IT and Security: Sharing the Sandbox

Much is being written about IP video and network video recorders (NVRs), not the least of which includes configuration, advantages, performance and features. If you are sold on the concept and are thinking about deploying NVRs at your facility, there may be one final hurdle you’ll need to overcome.

One of the primary advantages of an NVR-based system is that it uses existing infrastructure, open standards and is very familiar to the IT folks. Unfortunately, that familiarity means they will have an opinion as to how and where you should deploy the system, and what restrictions will be imposed. In other words, you are not alone in the sandbox any more.


The IT-security junction is making headlines in trade publications every day. Network giant Cisco’s purchase of security startup SyPixx Networks in March sounded a wake-up call for many, and smaller manufacturers looking to break into the U.S. market are aggressively courting nontraditional manufacturers’ reps and dealers in an effort to get your attention.


There is no question that the technical skills required to install, configure and maintain a video surveillance system are becoming more and more similar to those required for computer networks. In fact, we often tell clients that a large NVR application is a mirror image of an IT network.


An NVR is essentially a server, storing data for later retrieval by workstations. While a traditional production network generally has many clients and few servers, a digital video network is exactly the opposite, with few clients and many servers. In fact, we’ve seen some integrators with more network-certified technicians than the IT integrators on some projects.


Unfortunately, the opposite is also the case with integrators reluctant to spend the time learning the networking skills that are becoming so important as this trend progresses.

Core Differences Mark Separation
While the technical skills may be converging, there still seems to be a disconnect between the IT and security departments in organizations that differentiate the two. This is generally attributed to three reasons:


Personality — Many security departments are headed by people with law enforcement backgrounds. Their experience has often taught them to be suspicious of technology and not to rush in … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. IT folks are more reliant on technology, where today’s hardware costs less and does far more than yesterday’s. This is often seen as either a resistance to change or a rush to explore unproven technologies, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.


Priorities — Security folks tend to value reliability above all else. While IT folks heartily endorse that philosophy, they are looking at a bigger picture. They’ve been told to maintain the network, while security staffers care more about the cameras. If a camera is adversely affecting network throughput, “too bad” says security. IT won’t put up with that for long without pulling the plug on the camera.


Reliability — There is a contradiction to the previous matter when it comes to data storage. IT has been taught that retention of data is paramount. Every bit of data is precious and, therefore, needs to be stored as reliably as possible with attention to redundancy and back-up. While security values their data, they often look at the cost of such redundancies and weigh it against the fact that they’ll be discarding almost everything they record.


The nontechnical skills are important as well. The law enforcement background has given the security director a good perspective on where to plug vulnerabilities. He or she knows where cameras are effective, where lighting will be more effective, and when low-tech solutions will function best. IT lacks this breadth of experience and must rely on others for practical security functions.


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