfill. But Exton, Pa.-headquartered The Protection Bureau additionally proved its mettle by performing the upgrade migration seamlessly so as to remain invisible to the client’s employees and cause no operational interruptions.

Read on to find out how the integrator pulled it off.

2 Decades of Service

Having forged an extended relationship – more aptly partnership – with the integrator, it was a natural for Blank Rome’s stakeholders to look to The Protection Bureau for an answer to its access control quandary.

“We’ve been Blank Rome’s partner for over 20 years,” says The Protection Bureau Account Executive Jim Lafferty. “We have a strong local presence where Blank Rome is headquartered [in Philadelphia] and we managed the entire job in all locations with a combination of onsite visits, providing remote support and utilizing local installation partners.”

The Protection Bureau President Matthew Ladd.

Founded in 1975 by Security Sales & Integration Industry Hall of Famer Keith Ladd and Mary Ladd (now run by the family’s second generation of J. Matthew Ladd and Karen Ladd Baker), The Protection Bureau is a full-service, soup-to-nuts security systems integrator serving the entire Mid-Atlantic region.

The multiple awards-winning firm is a UL-Listed fire alarm installation company and operates its own CSAA Five Diamond Certified central monitoring station from its Philadelphia metro-area base. Named an SSI Installer of the Year in 2009, the company services approximately 8,000 customers.

“We have always been proud of the fact that we are ‘Big enough to protect, small enough to care,'” says The Protection Bureau President Matthew Ladd. “Every year has been a significant one for us. Every year is a milestone since we gain invaluable experience in new technologies and procedures, which pushes us to strive to be even better the next year. The future always looks brighter and safer to us.”

Upgrade Consensus Reached

Among the assets Blank Rome was seeking to protect were case and customer files with the sensitive information the firm maintains for its clients, including large financial corporations. The integrator recommended the upgrade path, designed the rebuild and served as the sole source for the entire project.

Together, Weaver and Ladd reviewed the pros and cons of staying with the Facility Commander platform vs. upgrading the system and converting it over to AMAG Technology’s Symmetry SR Retrofit solution (controllers and software). The SR Series panels were designed to be an exact swap for the discontinued Casi panels so as to make the replacement process simple and nonintrusive.

The Protection Bureau was uniquely qualified to help determine the optimal path for the client. The company has more than 25 years’ experience designing and deploying products from the previous manufacturer and in excess of two decades’ experience working with AMAG, including involvement in the alpha phase of recent product development.

According to Weaver and Ladd, Symmetry offered an easy and affordable upgrade path that would permit Blank Rome to hold onto its existing hardware – saving thousands of dollars – and result in state-of-the-art access control that could expand as the company grew. Expandability was an important consideration as the end user is currently adding more offices.

“We worked with The Protection Bureau to identify an upgrade path that was going to be effective and cost-efficient, and provide us with the functionality that we were looking for,” says Weaver.

This was a complete conversion in that we converted a large database of approximately 1,000 cardholders across 10 locations worldwide, including Shanghai, China, with approximately 250 readers.– Kyle Petersen, The Protection Bureau

Mapping Out the Migration

Blank Rome’s centralized enterprise access system would be managed from one office and secure nine others, including the Shanghai location. The Symmetry SR Retrofit solution allowed the end user to use its existing card readers, cards, locks, request-to-exit devices and enclosures. The principal responsibility for The Protection Bureau was converting the database and changing out all the controllers.

“This was a complete conversion in that we converted a large database of approximately 1,000 cardholders across 10 locations worldwide, including Shanghai, China, with approximately 250 readers,” says The Protection Bureau Project Manager Kyle Petersen. “The nice advantage was we were able to reuse all the existing field wiring and components.”

The integrator and client worked closely throughout a lengthy preplanning phase to ensure project success. The conversion was to be done live, while the current system was running – no easy task. With a legacy system that had been in place since 1997, The Protection Bureau’s institutional familiarity and knowledge played a critical role in the process.

“Initially, of paramount need was the documentation of all areas and devices, the conversion of the database, the development of new IP addresses and overall scheduling with all of the customer’s sites,” says Lafferty. “Blank Rome was involved, but the majority of the planning and execution was done by The Protection Bureau, making the conversion comfortable for the customer.”

A conservative hardware timeframe was established, and The Protection Bureau was able to accelerate that dramatically once the integrator saw how quickly the panels were swapping out
. The Protection Bureau built a parallel system, installed the new software and approximately seven clients to prepare the environment prior to the migration.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at

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