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Unplanned Downtime

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It’s the middle of the night, suddenly the power goes out – unplanned downtime. What do you do?

Posted by: Marketing
Date: 26/03/2015

In many cases, you sit down with your family, play cards and monopoly under candlelight for hours until the power comes back on. For hospitals, long-term care facilities, community centre’s, and retirement facilities, sitting and playing games under candlelight is not in the cards.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The uninterrupted power supply (UPS) you thought you had isn’t coming on, the lights are dim, systems are not performing, and patients/residents are wandering – looking for light like a swarm of mosquitoes. The entire night, morning, and/or afternoon is spent rendering havoc figuring out a system to communicate effectively among staff, patients, and residents.

Perhaps the facility is under control, you are working as a team and effectively delivering the needed care but suddenly the power comes on, now systems are not working. Your wireless communication devices will not ring or call out, you notice you haven’t been receiving calls from certain rooms, your tags and pendants are set to default, and the list goes on! You pick up the phone, frustrated, upset and impatient, urgently placing a service call, to us and several other companies.

Reasons for system failures

It is inevitable to completely avoid power outages all together but there are ways of
seamlessly working through without downtime. In the scenario above, the UPS did not trip on once the power was lost. There could be many reasons for this: outdated, faulty, installed incorrectly, burnt out, or just at that moment it decided to be a pain.

The calm after the storm may not be the delightful rainbow you were hoping for. Your systems aren’t functioning to their highest standard and customized programming. Your servers were surged and now a floor is completely down. For the luckier ones, the only system down is your clocks and you are just annoyed by the constant flashing of 12 o’clock.

When making those service calls, you call one company that then sends you to another and so on. You can’t have one thing fixed until the other company fixes their system and vice versa. It is a vicious circle of waiting impatiently and being billed double to triple for an urgent service call.

How to avoid downtime/system failures

We can never fully understand the mind of technology, but what we do understand is that it needs to be monitored regularly. Here are some easy tips to avoid downtime and urgency during these moments:

  1. Monitor regularly! Annual, semi-annual, quarterly, monthly inspections/verification/testing/commissioning of your system will help avoid your failure being due to upgrades, discontinued product, surges, faulty devices, etc. Each system is different and used for different applications, high priority systems should be monitored more frequently.
  2. Sole Sourcing!Avoid making those awkward phone calls to the wrong companies for the wrong service. Or the waiting for service based on another company performing their service of another system. Have one company manage your devices, your inspection reports/data, and multiple system issues at a time.
  3. Education & Training!Sometimes a system failure could be caused by user error. Continuous education of the system, system upgrades, new features for current staff and new staff is important in ensuring the system is functioning properly. Update regularly, schedule training every three months or so to avoid user error/misuse of your integrated systems.
  4. Keep Calm!Once you have figured out your first three by sourcing a company who can provide excellent on-site AND remote service 24/7, 365 days of the year; then there is no need to worry, you are already covered.

Learn more about our scheduled inspections, verification, training and service level packages by visiting here or by contacting Paulette Francella at 1.800.695.2883 ext 2382, email: customercare@aatel.com.

On the Open Path To Merging Access Control With Video Surveillance

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On the Open Path To Merging Access Control With Video Surveillance

Posted by: Marketing
Date: 29/05/2015

Source: SDM Magazine, Jimmy Palatsoukas

It’s an all-too-familiar scene. The security integrator goes on a site visit and observes operators jumping from one monitor to another, navigating through different video surveillance and access control applications to investigate an incident, or more importantly, handle an emergency or threat. This common scenario of security operators trying desperately to piece together information and make objective decisions begs for greater operational efficiency, and becomes the main catalyst for security directors’ ears to perk up when security system unification is brought to the table.

Beyond the ease of navigation and simplified operator workflows and training, there are numerous other benefits to unifying video surveillance and access control systems into a single platform. These include the ability to program alarms, generate reports, conduct maintenance, and streamline upgrades with built-in version compatibility for both video and access control, all from one workstation and interface.

