Protecting data from curb to core

Issue 7 2021 Access Control & Identity Management, Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the number of businesses, government and education providers moving to the cloud, making data centres critical to today’s society. For organisations making the move, data centres reduce the cost of running their own centralised computing networks and servers.

As demand continues to rise, data centres must have increasing information and physical security measures in place, to assure their clients they can safeguard the sensitive data they have been entrusted to protect. Commonly, security requirements for data centres are driven by the customers they service.

Evolve to meet a growing demand

Gallagher is trusted to protect some of the world’s largest data centres. Most recently winning a contract with Fortune India 500 company, Sify Technologies. With nine data centres across India, Sify Technologies decided Gallagher’s Command Centre and Monitored Pulse Fence technology was the ideal solution to protect people and assets, along with safeguarding business continuity.

“Data centres are a growing vertical across most of Gallagher’s markets,” explains Morne Grobler, group operations officer for Africa. “We have seen significant growth within the sector here in Africa and have won numerous large-scale projects in this space.”

When asked why Gallagher is trusted to protect these critical sites, Grobler responded: “It’s because we protect what matters most, from the curb to the core.”

Respond to real business needs

For any business, ongoing theft and damage on site results in downtime, therefore costing the business money – and data centres are no different. Additionally, in a cost-conscious environment, they are looking for ways to reduce unnecessary operational costs.

With a growing demand for data centres, customers need to be able to scale their security as they grow. Along with finding a solution that provides easy management of new buildings or sites that require additional security.

Not only this, but each site will require multiple levels of security, or perhaps security across multiple sites – they need protection from the curb to the core, from perimeter to access control, parking integrations to high security areas.

Finally, there is a growing need to address the ever-evolving threat of cyber-attacks on security systems, including both software and hardware vulnerabilities.

Prevent business interruptions

Data centres can deliver reliability to their clients and avoid reputational damage associated with business interruption through security breaches, theft and vandalism, by using a security management platform that provides unparalleled control of every aspect of a site.

Gallagher’s Command Centre, the powerful software at the heart of Gallagher’s integrated security solutions, helps security personnel identify and respond to unauthorised intrusions in a timely manner, even on disparate sites in remote locations.

“Command Centre enables remote monitoring of multiple sites from a single platform, allowing data centres to be in full control of their security solution – both perimeter and access control,” explains Grobler. “Having complete visibility over a site, or sites, decreases downtime while significantly reducing the risk of theft and damage.”

Perimeter security is an organisation’s first, and best, line of defence and data centres need robust perimeter detection solutions in place to deter, detect and respond to unauthorised entry on site.

Gallagher’s intelligent monitored pulse fence solution includes disturbance and tension sensors that detect vibration or changes in wire tensioning. These innovative fence-line devices generate alarms when a disturbance meets a predefined threshold, providing quick intrusion detection and response times without the intruder becoming aware.

“The implications of an unwanted person gaining access to a data centre is an insurmountable problem and one that would have serious implications on a business’ bottom line, operations and reputation.

“While intrusion detection starts at the gate, integration with other security technologies is key to any effective security system – and key to keeping unwanted persons away from critical infrastructure,” says Grobler.

Gallagher’s perimeter security solutions provide the first layer of defence, by detecting intruders at the perimeter, with Gallagher’s access control and intruder alarm solutions providing additional layers of protection, controlled from Command Centre.

“Video Management Systems can then be integrated with Command Centre allowing operators to use a single system to view video associated with alarms and providing the ability to confidently manage incidents on site,” says Grobler.

Layer your protection to protect assets

From the curb right through to the core of a site, data centres require a robust solution that provides protection across all levels and areas of the site. Security layering is an effective way to delay unwanted persons and provide security personnel with the time they need to detect unauthorised entry and respond before assets are compromised.

“Not only do you want to stop unwanted people from entering your premises, but you want to know immediately if they do breach a layer and have the appropriate barriers in place to stop them from getting to the next one,” says Grobler. “The basis of protection for any data centre should be – deter, detect, delay. Deter the intruder so they don’t want to proceed; if they do, detect them immediately to initiate your security response; then delay progress as much as possible to enable intervention before significant damage occurs.”

A layered security system should be made up of different layering zones that become increasingly difficult the closer an intruder gets to the high-risk assets.

An example of layered protection looks something like a boom gate and intercom at the initial perimeter layer, with a Monitored Pulse Fence surrounding the car park. The next layer could contain an access control solution, such as turnstiles, to ensure only authorised people can enter the workstation environment where sensitive information and assets are held. Then you move into the next layer that requires multi-factor authentication, where high-risk materials or confidential documentation are stored.

