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Common Mistakes in Security Design

Silva Consultants has designed hundreds of integrated electronic security systems. While we always strive for perfection, we would be less than honest if we said that mistakes have never been made. Here is a list of some common mistakes in security system design that we have seen during more than thirty-five years that we have been in business. Hopefully, you can avoid making these mistakes in the systems that you design:


#1 - Security System Designed In Response To Recent Crisis


A recent crisis (such as a major theft or a death threat made on a manager) causes the client to overreact and to install a much more elaborate security system than previously existed at the facility. The system designed is "overkill" in relation to the client's long-term security requirements. Once senior management's memory of the recent security incident begins to fade, it becomes apparent that the security measures in place are excessive. Shortly thereafter, the company decides that the newly-installed security systems are more trouble than they are worth, and the company discontinues use of the systems.


#2 - Security System Designed Without Supporting Human Resources In Place


This most commonly occurs on new construction projects. A sophisticated integrated security system is designed for a new facility. The security system requires 24 hour a day monitoring at the control room, one or more roving security officers to respond to alarms, and one or more administrative level employees to manage the system and to issue access cards. The problem? The company has not budgeted for the people who will be required to operate and manage the new security systems. Senior management is trying to reduce head count, not increase it. The company moves into the facility, and responsibility for the new security systems is assigned to someone who does not have the resources to properly operate them. The company soon becomes dissatisfied with the security systems and stops using them in the way that they were designed.


#3 - Security Systems Designed With Too Little Capacity


Security systems are designed with just enough capacity to handle current needs. The facility has 62 card readers, so an access control system with a 64 card reader capacity was selected. The initial requirements called for the installation of 30 cameras, therefore a network video recorder with a capacity for 32 cameras was chosen. Shortly after the facility opens, there is a need to install ten additional cameras and six additional card readers. There is no money available to replace the head-end access control and video surveillance equipment, so a make-shift arrangement of duplicate equipment is installed. Operation of the systems is complicated and confusing.


#4 - Security Systems Designed With Too Much Capacity


An access control system is designed for the headquarters of a major corporation. There is an immediate need for 28 card readers at the corporate headquarters building. The security manager thinks that "someday in the future" he may want the corporate headquarters system to also control card readers at the company's 120 branch offices, although there are no current plans or funding to do so. Instead of using a medium-sized system that meets present needs and costs $7,000, the security manager specifies a top-of-the-line "enterprise" security management system with a capacity for 1024 card readers and 32 client workstations. The specified system costs over $90,000 to install, and is much more complicated than the present facility needs. Ongoing costs for software support and upgrades are also much higher than necessary. One year later, the manufacturer of the system announces that they are discontinuing support of this "legacy" product in favor of their new software platform. The system is never expanded beyond its initial capacity, and is eventually replaced with a smaller, much less expensive system.


#5 - Security Systems Too Complicated For User


A sophisticated electronic security system is designed and installed. The system integrates CCTV, intercom, access control, and alarm monitoring. The consultant has specified an elaborate sequence of events that will occur anytime that an alarm takes place. Unfortunately, the user of the system (a non-technical person), never fully grasps the consultant's intentions. As a result, much of the security equipment that has been installed is underutilized, and the user often asks: "I wonder what the purpose of this equipment is?".


#6 - Security System Designed Too Specifically Around One Person


In most cases, a security manager will have his or her own ideas about the way a security system should be designed. In some cases, a security system will be designed that is highly-customized according to the wishes of one individual. This system design may not meet the needs of the organization as a whole. When this person leaves, the people assuming responsibility for the security systems may not understand or appreciate the way that the security systems were designed. As a result, the systems often fall into disuse when the person who originally conceived them leaves the company.


The Conclusion


There is no substitute for a comprehensive evaluation of the company's long-term security objectives before beginning the design of any security system. A clear statement of what the security systems are intended to accomplish should be written and approved by the management team before any design activity begins. System design should be based on the long-term needs of the company and not in response to any immediate crisis or the whims of any individual. Security systems have an initial cost as well as ongoing operating and maintenance costs. Senior management must fully understand all costs involved before approving the start of any security systems project.

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Silva Consultants is an independent security consulting firm and does not sell security equipment or products

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