As more projects include system unification within their specifications, it is becoming increasingly important for systems integrators to understand both the operational and technical factors that should be considered, and the pathways that lead to a successful and cost-effective unified installation. Similarly, systems integrators need to keep an eye on the road ahead, as end users gradually veer towards open architecture video and access control systems that provide added layers of flexibility and better investment longevity.

Putting Business Objectives Ahead of System Technicalities

While integrators are sometimes quick to examine the technical aspects of an installation, Paul Boucherle, principal at Matterhorn Consulting LLC, Canfield, Ohio, and Matt Wharton, president, security & technology consulting practice at Guidepost Solutions LLC, New York , N.Y., both recommend taking a step back to focus on business objectives first.

According to Boucherle, who was once selected to spearhead an access control and video surveillance integration at LAX airport, “It’s vitally important to understand how a client is working today versus how they will work in the future.”

More important than that, says Boucherle, is the delivered business value. “If unification of video surveillance and access control streamlined operations, giving each person 10 percent to 15 percent more time, what would the client do with that extra time? Would they focus it on other security processes, programs, or goals for that year? That is one of the least measured returns on investments of unification, but one of the most important for the security directors. It allows them to appeal to senior management by introducing a business case that not only justifies the investment but also shows what the contribution of security is to the organization — and that’s a big deal.”

Wharton, whose team consulted Levi’s Stadium in building out a unified platform using Genetec Security Center and HID Global hardware, adds that an equally essential factor is to understand all the system’s users. “We’re not just looking at the operators of the system,” explains Wharton. “It’s equally important to be cognizant of the level of knowledge and sophistication of the client’s IT department, and get them involved in discussions early on. Furthermore, considering users that are swiping cards, or monitoring more business-oriented applications, ensure you select the right technology that meets all users’ needs.”

Exploring Key Technical Considerations

Once some of the more high-level objectives and considerations have been made, diving into the technical side of things can get somewhat complex. A green-field project is certainly more straightforward, allowing for much more leeway in the design and installation of a unified security system. However, walking into an existing installation where a video and access control system are already installed as separate systems can lead to many challenges.

According to Andy Bowman, founder of SiteSecure, Jacksonville, Fla., a leading security integrator business which was recently acquired by Miller Electric Company, “Having to consider a rip-and-replace scenario is a realistic and common challenge for clients. However, at some point it is not cost effective or reasonable to assume that you can move forward with an existing access control system.

“To put things into perspective and help drive that point, I ask my customers: “How many new installs is brand A, which you currently have, doing in the global access control marketplace? Is anyone still buying this solution? Is the company investing in development or are they holding on to their install base? Simply put, it just doesn’t make any sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to reinvest in a technology that has no forward-moving strategy,” Bowman says.

Vulnerability of an existing access control system should also be scrutinized. In the past, many access control technologies were static, which made systems vulnerable to attack. Yesterday’s access control systems also quickly become anchored to obsolete software, devices, protocols and products, hindering their ability to support and facilitate change. According to John Fenske, vice president of product marketing for identity and access management at HID Global, Austin, Texas, the latest high-frequency contactless smart card solutions exist within a larger identity ecosystem that is significantly more dynamic than legacy technologies such as proximity cards and readers.

Other technical factors that Bowman and his team especially look at are the back-end infrastructure, and the need to possibly upgrade hardware components such as operator workstations, laptops and server platforms to accommodate a unified system. Bowman continues to explain that card and card reader technologies, legacy cabling architecture and circuit boards all need to be closely examined as well, because additional costs may be imposed if these components are not compatible with newer access control devices.

Due to technical limitations of older access control systems, costs can be the most challenging hurdle for some organizations. However, potential return on investment (ROI) can help integrators persuade even the most budget-sensitive customers. According to Fenske, “While it does take an investment to migrate to a new standards-based access control system, this investment comes with a valuable return. An example of a tangible ROI is lower insurance premiums that come from improved risk management. Or, the organization might realize an intangible ROI through improved security that allows them to avoid the costs of a disastrous breach.”

