IT departments taking over physical security

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As firms move towards converged voice-data IP networks, IT departments will increasingly become responsible for the physical security of buildings via deployment of systems such as biometric access controls, IP-CCTV and card readers, new research has predicted.

A third of the IT directors surveyed in a new study by research firm Vanson Bourne Limited said that, as a result of being able to control physical security systems over IP, the area of "security over IP" will become their responsibility. In the manufacturing sector, 57 percent expected their departments to become responsible for physical security, and in the retail, distribution and transport sector it was 32 percent. In other commercial sectors, it rose to 36 percent, while it fell to only 6 percent in the financial services sector.

The main barriers to the adoption of security over IP were cultural and acceptance issues (20 percent), followed by availability of personnel resources and skills (13 percent), cost vs. benefit (12 percent), reliability (11 percent) and complexity of infrastructure (11 percent). One IT director commented that the main issue was, "getting the board to believe in the benefits and not just thinking that it was 'big brother' watching." Another said it was, "agreeing ownership of security between IT & facilities."

Almost two-thirds of major U.K. companies have already adopted or are planning to adopt physical security over IP networks in 2006, the research, which was carried out on behalf of IT service provider Comunica, claimed.

Rick Marshall, managing director of Comunica, said: "There are many advantages to controlling physical security over IP, including cost reduction from being able to use one network for all the security systems and devices. Also control will be improved and simplified by being able to manage all the security devices on a single platform. The investment in IP-based security will also be future-proofed as it will also allow other systems such as elevators, lighting, energy and other building management systems to be managed over the IP network as they become IP based."

According to the study, most firms are planning to monitor and control systems and buildings using devices such as card readers, biometrics and other access systems such as CCTV all from a web interface. The financial sector has taken the lead in implementing this technology, with 31 percent having used it already and a further 38 percent planning to do so in 2006 - taking the total to 69 percent.

A quarter of the IT directors interviewed from the retail, distribution and transport sector were very positive about physical security over IP with a quarter who have already adopted it and a further 52 percent expecting to do so in the next year.

Manufacturing has been sluggish in taking up this technology with just 9 percent so far having done so. But the signs are very positive for the future, with 43 percent planning to implement it in the next 12 months.

A quarter of companies with over 3,000 employees have adopted security over IP with a further 48 percent planning to implement it this year, bringing the total to 73 percent.

As to be expected, smaller companies have not yet embraced this concept, with just 16 percent who have so far adopted it. But 36 percent plan to do so in 2006.

Marshall added: "As IP based devices proliferate, the trend of physical security being controlled by the IT department is a logical step, as this department is already responsible for IT security. Many of the objections to the adoption of security over IP are a result of a need to educate both employees and mangers about the benefits and cost savings that can be achieved."

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