The Wizardry Behind Command Center Curtains

When most people think about a command center, they conjure a centralized nerve center filled with ultra-modern electronic security and communications systems.

As digital video and increased hardware and software functionality have changed the landscape of electronic security, the heart of the system has evolved as well. It’s no longer about a single component, or even a single location. Modern systems often include multiple control points, with the traditional command center being just one of many ways to access data and respond to incidents.The true heart of the system today is often a vertical rack room that houses the equipment storing and serving up this data.

When designing the layout of the racks that will house portions of the system, you are in effect designing a data center. In fact, large digital CCTV systems are often larger than most data centers. As such, there is much to be learned from modern data center design, and quite a bit that differentiates security systems.

The unique challenges of designing these data centers and the multiple control options that can be utilized in modern system design include raised computer floors, heat and power considerations, cable management, and planning for expansion.

Raised Computer Floors Offer Benefits, and a Few Drawbacks
Because large data centers are continually upgraded and reconfigured, a raised access floor provides critical space and flexibility for cable routing and system technology changes. Security rack rooms are expanded in many cases, but not often completely reconfigured. As such, employing an access floor in these environments is worth considering although less of a design imperative.

Basically, if the security equipment is frequently relocated then raised flooring makes perfect sense. But if the equipment is confined to permanent racks there are alternatives to mull over. For instance, cable trays and chases, above or within the racks, can be far less costly than a raised floor and still allow critical flexibility.

While everyone likes the high-tech look of a raised computer floor, there are some disadvantages to it. First among them, strength. Access floors may be rated for the weight of a hundred elephants, but the intricacies of installing and leveling a raised computer floor can often cause it to become unstable over time. Therefore, proper maintenance and attention to problem areas as they develop is vital.

Another disadvantage is best summed up as “out of sight, out of mind.” Most people who have worked with these floors have a favorite story to tell, from the day they found the missing cup of coffee or box of doughnuts, to the critters they saw scurrying around. Wiring often gets abandoned, tangled and coated with all kinds of sludge, and troubleshooting a system can be a serious challenge.

Finally, the necessity to dissipate heat generated by equipment can be an issue:  utilizing a raised floor can mean less ceiling space. While it may not seem like much, an extra 12 to 18 inches of clearance from the top of the equipment rack to the ceiling can do wonders for climate control, and is an excellent use of the space if a raised floor isn’t essential.

Keep Equipment Tamperproof; Full Frame Racks Protect Best
Because security racks are often located within IT closets there is a need to ensure the equipment is tamper- resistant from unauthorized hands. Whether by accident or malicious intent, even the most secure system can be taken down from inside. Therefore, the ability to freely tinker with system settings or the power button should be removed as options.  Often a camera is installed in the closet to verify the integrity of the system. In the event of a system failure, any tampering can then be captured as evidence and pursued, accordingly.

To secure the equipment, make certain that full frame racks are used. These types provide four corner pillars with rack rails at the front and rear, as opposed to racks with a single inverted U-shape structure with a base. Full frame racks should be used for all but the lightest equipment. They are much stronger and can better distribute the weight of the equipment.

Also ensure that the rack is deep enough to fully enclose the equipment, as well as any connectors and cable extending from the rear apron of the enclosed equipment. Power and signal cables should be enclosed in rigid material until they are inside the rack, and locking front and rear doors should be provided.

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