Security systems

True integration can deliver remarkable results – provided costly systems downtime is avoided

Duncan Cooke

Business development manager, UK & Europe , Stratus Technologies

September 4, 2017

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Applied to the electronic security environment, the word ‘integration‘ has long been a much overused and quite often misunderstood word.

It has not been uncommon for manufacturers, perhaps unintentionally, to incorrectly claim to have achieved true integration of their products with third-party devices and software.

But true integration means the respective manufacturer’s solutions are both backward and forward compatible.

Otherwise, what you have is a security system comprising two or more component systems that can interact today, but might not do so when one of the manufacturers inevitably upgrades its firmware or software.

Five hours of lost security data could easily keep anyone tasked with protecting a company’s assets, people and property awake at night

This particularly applies to access control or video surveillance systems but is an equally important issue when you deploy, for example, video management software, analytics, ANPR, command and control or PSIM systems.

The good news is that many leading brands have recognised this threat to the end-user’s ability to gain maximum long-term benefit from having all their security systems interacting at all times and have formed technology partnerships to ensure true, long-term integration.

Downtime can spoil it all

Having achieved true integration of a diverse range of electronic security systems, security personnel in high security or mission-critical environments are not necessarily guaranteed peace of mind. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s simply not enough to integrate electronic security systems.

They all need to be working as close to 100% of the time as possible. With IP network-based access control, video surveillance, as well as fire, intruder, and perimeter protection, increasingly reliant on software-based management, even a well-designed and maintained system is vulnerable to downtime because of a simple server fault.

What is the impact of, let’s say, just 0.05% (one 20th of 1%) of downtime in a year? The answer is approximately five hours of lost security data, which could easily keep anyone tasked with protecting a company’s assets, people and property awake at night.

Technicians using computer in server room

The options

The IT industry offers a wide range of options to keep security software applications running or to quickly restore them. Perhaps the most simple approach to server availability, is to have a basic backup and data-replication procedure in place that will expedite the restoration of an application and preserve data following a server failure.

However, if backups are only occurring daily, there may only be a guarantee of 99% availability, resulting in up to 87.5 hours of unplanned downtime per year.

High availability systems can deliver 99.95%-99.99% up-time, but only ‘continuous availability’ solutions can deliver 99.999% up-time – equivalent to just five minutes of downtime per year.

How does continuous availability work?

Supported by specialist continuous availability software, two servers are linked and continuously synchronised via a virtualisation platform that pairs protected virtual machines together to create a single operating environment.

If one physical machine should fail, the application or software platform will continue to run on the other physical machine without any interruptions. In-progress alarms and access control events, as well as data in memory and cache, are preserved.

Simply put, continuous availability means that no single point of failure can stop a security software platform from running and unlike high availability, back-up and clustering solutions. No failover or reboot  is required – therefore no downtime results.

It’s a solution that is likely to be popular among those with limited IT knowledge. As well as being quick and simple to install, no application, software or server modifications are needed to provide a continuous availability solution – ensuring that a truly integrated security solution delivers truly remarkable results.

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