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Over-design vs Under-design of Security Systems

Written by Jon Ecker | Dec 27, 2017 8:29:36 PM

What's the middle ground?

A security system can suffer from radically different designs that fail to account for the specific needs of an organization. Under-design means taking the road of least responsibility; a few insufficient or token measures are expected to ward off threats. In contrast, an overzealously designed system in certain businesses can lead to oppressive security that steals as much from the bottom line as a thief. Here's how to find the middle ground.

The perils of under-design

Many business owners don't want to think about possible security risks. Some assume that their operation is too small to be of interest to criminals, while others may consider themselves too large and sufficiently protected to be concerned about attacks. Break-ins, robberies, and worse aren't pleasant considerations, but they're realities. From the smallest to the largest business models (across every sector) everyone has certain risks.

Crime in the workplace costs $50 billion every year and small and midsize businesses are the hardest hit. Astoundingly, only 1% of small business owners actually consider crime or vandalism to be an issue for their business (the majority of those studied had 4 or less employees). Ironically, the smaller the size of a business, the more vulnerable it is in both security and financial aspects; many small business owners are forced to close their doors after an incident.

Locks and a few security cameras are often relied upon too heavily to deter crime. Key areas such as storage rooms, delivery areas, stairwells, and parking lots can go unobserved, and cameras that are present often aren’t sufficiently monitored. It's these “out of sight, out of mind” locations that often require the most attention, and a good security plan should first address these weaknesses and then work concentrically to address other likely threats.

The redundancy of over-design

It’s also possible to go too far with security. The adage “you can never be too safe” is true, but “you can be safe enough” is equally accurate.

One large drawback of over-design is a drain on finances. For example, a facility might spend a significant amount of money on excessive security personnel, when it should instead have the right number of guards integrated with the right security tools and technology. Another drawback is overconfidence in a security system. When a structure feels like Fort Knox, it breeds the temptation to assume the system will always protect the business – which in turn can cause neglect of other, more basic measures, such as employee training.

Over-design can actually hurt the bottom line of businesses in specific sectors. A hotel will suffer if guests are forced to endure oppressive security measures to simply enter the premises. Likewise, retail establishments, service businesses, and any customer-facing organization has to balance security with the comfort and convenience of guests, clients, and shoppers. 

Finally, installing the best technology is insufficient without active human oversight.

Professional security investigators find the middle ground

There is no such thing as “a” middle ground; there's only a compromise that suits an individual organization. What's too little for a biotechnology company with millions of dollars of proprietary technology and intellectual property may be way too much for a small retail establishment that needs to provide a welcoming environment for customers. The unique nature of an organization’s security requirements is something to be evaluated and discussed by a business owner or manager and a professional security integrator.

An assessment of the premises should start by identifying weak spots in current security, potential entry and exit points, areas that require surveillance or other technology (such as break glass detectors and motion alarms), as well as the unique risks to an organization. These risks can be as diverse as being located in a high crime area, specific and credible threats to an organization, or the physical protection of sensitive data, valuable inventory, or high-profile personnel.

Once these items are identified, a security integrator will devise a strategy that combines the latest technology – including access control, surveillance, visitor management, and alarms – with basic physical infrastructure and policies that will leverage an organization’s human resources to improve security.

The cornerstones of any well-designed plan include:

  • Adequate surveillance assets, adequately monitored. Cameras must cover all high-risk areas and have staff watching them consistently. If it’s cost prohibitive to have onsite or dedicated personnel watching feeds at required hours, managed services can be employed. A team of remote surveillance professionals can monitor camera feeds at a fraction of the cost of directly employed personnel. Surveillance assets must also leverage appropriate technology for their environment, such as infrared or 360 degree cameras, where applicable.
  • Access control: There are a wide range of access control options from wireless and electronic locks and scannable ID cards to biometric entry systems. What every system shares is the purpose of instituting consistent entry and exit measures to a premises, ensuring only those with proper clearance can gain access.
  • Physical infrastructure is diverse and depends on the organization. This may include a secured vestibule for visitors to a school, security fencing for an industrial facility, or barriers to stand off vehicles in an urban environment.
  • Security policies for employees. These may be as simple as a policy of reporting any suspicious activity as well as the procedures to follow in the event of an emergency.

A qualified security integrator can prevent under- or over-design. If you're considering reviewing your security, Peace of Mind Technologies can devise a plan to meet your specific needs. For a free consultation, contact us at (212) 688-2767, email at info@pom-tec.com or complete our contact form.