Managed Access Control (Part 2 of 3)

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Welcome to Part 2 of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION‘s three-part series, “How to Grow RMR With Managed Access Control.” Brought to you by Honeywell Access Systems, this material has been designed to educate security dealers and systems integrators all about managed access control (MAC) technology and how to leverage it to build recurring monthly revenue (RMR).

Part 1 served as an introduction to MAC and compared it to the more traditional site-managed access control model. It also explored the rationale for why both customer and dealer would consider MAC and reviewed potential applications. Read it here.

Part 2 takes it all a step further by explaining the implementation of MAC in the form of infrastructure (both hardware and software). We’ll also discuss Internet connectivity requirements, staffing needs and the roles required to support a MAC service.

Initial Investment Is Minimal

First, a quick review of the benefits MAC offers the customer and what the security dealer or systems integrator needs to do, at a minimum, to ensure deliverability of these benefits.

While MAC promises to remove the overall operational burden of traditional, site-managed access control from the customer and the task of supporting multiple access control systems (ACS) from the dealer, these issues don’t just disappear. Rather, they are “compressed” into a single point of operation. The customer no longer maintains the hardware, operating systems and ACS software. Instead, in exchange for a monthly service fee, the dealer takes on the responsibility.

Again, the advantage to the dealer is a cost savings from reducing the number of systems in the field to a single, robust MAC server. While the customer no longer worries about maintaining trained staff to perform daily system operation tasks and non-routine maintenance, the dealer must provide personnel to perform these functions. The advantage lies in the dealer’s ability to have staff perform these functions for multiple customers from a single point of control in a much more cost-effective manner, thus creating a profit center based on RMR (while reducing service calls as remote administration provides more immediate service for customers).

At first glance, the dealer may envision a large, sophisticated operation center, much like a UL-Listed central station, along with the business complexity and expense normally associated with such an operation. This is not the case. Remember how access control systems usually start out fairly small with a limited number of access points and grow, over time, through additions and upgrades. This will also be true of MAC. Day One will not normally see the addition of 100 or more client systems.

For this reason, the dealer can usually begin a MAC service rollout with resources, such as onsite technicians and support staff, already in place. As the revenue grows in concert with the customer list, upgrades in computer hardware and Internet bandwidth along with increases in support staff will be financially supported by continued growth.

It is then very important to remember another basic rule of the ACS business: ACS hardware and software solutions chosen for a MAC service should be “scalable” in nature. This simply means that as the number of access points and credential holders grow, the ACS software should not require complete replacement. Instead, upsizing should simply be a matter of increasing capacity through license upgrades and increased RMR.

MAC Server and Software Needs

The core of a MAC center will be the computer head-end. This computer should have plenty of processing power and the ability to quickly upgrade hard drive storage capacity with minimal system downtime. Although not a strict requirement, a “server-class” machine will certainly meet almost any anticipated growth during the lifecycle of the typical computer platform. A professional or server-class operating system will also be a good investment.

As the customer base grows, it will eventually make sense to split the ACS software processing function, database management (DBMS) application, field device communications and Web-based interface portal access across two or more task-oriented computers. Having one or more backup computers ready to slip into place or set up for automatic failover in case of a primary failure will provide the reliability the customer will expect from their MAC service provider. However, most access control systems will still run independently of the remote management system.

This should not bring to mind a room filled with PCs, monitors and keyboards. With small footprint rack-mount servers and storage devices along with keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) switches, all of this can easily be installed in a remote and secure location within the dealer’s office.

Although the customer no longer worries about backing up essential data, this responsibility now lies squarely on the dealer’s shoulders. The dealer should take advantage of widely available and inexpensive backup solutions including redundant arrays of inexpensive/independent disks (RAID), disk imaging software and/or automated offsite back-ups of critical data over the Internet.

Choosing an appropriate ACS software solution for the core of the MAC service is also critical. While several applications exist, it is important to select one that is strong in two important features: database partitioning and operator logon/activity tracking.

True database and device partitioning separates access points, security levels, time codes, and credential holders, as well as all the other logical and physical elements of a typical ACS into partitioned areas within a single ACS software database. Obviously, the customer accessing their own system through a Web portal should not even see, let alone have access to, the data and devices of another customer.

The dealer will be held accountable to the customer for the security integrity of their ACS. All access to customer data and device control (i.e. locking/unlocking doors, assigning security levels, etc.) should be managed through a reliable operator login process that also tracks activities of both the dealer’s personnel and the activities performed through the Web portal by the customer’s staff. Hand in hand with this feature should go the ability to flexibly control exactly which functions may be performed by specific operators (based on their role) once they have logged into the ACS software.

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