Integrated security systems can provide a significant advantage in the modern building installation, as well as reducing costs, but what exactly is an integrated security system and how can it help in reducing costs?
Before we get into the benefits that integrated security systems provide, let’s first examine what a non-integrated and integrated security system look like.
Non-Integrated Security Systems
Traditionally, most buildings require three separate security disciplines:
- Access Control
- CCTV or Video Surveillance
- Intrusion Detection
These systems are usually three separate products, each of them may require their own servers, software, control equipment, cabling and sensors or field devices and operate independently.
Whilst these systems can and do provide effective levels of security, more and more end users these days require more interaction between systems.
For example – triggering the CCTV system to increase the frame rate of recording when an intrusion detection event occurs.
To achieve this integration may require complex interfaces between different systems that increase the maintenance and support overhead.
Software upgrades can also increase the risk of a particular function or interface ceasing to work when one the CCTV or Intrusion System has a new version of software installed.
What exactly is an integrated security system?
An integrated security system has a single piece of hardware and a single server and software application which is capable of performing multiple security functions.
If we take the example above, a system which can provide Access Control, Video Surveillance and Intrusion Detection on an integrated system would look something like the image below.
Because there is a single set of control equipment, single server and single software application and single set of cabling.
Installing the system reduces the total implementation cost by one third in comparison to deploying separate systems due to the reduction in equipment and cabling to be installed.
There is also a range of other benefits to an integrated system.
Reduction in Maintenance Effort and Costs.
Upgrading a non-integrated system is very time-consuming.
Firstly, the engineer has to upgrade three different server applications (one for access control, one for video surveillance and one for intrusion).
After the server software has been upgraded, the engineer then needs to visit each workstation that has client software installed on it and upgrade that software too.
With an integrated system, the engineer simply needs to upgrade a single server application, and then upgrade the workstations running the client software.
Some integrated systems also deliver the user interface via web-browser and therefore it is simply a case of upgrading the server software.
Where systems from multiple manufacturers are required to interact with each other, the risk to the main contractor increases.
More time is required to ensure that the individual systems are able to be integrated and operate in the desired manner.
This should be subject to a factory acceptance test to ensure that any issues are identified before the equipment is purchased and installed on site.
By its nature, integrated systems are commonly designed by the same manufacturer, therefore, when the CCTV system needs to react to the access control system.
We can be more confident that this has been tested by the manufacturer of the entire integrated solution, this again, reduces costs and risks prior to deployment.
When we integrate multiple different systems, we punch holes in them, potentially at different levels, such as the controller or server level to allow the systems to perform in line with the client requirement.
The image below shows these interfaces, in this example, we have a total of 13 separate interfaces at the server, controller and field device level.
Every new integration we add creates another potential point of weakness and creates another opportunity for an attacker.
With an integrated system, the number of holes is significantly less, this provides fewer opportunities or points of entry for an attacker, which also makes the system more secure.
So are integrated systems a silver bullet?
In a word, no.
A single manufacturer cannot be good at everything.
No single product or solution is suitable for every client, project or situation.
Take the example of an access control system manufacturer who only has experience of access control.
They may have been producing access control systems for a long time, but to develop a market-leading, integrated video surveillance solution would be both difficult and expensive.
Where extensive video surveillance requirements exist that are out of the scope of the integrated system, it would be better to tightly integrate a market leading video surveillance application.
This will create an additional interface, and therefore potential risk, however, this needs to be balanced with the additional functionality that it can provide.
Integrated security systems provide a good solution for most security requirements and contribute to the reduction in costs and risks that main contractors, but they must be able to integrate with specialist systems when required.
Question: How can an integrated security system contribute to your next project?