System Maintenance That Sings

By Truncer, Earl; Field, Susan | Security Management, March 1997 | Go to article overview

System Maintenance That Sings


Truncer, Earl, Field, Susan, Security Management


Such practices as inspecting cable terminations, checking door hardware, and cleaning card-reader heads have long been routine for the security manager as part of a preventive maintenance strategy. However, a security system can still be at risk even when every hardware component is in peak operating condition. For example, readers and door hardware may be functioning perfectly, yet software problems may strand an employee on the wrong side of a door.

The components of a security system can be likened to musicians in an orchestra. Although a musician needs little guidance to perform a solo, several musicians need a conductor to coordinate their efforts. Computer software plays a crucial role in orchestrating a system's operation by coordinating the response of many different system components. To ensure that all components work in harmony, the security manager must oversee system performance.

A security manager can fine tune system performance by developing software maintenance procedures that address: data integrity, resource management, data backup, and upgrades. The security department must also ensure that procedures are followed.

Data integrity. Computers do just what they are told. The security manager must make sure that the software has been configured accurately. Data entry errors are one potential problem. For example, an oversight in the configuration of alarms can lead security to believe that a situation is not occurring when, in reality, it is simply not being reported. Likewise, errors can occur if site-specific data does not correspond with the expected responses from the security system. For example, configuring the computer to report an antipassback alarm without configuring "in" and "out" badge readers to support the feature will lead to unanticipated performance.

Even when data is entered correctly, it may become inaccurate over time. In most organizations, personnel, duties, and locations change often. The data that controls the security system must reflect these changes on a timely basis.

Good data management procedures are needed to minimize the risks associated with inaccurate or untimely data entry. Programmed operation and system responses should be checked manually. For example, a security manager should open a door and then monitor system response, including proper alarm activation and other outputs like cameras.

Timed activities should be verified. For instance, if the side door is supposed to lock at midnight, security should try to open it at 11:55 p.m. and again at 12:05 a.m. Security should regularly and randomly verify hardware, software, and system operator responses. The security manager should also regularly review reports of database errors, malfunctioning communication lines, and inoperative devices to identify possible performance issues.

Specific procedures should be established for coordinating information about new hires, promotions, changes in responsibility, and terminations. These updates should be implemented on the day the change occurs, especially with terminations. At the end of each day, human resources could be responsible for supplying employment status changes to security, which would make database changes by the next morning. In a termination, security may want to ensure that changes are made immediately. Many human resource departments may already be electronically linked to security, making changes relatively simple and efficient.

Security may also want to implement a periodic access verification program. Managers throughout the organization could be given a list of persons who have access privileges to locations under their responsibility. The list should include the times when access is permitted. Managers would be asked to verify that access privileges are assigned correctly or to note any changes that are required. Security managers should keep these records on file.

Security managers should carefully control the number of persons given the ability to modify system parameters such as configuring alarms or assigning passwords. …

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