Technical aspects of remote monitoring

August 2010 Security Services & Risk Management

When Hi-Tech Security Solutions held our first remote monitoring round-table, back in the June issue, we had no idea that the issue would hit an industry nerve. This is the third instalment from that round-table and in it Roy Wyman discusses some technology questions related to remote monitoring services.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What are the top three technical necessities for a successful remote monitoring service (excluding the human factor)?

Roy Wyman: The most important technical necessity is connectivity, any other technical necessity can be purchased, but for connectivity we are reliant on companies such as Telkom, which would not consider upgrading its existing infrastructure to suit your requirements. Therefore, selecting your location based on available data services from Telkom, Neotel, 3G, I-Burst, Sentech etc, is of utmost importance.

The second most important necessity is the VPN switch-gear, firewall and VPN server equipment selection. It is of utmost importance that the switch-gear selected for your monitoring service can facilitate any form of connectivity your client may have, for example, your client may not have access to ADSL or wireless broadband, he may only have access to PSTN or ISDN and your VPN switchgear must be able to facilitate it. There are many outlying areas is SA that do not have access to ADSL or diginet.

Thirdly, it is important that the monitoring platform you select is capable of event and continuous monitoring, remote activation and I/O control as well as VOIP – and all of this using as little bandwidth as possible. Consider monitoring over a hundred clients at closing time, your surveillance operators or automated monitoring system goes live and alarms start streaming in; in a matter of minutes your system would be required to manage and distribute numerous simultaneous alarms while your operators may be monitoring CIT collection and controlling gates into an office complex. If your monitoring equipment does not have a proven management system there is no-way you can successfully manage the above mentioned scenario.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How do you deal with South Africa’s expensive bandwidth

Presently the most cost effective way to offer a remote monitoring service is to use Telkom’s ADSL service as a primary transmission media, limiting your international breakout and ensuring local traffic only. If your client has multiple sites running its own WAN, it is normally more cost effective to have a single link to the WAN instead of multiple ADSL lines. Redundancy, unfortunately is a must when it comes to copper in SA. We offer all our clients a wireless backup as a standard.

It is important when designing your VPN that there are checks and balances in place to ensure you can offer a reliable service. You need to ensure there are seamless transitions between primary and secondary data solutions in the event of a network failure.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How important is the move to IP (Internet Protocol) to remote services and why?

For us it is vital, due to the fact that IP offers an open ended platform to monitor data worldwide, not only CCTV cameras, but we monitor IP fire panels, IP alarm systems as well as IP building management systems. As for the shift to IP cameras, we feel it is good but at most the IP CCTV sites we are involved with the IP camera streaming is quite poor for Third World connectivity, we do not have the luxury of fibre to home with 100 MB Internet access. HD, Megapixel and all these fancy new IP products do not stream well.

As an example we have a site with 10 2-Megapixel cameras, we monitor the site during opening and closing, as well as patrol the site hourly. In the event of a motion alarm, we also monitor the movement after hours. Our average monthly data usage exceeds 20 gigabytes, this is not a viable 3G solution.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How welcomed is the ‘intrusion’ of remote services by customers’ IT departments? Is there a conflict?

In the early days, IT departments were totally anti-sharing bandwidth and opening their network to the outside world. Fortunately things have changed and we find IT departments gunning for this form of remote monitoring technology. Although we do not use the client’s existing IT networks or Internet breakout as a standard, as this often limits the ability to access video in the case of an emergency. We cannot have limited access when staff members are surfing the Net. Larger companies still do not allow any form of remote monitoring breakout on their network.

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