Upgrades Open the Door to Greater Capabilities

In addition to delivering an ROI, today’s access control systems also make it easier to adopt emerging capabilities. For instance, newer solutions enable mobile devices to be used as credentials, which improves convenience, enhances the user experience, and delivers a number of new security opportunities. Mobile access control also simplifies the secure identity management process for facility access, and helps to drive security convergence through solutions that can integrate a multi-layered physical access control system (PACS) and IT security into a single, unified system.

“Cards and phones are already converging into centralized identity management systems,” Fenske explains. “The goal, though, is much more than just supporting both form factors. Even more valuable is the ability for organizations to use cards or phones, or both, to secure access to the door, to their data, and to their cloud applications — all with a seamless user experience.  This is possible with converged back-of-house technologies that enable strong authentication and card management capabilities for computer and network logon. These technologies also ensure that physical and logical identities can be managed on a combination of plastic cards, smartphones and other mobile devices, which in the future will also include smart watches, wristbands and other ‘wearables.’”

Many other exciting opportunities are enabled by a move to standards-based access control systems. One of them is gesture technology, which can be used with a phone’s Bluetooth connection to make secure long-range door opening as convenient as simply rotating the device while approaching a mobile-enabled reader. Additionally, moving to a standards-based access control system will make it easier to adopt biometric authentication, which will further improve mobile access security and convenience.

In order to realize these benefits, access control solutions must support the broadest possible range of available handsets as well as legacy ID cards. Support for open standards is critical in order for the access control system to adapt to new requirements and capabilities as the industry quickly moves to a wide variety of new device platforms, biometrics authentication models, and unified cloud-based systems for PACS and IT credential management.

Open Architecture Solutions: Deciding If & Why

Integrators that choose to work with an open architecture access control solution benefit from greater flexibility of integration with various components and devices. Implementing an open architecture access control system also allows their customers to leverage existing hardware to minimize migration costs by supporting a phased upgrade to newer devices.

“The more an integrator can tailor a solution to a customer’s application, the more protection it offers their business. The integrator will know the ins and outs of the system and be in a better position to retain the loyalty of the client. And since it is using non-proprietary hardware, clients can still swap out technologies in the future,” Bowman explains.

Open architecture also provides long-term investment protection, says Boucherle. “With proprietary solutions, if a company starts running low on cash, they quit developing the software. With open architecture solutions, you have many vendors contributing to developing technologies, so it’s a massive advantage. There is more longevity and the solution has longer legs.”

Wharton adds that working with non-proprietary solutions is a strategy that benefits everyone, “Open architecture is ultimately what end users want. Integrators also have an opportunity to promote their reputation and service to establish longer-term relationships that focus on evolving platforms and not necessarily replacing them completely,” he emphasizes.

Customers will always be tasked with increasing the operational efficiency of their security programs. Unification of video, access control and myriad other security modules provides the greatest flexibility, allowing for a cost-effective and pragmatic approach to the evolving security landscape. Leveraging open architecture access control and video surveillance solutions to merge system components will help integrators keep their clients’ best interests top of mind — that is to minimize costs and help protect investments.

Challenges faced within the procurement process

By | Corporate, News & Events | No Comments

Posted/Written by: Kerry Cooper, Marketing
Date: 04/01/2015

If your company is like ours, it gains a lot of its lead source information through the various bidding sites – whether that is Biddingo, Merx, Databid, or Government sites – each site have a separate focus. It can become increasingly difficult to track several tenders at once through the various procurement avenues as some may notify automatically and some may not. These are a few of the challenges companies face administratively, but the challenges I am referring to lie in the details (or lack thereof), quality of content, and an overall disconnect with the facility’s request for a fully customized solution.

I have been preparing response proposals for over three years and I am noticing the common trends and mistakes facilities make using templated documentation for their RFP’s. Terms and conditions for one industry may vary from another, yet we have to abide to the terms that are originally set out in the document, legally binding us to unnecessary legalities. I have seen documents with the wrong facility name or the [name] filler on a few pages, as it was used for a previous request and never changed. Those mistakes call for an addendum because attention wasn’t paid to those details. A wrong term, a wrong facility name, a spelling error, typo, and or missing information can all be a cause for cancellation, addendums, extensions, delays and an overall distrust in the company that is requesting a proposal. It is all in the details.

