Until recently, when deciding on a security system, the corresponding decision pertaining to what infrastructure to deploy in order to support it was largely taken by default. But CCTV and other security systems have moved to being deployed on top of a dedicated cabling infrastructure, and today’s systems are increasingly being designed for deployment on open standards-based networking infrastructure.
This has an impact on my clients’ security technology strategies and roll-out plans, particularly for those clients wanting to tackle their security in phases. This is because consideration now needs to be given not just to the security technology but also to the infrastructure on which this technology will be built.
It has become increasingly cost effective to deploy multiple security systems onto the same physical infrastructure (bearing in mind that doing so obviously elevates the significance of this underlying supporting infrastructure, as it now becomes the single most critical point of failure). Security technology infrastructure, it can be argued, has become the all-important consideration when installing a large scale multidisciplinary security solution.
While some might see risk in this approach, the benefits are specific in terms of resilience to failure, life expectancy and upgrade/expansion capacity.
Resilience and fault tolerance
Modern professional networking and structured cabling equipment has been designed from the outset to provide very high levels of resilience to failure. Networking devices are designed to be highly fault tolerant, and alternate network traffic routing is provided for in the event of either device failure or the physical failure of connecting links between network devices.
Fault tolerance is ensured by redundant power supplies, multiple redundant network interface ports, and in some cases, by fully redundant standby devices. The rerouting of network traffic is achieved using algorithms that determine which alternate routes between devices exist, switching between these as the needs arise.
There is also a very real benefit to a networking infrastructure with a long life expectancy, which allows the company to progressively add features and functionality to the security solution without needing to upgrade the underlying network infrastructure.
In addition to the very obvious benefit of a greater return on investment (ROI), the more important benefit is the ability to cost effectively stay abreast of the latest capabilities and features of security technologies as these emerge. This is possible because the useful life expectancy of a correctly designed network infrastructure is usually much longer than the life expectancy of the security equipment deployed on top of it.
Quality of installation counts
A fibre installation done to best practice standards should have a life expectancy of more than 30 years, though it is important to note the caveat that this applies to a best practice installation. Network switches can be expected to have a life expectancy of between 10 to 15 years. Extending the useful life of the network to 30 years is therefore achievable by progressively exchanging network devices as these approach end-of-life, which is a less disruptive approach than replacing the entire networking infrastructure every 10 to 15 years. The caveat here is that there are switches and then there are switches. Starting off with a professional-grade, field-hardened switch is a must.
In contrast, the average life expectancy of CCTV head-end device and cameras is (depending on brand) between 6 to 12 years. And, given the current rapid advances in biometric authentication technology, is should be expected that these technologies will be replaced at least once in the next 10 years or so.
Finally, the ability to upgrade an existing network infrastructure without replacement of reticulation and devices depends on the surplus capacity (bandwidth) of the physical reticulation, the device throughput and expansion capability, and upward compatibility to emerging network protocols and standards. As but one example, optical fibre has the capacity to carry much higher traffic volumes than the current standards provide for. Couple this with the good practice of providing additional dark fibre in an installation, and it means that fibre is unlikely to be the limiting factor for traffic volumes for decades to come.
With budgets as tight as can be, consultants nowadays tend to take the approach of encouraging end-user clients to invest in an excellent security network before investing in security technology solutions themselves. It’s all about putting first things first and building on that.
Kleyn Consulting is an independent risk, safety and security consultancy with experience in a range of verticals. Based in the Western Cape Winelands, Lesley-Anne travels across South Africa. Feel free to contact her on
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