A Primer on Electronic Security for Schools, Universities & Institutions

Blog Site for 2nd Edition Discussions & Reference Material

This is an excerpt from the draft of the 2nd edition, “A Primer on Electronic Security for Schools, Universities & Institutions”.  Readers are asked for their comments and viewpoints surrounding this snipet.
Tangets and offshoots to this topic are welcome.

Plan the LAN

Physical security information systems, including video, are critical to a school’s security operation and general well-being. The security mission requires fail-safe systems that operate dependably over long periods of time, and that are ready to respond when needed. Security systems also must be scalable, flexible and able to adapt to a School, University or District’s changing protection needs, and should not have to compete for network resources with the growing number of other applications and users on the enterprise network.

The rapid or unplanned expansion of local area networks (LANs) comes with issues including how to control the network infrastructure, especially related to allowing users access to data. Given the transition of the physical security industry to systems based on Internet protocol (IP), often that data traveling along the enterprise LAN is related to physical security, including video surveillance. Video data can challenge networks both because it uses a lot of bandwidth and because the user has a high expectation of real-time video without latency or jittery images. As busy, growing networks accommodate the demands of more users and applications, it becomes increasingly difficult for a video or security system to operate effectively as part of that enterprise network. Many are concluding that the best approach is a separate IT infrastructure dedicated to video and other security systems. While this is a solution it is not always the best or most cost effective way to handle the requirements of video on a network.

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  1. Paul Daigle Said,

    I think this is one area that does get overlooked quite a bit in the video surveillance industry. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that many people just assume that the cameras will be in and on buildings and be within 100m of wired infrastructure that should already be in place. But the one key thing that people forget is that most video surveillance systems are a post-construction after-thought, meaning, no one during the architecture phase of building our a building or school ever stopped to overlay the security and surveillance piece of the design. Thus installers and integrators are left to their own devices to figure out how best to build a separate or integrated wired (or wireless) infrastructure to support the analog and IP cameras now needed to secure the building or area.

    Building a separate infrastructure is generally easy. As an installer or integrator, the best thing in the world is to have creative freedom to build the wired or wireless medium and connectivity how you need it for camera only connectivity. But attempting to integrate into an existing infrastructure means spending time with the administrators, networkers, and anyone else that is responsible for that existing network. Connecting to an existing network is more than just plugging in an RJ-45/Ethernet cable to a switch. It’s discussions of IP addressing, security, end user control, and how does the administrator of the existing network recognize the new devices being plugged into their network. It is true that many networks are not all this complex, but where schools and companies have a reliable, secure network infrastructure in place, you can be guaranteed that there is protocol and procedure for connectivity to their network.

    From a physical installation side, we return to the fact that most installation look over these areas simply due to the fact that the deployment are going to be a separate installation. And being a separation installation, installers must be careful of the fact of not getting lax and just installing cameras because that was the 100th meter of the Ethernet cable run. Proper camera placement should always dictate which infrastructure medium is chosen. Case in point, cameras on a building showing areas just outside the building can be wired, if a network entry point is within 100m (this is with Ethernet cabling, of course). But for a camera that is great in distance from that network entry point, what do we do? Some revert back to the coaxial cable and use media converters to switch back to Ethernet some place closer – that can be good if you are a great cable runner, but it can also have the down falls as loss at the converter can take away from camera quality. Another alternative is wireless.

    Wireless network infrastructure, in a video surveillance installation, can be a double-edged sword. For those that have done any of the early installations using 802.11 WiFi technology, the best scenarios included just point-to-point (PTP) connectivity and no more than about 3 cameras connected via wireless. As we have moved forward with this technology we have seen these solutions attempt to grow using multiple radio ports to allow a point-to-multi-point (PTMP) type configuration allowing multiple cameras to be transmitted back on a single wireless radio connection. Challenges with these scenarios still limited the number of cameras to about 3-4 with huge amounts or exponential video degradation, especially if video had to traverse multiple hops. And finally we get to the providers of wireless mesh networking technology that have, for the most part, created a bit more bandwidth, but still employ a grand scale of PTMP and call it mesh – this model fails. The failure can be attributed to a lot of things, but the biggest part is just trying to simplify a technology that takes a bit of time and effort, but produces manifold returns when implemented correctly and with the correct platform.

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