Now – to me, those are just itty bitty details that are not necessarily detrimental to providing a pricing proposal. But if these are small details that can easily be avoided by proof reading and spell check, then what about the significant details such as design concept and scope that do affect the bottom line? This is information that is acquired through expertise, product knowledge, and technical engineering. The procurement process is systematic, their documentation/system design is based on information they have received in the past from dealers, manufacturers, consultants, other project stakeholders or previous projects and templated to be reused in future request for tenders. They expect a customized solution to be proposed with the generic technical information with or without drawings or counts, asking exact numbers. With only one site visit and a semi-closed communication with the procurement agency/facility, it is difficult receiving all the answers needed to price accordingly.

Technical Assistance

In many cases, procurement agencies/facilities are acquiring design assistance from engineers or consultants. This provides sub contactors (like us) a scope of work to guide in our proposed system types, allowing for us to better understand the solution needed. An engineer or consultant may have experience with a particular industry and concept of a system, but may not be able to fully design and/or engineer a system they are not technically certified in. They do however; take the reins, unburdening the facility of any technical responsibility when it comes to mapping out the needs of the facility. There are now three parties involved that can distort communication and understanding of the project in its entirety. They do provide a better outline for a subcontractor to work with but there is still a gap between design concepts and needs assessment of the potential client.

The Evolution of Procurement

I’m at $500 n I wan $550, $550, bid on $550, I’m at $500 would you go $550, $550… and sold for 550.00!

The typical idea of procurement runs much like an auction. Think of auction hunters or storage wars, they barely have time to look through the storage space to determine the value of the items inside. In fact they are only able to view from a distance with a flashlight and the highest price wins…

Procurement is an auction, a gamble, an estimation of what a potential client needs. Why does it have to be that way? A few hundred dollars – sure, but when dealing with a complete retrofit, new install, moves/adds/and or changes that range from a minimum $1,000’s to 10 million dollar range; it is unclear why it is relied on chance. With funds like that, there should be more certainty on what you are paying for. For subcontractors it is much the same as looking from the outside of storage bin with a flashlight. Avoiding disruptions, facilities don’t always allow for full access and disclosure – and we only have one chance to look, document, take pictures, and listen.

So many questions come up during a site visit, so much to make note of, what is everyone’s role, where is IT, how do nurses respond to calls, who takes care of the security, what integrations do you require, is there existing conduit, what is the infrastructure? It can be nearly impossible to answer all of those questions without climbing up in ceilings and taking the time to know the day to day routines of a business.

It is time for the procurement industry to take on more of a door to door concept. In our experience we have taken the time to work closely with several businesses of all industries, designing a solution that is tailored to their needs, their business duties, and their industry. The projects from concept to completion are seamless with little to no discrepancies. It was crucial for us to be more intimately involved in the project/tendering process to receive those results. It is the small details that can really provide a more definite price but an even better customer experience. System installers need to be more involved in the design of the system, writing of the specification or tender package which should include the needs assessment, system operations, and functional roles, as they are the makeup of the entire operation.

It was only recently that we started working with churches, providing audio visual systems that are specific to religious rituals. During the 8 year long construction process, it was apparent that many people were involved in the decision process. People from the congregation, clergy, consultants, IT, contractors, and subcontractors were all involved in the design and functionality of the system. When reading the specification and procurement documentation, the only information provided was the system specifications and design concept. When we really started working closely with the facility before the job was awarded we became aware of how much was really entailed in the install, programming, and design. The documents and drawings had no information regarding their religious culture and the demographics and psychographics of who is using the system, inevitably prolonging the project to accommodate those types of characteristics. It was a complete learning curve for us! But it all makes sense, what a potential clients needs is someone who understand not only the big picture but all the small ones that make it up.

How can we [installers] be expected to design, price, and propose a custom solution if generic information is provided? It is important for installers to spend the time to answer those questions that the potential client may not know exist.

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