Multi-factor authentication provides the gold standard for best security and requires two different types of authentication with the options of: something you have (often a token with a cryptographic key for authentication); something you know (a password or PIN number); and something you are (biometric). Beyond that, you have the highest level of protection in place for restricted areas with valuable assets, e.g., server rooms, networked computers and storage systems, that if reached by an unauthorised person, would be highly damaging.

Ensure operational efficiency

Given the large amounts of sensitive assets housed within data centres, having thorough audit trails and robust reporting is essential. “Command Centre’s powerful reporting functionality saves administration time and provides an audit trail of events to document site access and events,” explains Grobler. “The Gallagher Command Centre administration platform is easy to use, which is particularly important for non-technical operators.”

Additionally, in today’s pandemic-driven world, it’s essential to capture all access events for contact tracing purposes. Especially given it’s not uncommon for data centres to have several visitors from various companies entering the facility on any given day.

“Facilities can use access control data to help track an individual’s movements across a site,” explains Grobler. “Gallagher’s award-winning Proximity and Contact Tracing Report was developed specifically in response to Covid-19 and provides facilities with the data they need for fast and efficient contact tracing.”

The tool’s innovative design utilises Gallagher’s reporting capability to help identify the movements of specific individuals on site, enabling managers to identify the areas where an infected person has been. People who shared an area with the infected person can then be contact traced, isolated and tested before Covid-19 spreads through the site and interrupts business continuity. The report also rules out people who did not share an area with the infected person, allowing these employees to continue working in a safe environment.

“Another way to ensure operational efficiency is to integrate with building management systems. In a cost-driven and energy-conscious business environment, you need to have confidence that your building management services are running correctly and not consuming power and resources when they aren’t required,” says Grobler.

High-level communication between Command Centre and building management systems using the BACnet protocol provides opportunities for significant cost and energy savings. BACnet and Command Centre software streamline site operations with full visibility and control of services. The solution brings all relevant system information into one central management platform.

Protect staff and contractors

To ensure the safety of both staff and contractors, data centres can use access control to check personnel at the door to make sure they are capable, qualified and compliant with a wide range of standards and regulations. As well as monitoring inductions, licences, training and qualifications to only allow people access to areas they are sufficiently qualified to be in.

“Using competency-based access management – where access is granted or denied based on compliance with a requirement, such as a certification or licence – sites can be alerted if a person does not meet the requirement for a site or area and restrict or deny access accordingly,” says Grobler.

Through competency-based access management, notifications can then be sent to the individual and management informing them of a pending expiration.

“There are many benefits of competency-based access management,” explains Grobler. “For starters, it offers automatic enforcement of business Occupational Health and Safety rules and policies, reduces risk caused by the presence of non-compliant staff, provides tangible evidence of duty of care to staff and contractors, and ensures automatic compliance with government regulations.”

Manage contractors more efficiently

Data centres often outsource maintenance, which means they have contractors coming and going. Data centres can look to implement an integrated Contractor Management solution that helps manage contractors on site and saves time and staffing at reception.

“Gallagher’s solution gives facilities the ability to ensure contractors are capable, compliant and qualified to be on site before their access is granted and if a temporary licence expires (e.g., for site inductions), access will automatically be restricted upon expiry. Additionally, it supports facilities with efficient time and attendance reporting to help reconcile contractor time on-site against what is invoiced, reducing costs and saving money.”

“If contractors are given a credential to keep, they can still be required to present that credential at a nominated reader – usually near a responsible person’s desk – before access is enabled each day. This helps facilities reconcile billable hours, by specifying the period a contractor can spend on site,” he adds.

For example, the contractor arrives and passes their credential to the receptionist, who badges at the time and attendance reader. Access is given for a specified period, after which time the contractor will be unable to move around site. Alternatively, it stops contractors claiming they were on site all day, if they were not, as their card will not be activated until they pass through that nominated reader.

Additionally, data centres can pre-register contractors (and visitors) for seamless entry to a multi-tenanted environment. Gallagher mobile solutions can eliminate access cards and allow contractors (and visitors) to be pre-assigned access credentials before they have arrived on site.

Future-proof for growth

As the demand for data centres continues to grow, they need scalable and highly flexible security solutions that allow for future expansions or upgrades on site. Therefore, a solution that can extend to distributed sites featuring multiple buildings, all with different requirements, is vital.

“Migration of security systems in old sites being upgraded is easy with Gallagher,” says Grobler. “Gallagher’s T11 and T15 multi-tech readers support most older/legacy card technology, allowing existing staff to use their current cards while new cohorts are upgraded. This eliminates logistical issues recalling and re-issuing access cards for a new system and maintains security during access card migration.”

Data centres are faced with a range of threats from activism and sabotage to trespassing and corporate espionage. Therefore, it’s essential they choose robust, quality products to safeguard their valuable assets and the data they have been entrusted to protect.

For more information contact Gallagher Security, +27 11 974 4740,,

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